The One Thing You HAVE to Do in Lisbon
Update: Travel Junkette readers can now receive a discount on an Inside Lisbon tour! Scroll to the bottom for details.
As a city, Lisbon was everything I’d imagined it’d be: warm, romantic, and unique.
But the food? An utter disappointment — that is, until I took a food tour.
Portugal, after all, is famous for its food. I’d been looking forward to it for months prior to my visit. So I was dismayed when, after two days in Lisbon, I’d eaten nothing to blog home about.
I had three more days in the capital city, and I needed to remedy that. Stat. So, I decided to try something new: a food tour.
I’d read about food tours before, but I’d never bothered to spend the money on one. I guess I figured they wouldn’t be able to show me much I could’t find myself. Boy, was I wrong.
Think about it: in your city, you know exactly which restaurants/foods to devour and avoid. So why wouldn’t you get local advice when traveling to a new place?
I Googled “Lisbon food tour” and researched a few companies on TripAdvisor. Some were quite expensive, and others involved sitting in a room and having food served to you. But I knew I wanted a Lisbon food walking tour. I loved exploring Lisbon, and the more I got to see on foot, the better.
I ended up choosing a company called Inside Lisbon. They offer a Lisbon food and wine walking tour for 28 euros, which sounded like a pretty good deal.
It was a wonderful choice. Other than just wandering Lisbon’s gorgeous streets, this is the one activity I’d recommend over everything else. (Disclaimer: I’m not a big museum or “must-see sites” person.)
We met at 4:30 pm in a central location for our three-hour walking tour. Our guide’s name was Marta, and she was fun, knowledgeable, and fluent in English. Oh, and hot. (But she’s Portuguese, so that’s pretty much a given.)
We started off by walking to a local market and discussing Portuguese eating habits (lots of codfish!), traditions, and history.
We sampled port, cheese, and marmalade. We learned how port came to be (by accident) and that marmalade is not English, but Portuguese. You’ll have to go on the tour to learn the deets. I can’t reveal all their secrets!
We then walked to a local cafe, where we tried pasteis de nata with espresso. These little cream cakes were soooo good, and they became one of my ultimate weaknesses.
As for espresso, that’s one of Portugal’s weaknesses. In this country of 11 million people (including kids and non-coffee drinkers), 22 million cups of espresso are consumed each day. You do the math.
After exploring several cool neighborhoods, we made our way to a wine cellar to sample ginja, a traditional cherry brandy.
Next up was a Portuguese beer and pastel de bacalhau, which is a codfish cake. Though it sounds gross, it was actually one of my favorite things that we ate. (And at less than a euro a piece, they made for an affordable snack during the rest of my stay.)
Finally, we ended up at a beautiful restaurant called Casa do Alentejo, which is actually inside of a 17th century palace. You’d never know it from the outside, however, and I guarantee that hundreds of tourists walk by this restaurant every day without knowing about the gorgeous decor and delicacies inside. Glad I didn’t!
There, we enjoyed wine and tapas. Did you know there are 100 types of grapes unique to Portugal?
Throughout the entire tour, Marta told us the history of the neighborhoods, discussed Portuguese culture and politics, and answered all of my (random) questions about Portugese life. She also recommended lots of little restaurants that I never would’ve found on my own.
It was like walking and chatting with a friend — while learning, eating, and drinking. What more could you ask for?
I’m delighted I did the food and wine walking tour with Inside Lisbon. Not only did I get to explore a fascinating city with a smart guide, but I got a tummy full of yummy food and a nice buzz.
Though my food tour in Lisbon was my first, it will certainly not be my last. I think I’m going to start doing them everywhere I go.
I also learned a valuable lesson: do a food tour your FIRST day in a new city. Not only will you learn about the various neighborhoods and history, you’ll discover plenty of great spots to eat — and what to order at them!
SAVE 10%: Inside Lisbon has generously offered to give a special discount to Travel Junkette readers! Click here to sign up, then enter “Insidelisbon_traveljunkette” in the promotion code box to receive 10% off. Woohoo!
Inside Lisbon had no idea I was a travel blogger, and I didn’t receive any compensation for writing this post. I just wanted to share my fun experience with you, in hopes that you’ll do a food tour on your next trip — whether it’s in Lisbon or not.
Have you ever done a food tour? What did you think?