Discover Lisbon through Taste of Lisboa's Food Tour
Not to brag, but I'm one of the biggest foodies I know (besides the people on my team at work), and I don't mess around when it comes to food. And food tours. Food tours combine my favorite parts of traveling: learning the history of a place and eating. Recommend a fantastic spot, and we'll be Best Food Friends (get it?).
When I was researching activities for my Lisbon trip, I was torn between a cooking class and a food tour. After some thought, I said "Who am I kidding?" and went for the food tour. I'll take a cooking class one day, but I knew I wanted to be out exploring the city rather than inside cooking. That's how I stumbled upon Taste of Lisboa and its Downtown Mouraria Food & Cultural Walk. I opted for this tour since I wanted to get a local experience and really learn about the people in Lisbon and its history.
Related reading — Travel Guide: Lisbon, Portugal
The Downtown Mouraria Food & Cultural Walk begins right by Rossio Square at the Star of David. My tour guide, Miguel, was really prompt with meeting at the point at least 10 minutes prior to the start time. At our meeting point, our group learned of the massacre of converted Jews in 1506. Because of this tragedy, multiple earthquakes, and a fire in the Igreja de São Domingos (right in this area), we learned that Lisbon had become the inclusive and welcoming place it is now. You'll also find a lot of different cultures in Lisbon. This was welcoming since I'm so used to the diversity of New York!
Before we walked to our first stop, we peeked inside Igreja de São Domingos, which still shows the damage from the fire in 1959. It's eery, but beautiful. It's worth a stop.
Stop 1: Manteigaria Silva
If you've read any guide books or have been on Pinterest, you'll know that you need to eat bacalhau or cod in Lisbon. Cod is huge here, so it's natural for local shops to sell all kinds of cod parts. Manteigaria Silva is no different! They sell a variety of salted cod as well as other parts of the cod. Miguel told us that cod isn't actually native to Portuguese waters and that it's actually imported since the fish dwells in cold waters.
The other side of the shop was a magical dream. I love prosciutto so much that it hurts. We were able to sample some delicious pieces of prosciutto, olive oil, bread, and red wine from the shop. I would 100% go back and eat all the things. These types of shops are perfect for snacking or for picnics too!
Stop 2: O Buraco Snack
At our second stop, we ate some codfish cakes, rice, and Vinho Verde (green wine). Codfish cakes are just one way to enjoy cod here! These cakes are a mixture of cod, potatoes, and spices. It's deep fried to get a crispy outer layer. It's simple, but delicious! It's a great spot to just sit outside, people watch, and drink a bottle of Vinho Verde.
Vinho Verde is also a must-try in Portugal. You might be confused as to why it's called green wine and it's actually not green. Green is actually in reference to how young the wine is. Vinho Verde can be either red, white or rosé, and is typically consumed shortly after it is bottled.
Stop 3: Zé Dos Cornos
Zé dos Cornos is located in a small alley, tucked away from tourists and even other locals. Its name is derived from the owner's father's extramarital affairs! It's quite the saucy tale. The restaurant is casual and serves traditional, homemade Portuguese dishes.
Before coming to Zé dos Cornos, I didn't think to stop and eat cheese in Lisbon. We sampled three different cheeses at this stop, one stronger than the next, but all delicious. We also ate a traditional vegetable soup and Bifana sandwiches, a popular pork sandwich in Portugal. You can add all sorts of condiments including mustards and hot sauces.
Stop 4: Os Amigos Da Severa
A visit to Lisbon isn't complete without drinking Ginjinha, a liqueur created using ginja berries (sour cherries). It's served as a shot though it's easy to sip if you need to! I never would have found Os Amigos da Severa on my own. That's the truth. I probably would have only tried A Ginjinha, which is located directly where this tour first started. This little bar is down a narrow alley in the Mouraria neighborhood, the birthplace of Fado (traditional folk music). When you enter, you'll see Senhor António sitting behind the counter with the radio turned on to Fado music. Old photographs and news clippings line the walls and it truly feels like you're in another time.
The portrait of the woman above is just one of the many different portraits that line the alley. These men and women were all popular Fado singers. It was wonderful to hear about its history and how much Fado brought change to the neighborhood and Lisbon.
Stop 5: Jasmim da Mouraria
A short walk further into the alley is Jasmim da Mouraria. It's a really adorable and quiet small bites restaurant and has a ton of outdoor seating. We snacked on some sardine toasts. Don't knock sardines until you try them! Portugal has so many different ones to try out too. In fact, sardine cans make really cute souvenirs since there are so many different can designs and flavors. You'll find other snacks at Jasmim da Mouraria like olives, charcuterie boards, and, of course, codfish dishes.
Stop 6: Cantinho do Aziz
Okay, Cantinho do Aziz is amazing. I wish I had the time to go back and try out more of their food. Because I'm not familiar with Portuguese's former colonies, I didn't realize that there were tons and tons of African food in Lisbon. The Cantinho do Aziz owners are from Mozambique, which was a former colony and state of Portugal. Ugh, I could eat these samosas ALL. DAY. LONG. They were so spicy, but incredible and the crispiness was just perfection. They're definitely not like Indian samosas, by the way. These do contain meat though you can get a vegetarian option. The staff here are so incredibly friendly and accommodating. I am 100% regretting not going back for a proper meal.
These portraits are of the many different inhabitants of the neighborhood. It was really special to see Miguel recognize and say hello to the locals that live here.
The murals above depict prominent members of the community with a huge focus on Fado.
Stop 7: Confeitaria Nacional
You can't visit Lisbon without eating Pastel de Nata. Confeitaria Nacional is a classic bakery right by Rossio Square. I had actually grabbed one of these delightful treats for breakfast at another spot in town, but wasn't super impressed. But after having Pastel de Nata at Confeitaria Nacional, I decided they were delicious. They remind me a lot of Chinese egg tarts. They're both better warmed up with a flaky, but not overly flaky crust. Pair it with an espresso and you're all set. It was the perfect way to end our afternoon of eating.
And so ends the Taste of Lisboa tour. I had so much fun on this tour and it was such a great opportunity to take photos. I'm a really big believer in taking local tours, whether they're food tours, bike tours or walking tours. The other thing about local tours is that you get firsthand local knowledge of the city rather than finding things on your own through TripAdvisor or Foursquare. There's a 100% chance I wouldn't have made it to a majority, if not all of these spots. I can't thank Miguel and Taste of Lisboa enough for what a wonderful experience it was for me, especially as a solo traveler. They also have a few other tour options as well as cooking classes. But seriously, if you're visiting Lisbon, I highly recommend booking with Taste of Lisboa!