Discover seven tasty cities in Portugal and our favorite things to eat in each tasty Portuguese city.
Portugal has long been a popular destination for sun seekers and budget travelers. However, in the past, it wasn’t a hot spot for food travelers who concentrated on food focused countries like France, Italy and Greece instead.
Those days are over. Portugal has recently become a media darling in periodicals like The Guardian, Los Angeles Magazine and Lonely Planet. And, like bees to honey, travelers of all ages and income levels are now flocking to cities in Portugal to sample the country’s many delights.
Discover our top tips for eating in Portugal.
Sadly, many of these delight-seeking travelers, even the food-astute ones, don’t know what to eat and drink once they arrive.
This confusion happens in bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto as well as in smaller towns and villages. The Algarve poses similar challenges although the coastal region’s seafood bounty is practically impossible to miss.
We can empathize.
During our initial Portugal trip in 2007, we managed to eat plenty of bacalhau (salt cod) and pasteis de nata but ended up at McDonalds when we hit a culinary dead end one night. Don’t judge us – it was our honeymoon after all. We also drank liters of vinho verde and even more ruby, tawny and white port wine as well as the occasional porto tonico cocktail.
Times have changed.
Since moving to Portugal in 2019, we’ve made it our personal mission to eat like Portuguese locals. This mission is easy to accomplish since we’re legal residents of the country and have a Lisbon home base.
We decided to add our dois cêntimos (two cents) about the tastiest Portuguese cities after reading seemingly sage advice written based on research instead of real life experience. Our goal is to steer our fellow food travelers in the right direction since life is too short to eat bad food in Portugal.
Check for updates as we visit and re-visit tasty cities in Portugal like Braga, Coimbra, Faro and Lagos.
Our Favorite Food Cities In Portugal
Living in Portugal, we have numerous opportunities to travel the country and often visit Portuguese cities and regions multiple times. And, just like we seek out the best food in Asia when we’re in that part of the world, our Portugal travels always seem to focus on food.
Lately, we’ve been fielding inquisitive calls, emails and messages asking our advice about where to travel within Portugal. With this elevated interest in mind, we’re now highlighting seven of the best cities in Portugal for inquisitive food travelers.
In other words, don’t skip the following cities when you plan a Portuguese food trip:
We don’t know why the food scene in Porto is so excellent. Maybe it’s related to the city’s central role in the port wine industry. Or maybe the people in Porto just enjoy eating well.
The crazy thing is that Porto doesn’t just excel with one type of food. Porto’s food scene has many great options ranging from snack food to fine dining. On the top end, two restaurants in its metro region, Casa de Chá da Boa Nova and The Yeatman, have earned two Michelin stars.
Portugal has 37 Michelin-starred restaurants. Seven have two stars while the other 30 have a single star.
Porto’s most famous dish, the francesinha, is a delicious heart attack on a plate. Most Porto joints smother the meaty, cheesy sandwich with a special tomato beef gravy and serve it with fried potatoes. But the francesinha isn’t the only sandwich worth eating in Porto.
It’s a true sandwich city where you can eat a pernil com queijo or bifana sandwich any time of the day or night unless you’d rather eat a cachorrinho, Porto’s take on the hot dog. It’s also a city that embraces traditional Portuguese food as well as modern culinary trends like brunch and vegetarian food.
Most food travelers journey to Porto to drink port wine at the source.
While wine enthusiasts can drink port wine anywhere in the world, many dream of sipping the fortified elixir at port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. Just a short walk or drive from Porto over the Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto’s port lodges receive barrels of the exclusive wine from nearby Douro Valley before storing and aging it in massive wooden barrels.
Schedule a port tasting and tour at the prestigious Graham’s Port Lodge. We did this tour during our first visit to Porto and highly recommend it.
Although Porto stole our heart, we decided to live in Lisbon based on the capital city’s larger airport and more cosmopolitan lifestyle. But, make no mistake, Lisbon has a thriving food scene that keeps us hopping.
In some ways, the Lisbon food scene is more exciting due to its cultural diversity. This is a city where adventurous diners can eat dishes more typically served in countries like Brazil, Southern India and Africa in addition to global favorites like dim sum, pizza and sushi.
Feeling overwhelmed? Get your bearings during a Lisbon food & wine walking tour.
