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Jun 11, 2010 08:22 PM

Lisbon Food Neighborhoods

We're headed to Lisbon and will rent an apartment for a week or two there before wandering up north. While food and drink isn't my only concern, it's an important one and so I wonder if some of the Lisbon experts can offer guidance on which neighborhoods offer the most interesting concentrations of non-touristy (and reasonably priced) local and good restaurants, bars, and cafes. I know a little about the neighborhoods and have been to the city before but only stayed in central hotels. I tried to search for answers to this question on here but couldn't find threads that answered it.

While, for example, Alfama looks beautiful, it also seems like the kind of small and pretty place that might have a lot of touristy joints. I'm really familiar with Barcelona, and so I guess I wonder what would be the El Raval (or perhaps even Poble Sec or Ronda Sant Antoni) equivalents: a little edgy but with some interesting new places and classic old ones, near the more touristy areas but not too touristy itself? Basically a real living local neighborhood, not too posh, not too poor, and not a place primarily for travelers to sleep and workers to eat lunch.

I'm thinking maybe Graca, Castelo, Mouraria, perhaps Santos (though that seems more hipster than the others). I'm not exactly sure how Bairro Alto fits into this continuum of and it's hard to answer this question of ambience and feel from research alone. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for the guidance.

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  1. This is an interesting question as related to Lisboa. This is a tough request for Lisbon because even the places with that are frequented by tourists (Bairro Alto, Alfama, Chiado, parts of the Baixa, and Graça to a lesser extent) still contain many longstanding local residents who frequent the bars, cafés, and restaurants.

    I tend to like Graça more than Alfama or the Bairro Alto, but the latter two areas are much more lively and offer many more options in terms of cafés and restaurants. Mouraria is ok, but aside from a few new Nepalese or Indian restaurants, not much here is very interesting; despite the history of the fado and such. The area in and around the Sé Cathedral near Alfama does have an eclectic mix of old and new restaurants, but it might seem a little too "staged" for what you want.

    Graça and the main square (Largo da Graça) has a fantastic pastelaria and one of my favorite local restaurants, the Churrasco da Graça. There are also some other places in Graça such as Kaetano's which is sort of hip and different from the neighborhood vibe. Yet, it isn't pretentious or expensive at all. Graça might be a nice option for a week.

    Two areas in the Bairro Alto that have a nice mix of old and new establishments are Principe Real and Praça das Flores. These two areas have been rejuvenated recently and contain some nice squares, trendy shops, bars, cafés, and restaurants. Still, the main park and square in the Principe Real is under renovation now, so that might spoil that option. Praça das Flores is a very cool area and there are restaurants and cafés lining the main praça (square). The famous restaurant, Conventual is here, as well as longstanding café and a space or two where restaurants keep changing (not sure why...). This, like Graça, might be very interesting. Some of the areas in and around Chiado and the Bairro Alto like Bica or Santa Catarina also have some edge and trendiness too. I seem to recall an article from the NYT (take it with a grain of salt of course) on Principe Real a year or two ago.

    While they do not contain a great deal of "edge,"some areas central within the city that might be interesting are Lapa, São Bento, Campo de Ourique, and Rato. Lapa is the most established and upscale of the lot, but it does have some very cool neighborhood cafés and restaurants. It is a mix of established residents, embassies, and incredible architecture, views, and streets. I think it is worth considering for a different Lisbon experience than say Chiado, the Bairro Alto, Alfama, or Graça.

    More "edgier" places will be found in the suburbs and areas further out on the subway lines. Like most cities, this is where a good deal of people who live and work in Lisbon reside. There are some pockets along the Avenida Almirante Reis such as Anjos (green line) that have been picking up recently. Still, there are a few areas along here too that might be best to avoid - especially at night. Areas like Saldanha and Campo Grande are fine, but they lack the character that some of the more central neighborhoods contain in regards to architecture, restaurants, and overall ambience.

