/ The Lisbon Guide
Lisbon — By Alexandre Kühl Oliveira on May 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Filed under: cafe, restaurant, top-feature

Coffee Please: A Guide to Coffee in Lisbon

Apart from water, coffee may just be the easiest drink to get anywhere in Lisbon. In fact it’s said that 80% of the Portuguese population drinks coffee. If you sit in any pastelaria, café or restaurant, you’ll find out just how popular coffee is in Lisbon.

The Portuguese started drinking coffee when it was first imported from the ex-colonies in Africa and South-America.  We learned the art of drinking coffee, and it soon became a part of our daily life.

Today, it’s a bit more complicated than ordering a simple cup of coffee.  You want it to be creamy on top, not too bitter, and with a great taste. Often we choose the pastelaria we go to because of the brand of coffee they serve; the preferred brands are Delta, Boundi and Sical, but also Lavazza, Nicola and Segafredo.

The coffee taste also depends on the machine used to make it, along with the cleanliness of its filters, and the water used.  In fact, the year of the bean can make a difference as well, much like with wine.  Some places will mix different brands and years.  Often this creates a very special and delicious blend, but sometimes it is just to raise the profit margin.

Once you have an idea about where you want to go to for your coffee, you next have to decide what to order.  From the most common espresso, we have quite a few variations that make a big difference.

Here are some of the most common ways you can choose to drink your coffee:

  • Bica or Café – a plain espresso, very strong coffee served in a small cup;
  • Café Curto – a small espresso, very, very strong;
  • Café Cheio – an espresso with water added to it, usually served in a small cup.  For the most traditional North American coffee order it in a large cup;
  • Garoto – a small portion of coffee served in a small cup and filled with milk;
  • Café Pingado – a Bica/Café with a bit of milk also served on a small cup;
  • Meia de Leite – coffee with milk served in a large cup (ask for coffee from the machine);
  • Galão – Coffee with milk served in a glass.

While Meia de Leite and Galão are generally chosen for breakfast and afternoon break, all the others may be drunk anytime during the day. Still, I have to advise you that any of these may affect your sleeping when drunk after 4pm. Specially for those who are not used to it.

Some of the nicest cafes you can go to experince our coffee, depending on the area you’re on, are:

Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto

  • Café Nicola: An institution in Lisbon, this is a meeting place for locals, tourists, artists, and fashion designers. Right at Chiado, it’s quite pleasant whether you sit inside or out, although a bit expensive. Café Nicola is one of the most historic cafés in town, founded in 1787. It has shiny 1930s Art Deco features with white marble tables and a terrace where you can sit side-by-side with Fernando Pessoa — well, his bronze statue.  (map)
  • Café Fábulas: At Chiado area, Café Fábulas stands in the winery of an old building, changing from an art gallery into a restaurant and café, yet into a chill out place. Huge arches give a feeling of entering the old age. Music flows from room to room, barely touching anyone reading a book or accessing the Internet. Try one of their vicious crepes.  (map)
  • Confeitaria Nacional: This quaint old confeitaria (a shop that sells sweets or pastries), founded in 1829, is one of the best traditional old pastry shops in Lisbon. It’s also one of the most beautiful ones in Baixa. While you’re there, pick up some of the wonderfully packaged biscuits – they make a great gift -  if you can stop yourself from eating them.  (map)
  • Pastelaria Suiça: From 1922, this is one of the best known tea-time venues with excellent pastry and one of the most popular terraces in Lisbon.  It overlooks Rossio.   (map)
  • Kaffeehaus: Tucked in the middle of Chiado, this is a great choice for a break, whether at breakfast or at night. They serve yummy stuff in a Viennese style café and they seem to always have something new.  (map)
  • Noobai: Located on the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, also known as Adamastor, just a few steps from Bairro Alto, Noobai has one of the finest views over Lisbon with it’s red rooftops and Tejo river side. The ambiance is relaxed and comfy. It’s an excellent place for a lazy afternoon.  (map)