Food travelers who want to eat traditional Portuguese food won’t be challenged in Lisbon.
The city has thousands of casual tascas (taverns) serving dishes like arroz de pato (duck rice) and bacalhau à brás (cod with cream and potatoes) as well as upscale restaurants serving elevated versions of these same dishes. Food travelers limited on time can taste many at Lisbon’s Time Out Market, located near the Cais do Sodré ferry station, during just one visit.
Lisbon is also home to Portugal’s most iconic pastry, the pastel de nata. Invented by monks almost two centuries ago. Pasteis de nata are available at pastelarias (pastry shops) all over town. However, it’s just a quick bus or uber ride to sample the original egg tart recipe at Pastéis de Belém.
Discover our favorite pastel de nata shops in Lisbon.
Those who want to splurge won’t be disappointed during a visit to Lisbon. The city has nine Michelin-starred restaurants, including two with two stars – Alma and Belcanto – plus a few more in nearby Praia do Guincho and Sintra.
However, Lisbon has plenty of tasty cheap eats including bifanas (braised pork sandwiches) and frango assado (grilled chicken). The key is to skip touristic restaurants and eat like a Lisbon local instead.
A UNESCO world heritage city that dates back centuries, Évora is a popular Alentejo destination with Roman ruins still standing within its ancient walls and a chapel, Capela dos Ossos, literally built with human bones.
We toured these sites during our first visit and they’re awesome. However, we returned to Évora for two main reasons – the city’s hearty food and flowing wine.
Food in Évora is plentiful and rich. Most restaurants serve stick-to-your-ribs dishes involving generous amounts of meat and carbs. At first glance, Évora’s porky plates seem simple; however, it takes just a few bites to reveal cooking traditions passed through generations and superior locally grown ingredients.
You won’t be disappointed if you plan ahead and make reservations at one or more of Évora’s best restaurants. Instead, you’ll eat a plethora of unique dishes like sopa de cação (dogfish soup) and migas, a savory bread pudding, until you wave a white flag in culinary surrender.
Not only does the city have fantastic pastries like its iconic queijadas, but it also has access to a range of wines produced in its home region of Alentejo. A dry, arid region notable for its olive groves, cork trees and grape vines, Alentejo produces more wine than any other Portuguese region including Dão and the Douro Valley.
Drinking Alentejo wine is reason enough to plan an overnight visit to Évora. Renting a car is a must if you want to tour nearby wineries like Cartuxa as well as others like Ervideira and Sovibor in towns like Borba and Monsaraz. Trust us, you do.
However, you don’t need a car to enjoy a big bottle of red wine at one of Evora’s best restaurants. For that, you just need a credit card and a bed to roll into after dinner.
4. Funchal (Madeira)
Although Funchal is Portugal’s sixth most populated city in population and is famous around the world for its natural beauty and the production of Madeira’s self-named fortified wine, most people don’t include Funchal in their Portugal itineraries. There’s a good reason for this omission…
Funchal is located in Madeira – in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – approximately 600 miles or 1,000 kilometers from Lisbon. All travelers must fly to Madeira whether via a two hour flight from Lisbon or a multi hour flight from another city like London or Dusseldorf. Flights from the USA typically require connections.
Make no mistake. Traveling to Funchal is worth the extra effort.
Visitors to Funchal can easily access Madeira’s black beaches, mountain trails and natural pools. Additionally, many of the city’s hotels offer epic views. Its markets sell a range of exotic fruits as well as some of the best bananas in the world.
We’re not kidding about those bananas which grow in different colors. Small and sweet, they’re ideal snacks between meals which often feature grilled meat skewers called espetada and black scabbard fish served topped with…you guessed it…bananas..
Lapas, also known as limpets, may be Funchal’s most popular seafood for travelers to taste. The bottom feeders, which reminded us of miniature abalone, are usually served with a buttery lemon-garlic sauce.
Interestingly, while fortified Madeira wine is famous around the world, it’s not the only drink to imbibe in Funchal. Locals love drinking poncha, a bright fruity tipple, when they’re not drinking local Coral beer. Visitors love drinking poncha too.
A popular holiday destination, the Algarve is far from a hidden Portugal gem. While beach bums swarm to Algarve cities like Albufeira, Faro, Lagos and Tavira, many mistakenly skip Olhão.