    Hopefully this helps and I would be willing to answer any questions that you might have regarding the neighborhoods and restaurants. I'm not sure there is a perfect fit, but cafés and pastelarias are ubiquitous around Lisbon, so you are never going to be isolated. Graça or Praça das Flores might be good options as they are less-prosaic than say Alfama or Chiado.

    Boa Sorte e Boa Viagem!

    2 Replies
    1. re: vinhotinto75

      Thank you for a wonderful detail post. We are planning to spend time in Lisbon later this year.

      1. re: vinhotinto75

        Thanks very much for all the info, vinhotinto. Really appreciate it. Very much looking forward to the trip.

      2. We ended up on Travessa da Arrochella, a few minutes walk below Praca das Flores in a neighborhood that I guess might be called Sao Bento, perhaps Madragoa (I'm not preciseuly sure and the maps are a bit unclear). I love this place. Thanks again for the advice, vinhotinto. The great thing about this location is that we can walk up to Praca Das Flores and Placa Principe Real for a more hipster/bourgeois vibe at the restaurants, while if we descend towards the water, down to Rua Sao Bento or Rua Poco dos Negros, it has a much more working-class or lower middle class feel. Very pleased and recommend this area to anyone in search of a real neighborhood to eat in and explore. As a plus, when we poke our heads out the window we see the Palacio Sao Bento in one direction and the Convento of Jesus in the other. Great images.

        10 Replies
        1. re: tjdnewyork

          Glad you like the recommendation of Praça das Flores. If you are looking for some retro 1980s chic eating, try Conventual in the Praça das Flores. There is also a new Asian-inspired fusion restaurant there in the praça where Flor de Sal used to be located (albeit rather briefly).

          Another possibility is the Café São Bento which has a fantastic Portuguese-style steak (not for those watching their cholesterol).


          1. re: vinhotinto75

            We tried the newish place in Placa das flores and I thought it was excellent. They have a lunch menu for 13.5 that includes appetizer, main dish and desert. I had great samosas, then a wonderfully tender steak with herb butter (the best meat I've had this trip in Portugal). Setting is great, staff very friendly. I think in almost any other place in the world this place wouldn't really be considered fusion, but I see why it is here, when the rest of the cuisine is so standardized. (Don't mean that as a criticism--I love the standard dishes here--just an observation.) Also went to a very good place down the hill towards the water on I think Rua Pouco Negros called Zapata. It's not mexican. Seafood standards that were very well executed and reasonable. Setting was nicer than your average place of this type and waiters were very very nice. Extremely local old people in the know kind of place, I thought.

            1. re: tjdnewyork

              Hopefully the new place in the Praça das Flores will be able to stick as it has been two restaurants in the last TWO years! First it was a place called Porco Preto which focused on the Pork dishes and it was also a place called Flor de Sal which had excellent salads and main dishes.

              Glad to hear you have been finding some excellent places during your stay in Lisboa! Since you seem to be interested in more local places, I would highly suggest that you head over the River to Almada or take the regional train towards Sintra and wander in a few of the neighborhoods such as Amadora where you will see how immigration - particularly from the former African colonies - has transformed Lisboa. Likewise, some areas along the green and red lines of the metro will give you a peak into the newer Lisbon in both an EU and postcolonial framework!

              Boa Viagem!

              1. re: vinhotinto75

                Novamesa seemed to be doing okay at lunch when we went there. Think it deserves to succeed.

                Thanks for the suggestions for further exploration of Lisbon--will definitely take the ferry across the river and check out the other side.

                Wanted to ask you for some other recs too, if I may. After ten days of non-stop Portuguese we are very ready for something different when back in Lisbon. Got the Cape Verdean place with Tito Paris on my list from you. Any other recs for non-Portuguese in Lisbon (preferably Lusophone as we can have as good or better Italian and French at home in New York, I imagine)? Walked by a Goan place in Sao Bento that looked okay--any particular Goan favorites? We were thinking of hitting the post 3am only cachupa place down that way too. Thanks again for your help.

                1. re: tjdnewyork

                  I'm not *personally* a big fan of Goan food, but here are some options if that is what you want to check out. If you do like this sort of cuisine, I think Lisboa is a fantastic place to explore this type of food.

