The bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) are enough to satisfy your appetite when visiting Portugal’s capital city. But if you’re looking for something thirst-quenching; Lisbon’s libations are both varied and mouth watering.
From the heights of the 11th century hilltop São Jorge Castle, along the vintage trolley railways, down to the Cais das Colunas pillars that once welcomed ships into this port city, there is no shortage of exciting locations to explore and delightful drinks to taste once you’re there.
Here’s a refresher on some liquid refreshments you should be sure not to miss during your visit.
Coffee comes in all shapes and sizes in Lisbon from the long, dark abatanado to the refreshing, café pingado. Lisbon’s favorite way to start the day is with a glass of galão. Light brown and hot, this breakfast accompaniment is made from a shot of espresso and served in a tall glass filled ¾ of the way with milk. Pastelarias (pastry shops) and snack bars nestled throughout the labyrinth-like streets of the Alfama district, the cobbled streets of Barrio Alto, or in the bustling downtown area of Baixa provide a delightful backdrop for the most important drink of the day.
If your sweet tooth calls, pastéis de nata do pair quite nicely with galão. Just ask any local. The most famed of these custard treats can be found at Pastéis de Belém, the world famous monastery-turned-bakery that’s been selling its ancient natas recipe since 1837.
Looking to lower your lactose? A bica, or shot of black espresso, is a midday pick-me-up best sipped on the terrace of the famed, and ever popular, art-deco café, A Brasileira. Conveniently located between the Elevador de Santa Justa and the bank of Tagus river, you can drain your joe then board the lift to get an aerial view of the city. Then saunter down to relax along the water overlooking the Golden Gate-style Ponte 25 de Abril bridge.
2. Fresh Orange Juice
What’s better than a cup of galão to wake you up in the AM? A cup of galão in one hand and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the other. Sumo de laranja is served at room temperature and preppy pulpy; prepared behind café counters overflowing with mountains of vivid and freshly-picked fruit. The popularity and prized sweetness of oranges in Portugal dates back to the 17th century. Back in the day, most oranges across Europe were rather bitter but sweet orange trees from India and China were imported to Portugal. Soon in high demand, oranges were sold at staggering prices and often only accessible to society’s upper crust.
Now ubiquitous throughout Portugal and Lisbon alike, finding a decently priced OJ is no problem. Fábrica Lisboa along Rua da Madalena is worth a visit for your dose of Vitamin C in addition to a great photo op. The caf é's interior is embellished with tons of vintage collectibles. Or try Sama Sama, a health-conscious creperie where the smoothies and pressed juice just scream "fresh." Here, the menu simply refers to orange juice as “The Portuguese.
Drinking port wine in the beverage’s very own birthplace is a must! Enjoyed as a digestif after dinner, and usually with dessert, port wine is a sweet red wine, fortified with a grape brandy, not dissimilar from Italy’s grappa. Port is aged in barrels or bottles anywhere from two to 50 years, changing its color, complexity, and flavor. You can join the ranks of port experts, or come close to it, with a visit to the Port Wine Institute’s Solar do Vinho do Porto.
A fancy sort of place, patrons have access to the best selection of over 150 different ports. The menu is thick and instructive, offering lots of educational details on what you’re sipping. Servers are there to share their vast knowledge as well. You’ll be surprised at port’s approachability and range, dispelling its sometimes stuffy image.
Feel like taking a post-port stroll? Located just 5 minutes south, the Carmo Convent is a gothic church, roofless and in ruins following the infamous earthquake of 1755. Today, it is home to tours and a small archeological museum by day and amazing performances by night.
Good things come in small packages. And A Ginjinha is no exception! A Ginjinha is a teeny, tiny open front bar near Rossio plaza selling equally petite shot glasses of its namesake Portuguese liqueur: Ginjinha (or Ginja for simplicity). The drink is made with alcohol infused with sour cherries, or ginjas. If you so choose, you’ll find one sitting at the bottom of your glass priced at less than two Euro. Ginjinha is strong and tart and was first commercialized at this historic location in 1840. “Saude” to that!
5. Vinho Verde
As the name might imply to those with a knowledge of Portuguese, this is known as a green wine but not because of its color (which is actually white or even golden). The wine itself is very young or “green" meaning its alvarinho grapes are picked, processed into vinho verde, and then consumed all within a year’s time! No again for this fizzy and refreshing delight. While no trick to track down, pairing vinho verde with the perfect experience is key. The family-owned fado restaurant, A Baiuca, provides an evening of good wine, hearty meals, and moving serenades.
Fado music originated in Lisbon and truly comes from deep within the soul; expressing what is known as saudade--a profound nostalgia and sense of loss and yearning. There isn’t a dry eye in the house at this intimate gem as amateur fado singers, many of whom double as cooks in the kitchen, step up to the mic and fill the night with song.