Located six miles from Faro, Olhão is just a boat ride away from several stunning beaches. It also has the Algarve’s largest fishing port, numerous seafood restaurants and the region’s most impressive seafood market.
Olhão’s two municipal markets are culinary treasure troves during the week. The fruit and vegetable market displays a wide variety of farm products and meats while the seafood market sells a stunning array of fresh catches including some of the largest prawns we’ve ever seen.
However, locals and savvy food travelers know that Saturday is the very best day to shop at Olhão’s markets. This is the day when the fish market has the best selection of sardines, octopus and clams. It’s also the only day of the week when Olhão’s massive outdoor market comes alive with a rainbow of local produce and chocolate-dipped churros fried to order.
We recommend spending a long weekend in Olhão. You’ll have ample time to explore the town, shop at its markets, dine at a few seafood restaurants and lounge on a nearby beach.
We also recommend staying at an apartment with a kitchen. Following this approach will enable you to fry up some fish and eat like an Algarvian local. However, we’ll understand if you leave the fish frying to the professionals.
Located just 19 miles from Lisbon, Setúbal is an easy day trip to plan whether you want to drive or take public transportation. It’s also a destination that warrants deeper exploration for those who like to pair natural beauty with world class cuisine.
Setúbal’s natural beauty is hard to miss. Top spots include Galapinhos Beach, Portinho da Arrábida Beach, Praia dos Coelhos and the protected Arrábida Natural Park. But what about the food?
Setúbal’s cuisine may be less famous than its beaches and parks but don’t count it out.
Food travelers will want to start their Setúbal exploration at the Mercado do Livramento Market. Dating back to the 19th century, Setúbal’s central market has been a fixture in its current location since 1930. It’s a great spot to shop for local fruits, veggies, meats and cheeses. However, in our opinion, observing stacks of freshly caught seafood is this market’s real draw.
Eating choco frito (fried cuttlefish) at a local restaurant is another must. Despite a name that evokes visions of chocolate, the hyper-local dish features fried finger-sized chunks of cuttlefish served with fried potatoes, fresh lemon and various condiments. We like to pair choco frito with local white wine. However dry white wine isn’t the best thing to drink in Setúbal…
While we were already familiar with the creamy, funky sheep’s milk cheese produced in Setúbal’s Azeitão, we were literally and figuratively knocked off our feet when we first visited an Azeitão winery. That initial visit was the first time we sampled fortified moscatel but it wasn’t our last.
Simultaneously sweet and potent, Portugal’s lesser known fortified wine is justification enough for to visit Setúbal in general and Azeitão in particular. It’s also a reason to return again and again.
UNESCO recognized Óbidos in 2015 as a part of its Creative Cities Network for good reason. Not only is Óbidos the home of Portugal’s largest bookstore located inside a church, but the Portuguese city also has a literary-themed hotel plus more bookstores spread around its cobblestone streets.
Beyond its many bookstores, the walled city is filled with a rich royal history that dates back to the 12th century. Dating back even further to the 8th century, Óbidos’ castle is considered to be one of the seven wonders of Portugal. Visitors can stay inside the regal landmark which now operates as a pousada (i.e. historic hotel).
Food travelers have good reasons to visit Óbidos too. And the first reason is the city’s famous liqueur.
Óbidos’ ginjinha (also known as ginja) is a popular after-dinner digestive imbibed throughout Portugal. Many, if not most, tascas throughout the country serve shots of the sour cherry liqueur to end meals and most locals have a bottle or two in their cabinets.
Shops in Óbidos take the ginjinha experience to the next level by serving the liquid elixir at stands along tourist-friendly Rua Direita, often poured into miniature chocolate cups. Typically priced at a single euro, these shots are as difficult to resist as they are fun to drink.
While ginjinha may be Óbidos’ primary claim to Portuguese culinary fame, the city has enough options to satisfy food lovers for a night or two. Highlights include hearth-baked breads stuffed with chouriço and soul-satisfying tapas meals. However, those like us who plan spring visits can also enjoy the city’s world-famous chocolate festival.
Not your typical festival, this annual event includes chocolate themed workshops and classes as well as chocolate tastings and samples. The entire city transforms into a fun chocolate theme park that you have to see to believe. You can also visit Óbidos in December when the city becomes a Christmas village.
Hungry For More Tasty Cities?
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
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Original Publication Date: October 31, 2021