                  Cantinho do Paz (maybe the place you walked by near the Assembleia as it is fairly close)

                  Restaurante Arco do Castelo

                  Casa de Goa

                  Here is a link with even more Goan places in Lisboa:

                  Lastly, I think you will like either the Casa da Morna (Tito Paris' place) or even one of the more informal Cape Verdean restaurants like Cachupa too are great. Casa da Morna is formal and upscale andcomes with music.

                  I also have been to another Cape Verdean place in the Bairro Alto, Espaço Cabo Verde. There is also another music/restauant for Cape Verdean food: En'Clave which is on the Rua do Sol ao Rato.

                  A newer place for Cape Verdean and Luso-African food is Restaurante Estrela Morena which is not far from where you will be staying either. I ate there in early May and it was excellent!


                  An Angolan musician, Waldemar Bastos, has a restaurant in the Bairro Alto, Água do Bengo ,which is quite good and it serves mainly Angolan dishes. Another place for Luso-African cuisine in the Bairro Alto is Restaurante da Mãe Preta.

                  If you walk behind the Praça da Figueira on your way to Praça Martim Moniz (near Hotel Mundial) and Avenida Almirante Reis go near/into the Centro Comercial da Mouraria, there are various other Angolan and African places for food and other articles. There are also East Asian, Indian, and North African places around there too.

                  Furthermore, in places like Amadora and Damaia, you are bound to find many Angolan and other Luso-African restaurants and cafés as this is where many people from Angola reside.

                  Let me know if you have any questions!


                  1. re: vinhotinto75

                    Thanks vinhotinto. Will check some of those out. Have hot had Goan but thought I might try.

                    Had a lot of Cape Verdean before (in CV) but haven't tried Angolan.

                    Thanks for all the recs. Any Brazilian standouts, especially non churrasqueria, maybe Bahia?

                    1. re: tjdnewyork

                      For non-Churrascarias and regional Brazilian cuisine, try Comida de Santo. It has a Bahian and Nordestino leaning menu with Vatapá, Moquecas, Carne Sêca, etc. It is very close to the Praça das Flores in the Príncipe Real area near the Rua da Imprensa Nacional.


                      Another Brazilian restaurant which is good and with an incredible view is across the river in Caçilhas. Take the boat from Cais do Sodré (80 cents each way and it takes 10 minutes) and walk along the riverside to the end. It is next to O Ponto Final (which I've commented in other threads). The food is good, but the view is phenomenal of Lisboa and the Rio Tejo.


                      Boa Sorte!

                      1. re: vinhotinto75

                        Really enjoyed A Tira Te Ao Rio--excellent to have some Bahian curry. Took the elevator up and then walked back down to the ferry through the town. Was tempted to go for lunch #2 right then at O Farol, but my girlfriend vetoed that pretty strongly.

                        Thanks for a very good rec. Have to hit some of your Cape Verdean suggestions next, also might try that CV social club in Baixa for lunch.

                        1. re: tjdnewyork

                          Glad to hear it! I also highly recommend (as from the previous post) Estrela Morena which you can certainly walk to from your place near the Praça das Flores (albeit uphill).

                          Another Luso-African place that I've been to (was invited to a birthday celebration for a friend of a friend) is called Ibo Restaurante. The food is primarily fish and draws upon Mozambican flavors. It is right near the Cais do Sodré, but I think it might be a chance to experience some different flavors from Luso-Africa; particularly Mozambique which is not as represented as Cabo Verde or Angola in Lisboa. It is a very slick restaurant with a fantastic wine list and nicely decorated.

                          The link below has some info about the restaurant and I believe it has an English link if you don't read Portuguese.



                          1. re: vinhotinto75

                            Great thanks, vinhotinto, looks very interesting.

                            We were ready for more Portuguese after a Brazilian lunch, so we went out to Cervejeria Ramiro, another one you your recs. Love that place. Amazingly huge and delicious tiger prawns, great clams, perfectly cooked garlic shrimp, and a nice refreshing lemon sorbet dosed with vodka to finish. Best seafood this trip.