It’s said that before the explorers under Portugal’s 15th century Prince Henry the Navigator returned from new worlds, he ordered them to bring back any exotic fruits, nuts, and plants. Lisbon, today, still heeds. These eateries (and waterholes) are perfect for budget-conscious travelers looking for a taste of what Lisbon’s 500,000 locals inexpensively enjoy.
1. The Perfect Grilled Fish
Follow the scent of the sea — or take city Tram 28, which is accessible from most major tourist points in the city, to Rua das Escolas Gerais — to Pateo 13 (Calçadinha de Santo Estevão). In a small courtyard, tucked between buildings in Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood, this open-air eatery offers heaping portions of sea bass, black swordfish, sardines, and steak, and pitchers of sangria. An entire meal for two — including the sangria — will run you less than €30. Patrons have a clear view as the chef fires up dinner, which comes with a side of potatoes and a salad. As you dine, you’ll likely be serenaded by street musicians and you may have to swat away flies, but the food and service are worth it.
2. The All-Day Cafe
Café do Monte in Graça is easy to miss, but for those who find it, it becomes a staple. The wine-colored walls are covered in posters advertising local happenings and wooden shelves stacked with board games and spices. It’s easy to settle in at one of the marble-top tables, sipping creamy cappuccinos crouched over a good book. The cafe serves an American-style brunch (scrambled eggs and bacon), lunch (lentil salad, croque madam), and a late-night menu (empanadas, tartes, beer). The carbonated sangria dispensed from a nitro tank is a must-try. Prices range from €2 for cervejas to €16 for cheese, meats, olives, and more.
3. The Insta-Worthy View
Walk down Calcada do Combro to number 58. Make your way through the parking lot — yes, the parking lot — and take the elevator to the sixth floor. There, the rooftop PARK bar offers one of the most expansive views of the city. Arrive early to claim a seat to watch the sun as it sets behind the church across the street. Two glasses of wine costs about €9 and burgers or skewers are less than €10. The DJ and surrounding greenery add to the cool rooftop vibe.
4. The Art-Inspired Lunch
After viewing the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga‘s furniture, drawings, and sculptures (€6 admission or free the first Sunday of every month), head down to the museum restaurant for salmon salad and melon with smoked ham. Though the display of ancient gold and ceramic dinnerware make for a cool convivial atmosphere, we recommend eating your lunch outside in the expansive garden terrace overlooking the River Tagus. In the distance, you’ll spot the Ponte 25 de Abril — a red suspension bridge that closely resembles San Francisco’s Golden Gate — and a 90-foot-tall Monument to Christ.
5. The Historic Haunt
In the Rossio neighborhood, head to the Plaza of Dom Pedro IV Square and look east of the National Doña Maria II Theater. There, you’ll spot the historic Ginjinha bar (Largo de Saõ Domingos 8, Lisbon), which has been open since 1840. A literal hole-in-the-wall, this bar is so tiny that only three people can fit at the counter at a time (though Anthony Bourdain was once one of them). There is no food served here. This spot draws locals and tourists alike for one thing only: Ginja, a sweet cherry liqueur that originated in Lisbon. The drink is served in a white plastic cup and taken as a shot (less than €2 per drink).