Alfama district

  • Pois Café: An excellent choice for anyone walking around Alfama, Pois Café was started a few years ago by two Austrians. You can imagine where it leads you – yummy cakes and a stylish atmosphere. Shelves are packed with books, magazines and newspapers. Best of all, they have them in different languages.  (map)

Santos district

  • Chá da Lapa: This somewhat British style coffee shop, founded in 1982, is known to be a more up-market place. With an elegant look, it offers excellent pastries, delicious scones and a good variety of teas. You can often see local artists and politicians as well as VIPs. This is a good place for a long break.  (map)

Belém area

  • Fábrica dos Pasteis de Belém: This obvious choice, Fábrica dos Pasteis de Belém, at Belém, is one I cannot leave out. Not for the atmosphere, which is generally a bit too crowded for me, but for their Pasteis de Nata (cream custard pies). It’s just a must do, and there are quite a few obvious reasons for that.  (map)
  • Pastelaria Restelo “O Careca”: In Restelo district, this pastry house may come handy if you’re at Belém. It’s still a bit far, but worth it if you like to experience the places where locals go. Since 1954, this house has gained its fame for the palmiers they sell. If you go there, you definitely should try one.  (map)

Carcavelos area

  • A Chaleira: At Carcavelos, this tea house serves delicious cakes, scones and many other things. It’s a family shop where you will feel at home. This is the place to go to if you’re around Carcavelos area.  (map);

Sintra

  • Gregório: This is one of my favourites pastelarias. Every time I go to Sintra, I make sure to stop here. It’s small, very cosy, familiar and everything is delicious. Check their vicious almond pie. And take home one of those plastic bags filled with cookies. In fact, you’ve better take two, otherwise they won’t make it far.  (map)
  • Piriquita: Another favourite in Sintra, everyone likes to visit for their excellent travesseiros (cake). They have two shops, the second a bit further up the road. Go for this one, since the first is always too crowded.  (map)

Still, as I said before, you can have a coffee anywhere you are. Just walk into any pastelaria and do as locals do. You can have it solo or choose to have it with a sweet or with a cod fish ball (pastel de bacalhau). You can sit down and relax at a table, watching Lisbon go by, or just have your fix standing by the balcony and go.  Most of the time, as you’ll see in the groups at the tables, it’s just a reason for a stop and a chat. After all, it’s still one of the cheapest things you can buy (less than one Euro).

Photo Credits: Alexandre Kühl Oliveira

Related places:
  1. A
    Caf? Nicola
    Pra?a Dom Pedro IV 24, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Espaco Fabulas
    Cal?ada Nova de S?o Francisco 14, Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Confeitaria Nacional
    Praça da Figueira, 18
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Pastelaria Sui?a
    Pra?a Dom Pedro IV 101, 1100 Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    Kaffeehaus
    Rua Anchieta 3, Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    Noobai cafe
    Miradouro do Adamastor, Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Caf? Pois
    Rua de S?o Jo?o da Pra?a 95, 1100 Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    Ch da Lapa
    Rua do Olival, 8
    View Details and Book
  9. I
    ?nica F?brica dos Past?is de Bel?m
    Rua de Bel?m 84-88,1300 Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  10. J
    Pastelaria "O Careca"
    Rua Duarte Pacheco Pereira 11, Lisboa, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  11. K
    P?. JUNQUEIRO 12-A CARCAVELOS
    PRA?A JUNQUEIRO 12 A CARCAVELOS, CARCAVELOS, LISBOA, 2775, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  12. L
    Pastelaria Greg?rio
    Av. Dom Francisco de Almeida 35, 2710 Sintra, Portugal
    View Details and Book
  13. M
    Piriquita
    R. das Padarias 1, 2710 Sintra, Portugal
    View Details and Book
Tags: cafe, restaurant, top-feature


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