Cafes in Lisbon
It’s impossible to miss the cafés and pastry shops in Lisbon. Many of them boast years of history, with past habitués such as the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Ask for a “bica” (small cup of strong coffee) and you will sound like a true Lisboan.
120 Rua Garrett
Open since 1905, A Brasileira was once the choice of Fernando Pessoa, the great Portuguese poet. You can sit beside him just outside, next to his bronze statue. Back in the day, this place was a hangout for writers, artists, and journalists. The location, in Garret Street, is great—just a step from the popular meet-up spot Largo de Camões. You can get there by subway (Baixa/Chiado Station), tram (Nº28), or on foot (go down Misericórdia Street, up Alecrim Street, or up Garret Street)—or come from one of the many streets of Bairro Alto).
Praça do Comércio 3, 1100-148 Lisboa, Portugal
Martinho da Arcada is a Lisbon legend. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I passed through it just to experience the phenomenon and look inside. The cafe was founded in 1778 as Café do Gelo (the Ice Cafe) and mostly sold beverages and ice. After passing through the hands of different owners, in the early nineteenth century it was called the Casa da Neve (the House of Snow) and sold ice cream to the best of Lisbon society. Only in 1845 did it receive its current name—after its owner at the time, Martinho Bartolomeu Rodrigues, who turned it into one of the finest and most popular cafes in the city. Its two-century history is closely linked to the social, political, and cultural life of Lisbon. If you come for dinner, make reservations.
Praça da Figueira, Praça Dom Pedro IV 18B, 1100-241 Lisboa, Portugal
You will feast with your eyes as soon you enter here. Founded in 1829, this confectionery store is considered one of the best in Lisbon, having won international prizes and serving, in the old days, as the official confectioner of the royal family. The King Cake, a very famous Christmas cake in Portugal, was born here; the recipe was brought from Paris in 1850. You will also find miniature pastries: Try to resist. But there is more than cakes. You’ll find a beautiful interior with a marble counter, carved woodwork, tiles, a mirrored ceiling, and a mural of high historical value. And on the second floor, there is now a tearoom.
Praça Dom Pedro IV 96 a 104, 1100-202 Lisboa, Portugal
This pastry shop brings me back to my childhood. When my father and brother would go to see Benfica (one of the most important football teams in Portugal), my mother and I would come here to have an ice cream or a cake. Who can resist sitting in its esplanade, facing Rossio or Praça da Figueira and catching some sun? In the old days, free thinkers would gather to drink to liberty, and women sat for the first time on an esplanade having a coffee. By the way, Suiça was the first café/pastry shop to serve croissants in Portugal.
Av. da República 15-A 1050-185 Lisboa Portugal, 1050-185 Lisboa, Portugal
In a city like Lisbon, where it’s easy to find a classic pastry shop, this one is named for the famous French palace outside Paris and dates from 1922. It has a monumental interior—with glass, mirrors, and art nouveau details. The waiters wear white shirts, gray vests, and long white aprons. Regular clients are well-dressed old ladies who simply like to come for a chat, a tea, and a cake. Pastry is the main business. You’ll find a wide variety of cakes and cookies like duchaise, éclairs, and custard tart, but when Christmas arrives, Lisboans look for the seasonal Bolo-Rei (King Cake).
24-25 Praça Dom Pedro Iv
Another well-known café facing Rossio is Café Nicola. Full of history, tradition, and culture, it was once frequented by Lisbon‘s intellectual elite, like the poet Bocage, who was a habitué and now has a statue as a reminder. In existence since 1929, with an art deco façade from 1935, the cafe also serves meals, with two speciality steaks: “Bife à Nicola” and “Bife à Café.”
R. de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, common in Portugal. Those found at Pastéis de Belém have become legendary for their super secret recipe. Any day of the week, a line trails out the door waiting to savor one of tens of thousands made daily. Eat them warm with a cafe.