Strolling through the picturesque streets of Lisbon, you’re bound to work up an appetite. If you’re sticking to a budget, it might be a little tricky to figure out how to save money on dining in Lisbon.
In this article, I’ll share some valuable dining tips for the budget-conscious traveler in Lisbon – where to eat, what to try, and even some Portuguese dining etiquette. As the Portuguese say before a meal: “Bom apetite!”
Language and Quirks: Navigating Dining Experiences with Ease
Most people you’ll meet in Lisbon will be able to speak some English, especially people who work within the hospitality and restaurant industries. Because of that, communicating in English with your server shouldn’t be too difficult.
In saying that, it always helps to know the local language while you’re traveling. Here are a few essential Portuguese dining terms that will help lower the language barrier:
|Main dish||O prato principal|
|Side dish||O acompanhamento|
|Plates of the day||Platos do dia|
|Check, please||A conta, por favor|
|What do you recommend?||O que você recomenda?|
|I would like||Eu gostaria|
|House wine||Vinho da casa|
|Cold water||Água fresca|
There are a few unexpected quirks to Portuguese dining that are well worth knowing about. Here are some things to keep in mind while dining in Lisbon:
- Appetizers are brought out to your table the moment you sit down, without you having to order them. However, be aware that you will be charged for these appetizers if you choose to eat them.
- Most restaurants won’t accept substitution requests. The meal you order will be made exactly as it’s described on the menu.
- You’ll often find that menus simply list the type of fish or meat without describing the rest of the meal. That’s because all dishes come with potatoes, rice, and boiled vegetables or salad.
- Main dishes are normally served family-style so that everyone at the table can share them. The meat is served on one tray while the potatoes, rice, and vegetables are served on another.
- Leaving a tip for the server is not required, but it’s always a nice gesture. A 10% – 15% tip is considered standard in Lisbon.
Lisbon’s Culinary Landscape: A Feast of Flavors for Every Budget
The restaurant scene in Lisbon is thriving due to the city’s fast growth. Here, you can find a wonderful mixture of different kinds of restaurants – from Michelin-starred restaurants to street food and everything in between. There are a few essential Lisbon foods you don’t want to miss – traditions the city is famous for:
- Pastéis de nata: sweet custard pastries
- Bifana: pork sandwiches
- Sardines (used in many recipes)
- Caldo verde: traditional pork sausage soup
- Bacalhau: salt cod (used in many recipes)
- Piri piri grilled chicken
Budget-Savvy Dining Tips
So now that you’ve got an idea of what dining in Lisbon is like, I want to share my inside tips with you for how to save money on dining in this exciting city. Here are the ways you can stick to your budget and still enjoy mouthwatering cuisine!
You’ve probably got an idea of some of the things you want to see and do in Lisbon (if you don’t then definitely check out my article of amazing things to do in Lisbon!). If you’re sticking with a set budget for meals, be sure to do some research and planning before you get there.
You can find lots of recommendations for restaurants on Yelp and Tripadvisor, with people’s reviews of what to try. I recommend searching “cheap dinner” on Yelp to narrow it down to the affordable options.
Local Cuisine Exploration
Another excellent way to discover great restaurants is to book a foodie tour for your first day in the city. Once you’ve arrived, ask the locals where they recommend eating – you can ask taxi drivers, Airbnb hosts, and any tour guides you have.
Sometimes the best discoveries are made just by wandering and following your nose! Be sure to keep a daily allowance for dining, so that you can ensure that the menu fits into your price range.
Street Food Delights
Street food is always a must when you’re eating on a budget. In Lisbon, there are tons of hidden gems where you can try the most delicious local delicacies for cheap. Here are a few of my favorites!
Frangasqueira Nacional: This charming little restaurant in Principe Real serves amazing barbeque, Portuguese-style. Their specialty is Piri Piri Chicken. The best bifanas (pork sandwiches) can be found at As Bifanas do Afonso in Madalena.
For mouthwateringly delicious pastéis de nata I recommend stopping into Manteigaria, located in Bairro Alto. Botequim in Graça is a Portuguese tapas bar with an outdoor patio and a beautiful view.
Avoid Tourist Traps
If you want to dine on a budget in Lisbon, be careful to avoid tourist traps. Lisbon is a wonderfully cheap city for dining, but that doesn’t apply to restaurants in the busy tourist parts of town. Aim for restaurants in the neighborhoods where the locals work, especially around subway stations in these areas.
Explore Local Markets and Food Courts
If you want to eat how the locals eat, definitely check out a local food market. They feature restaurants where you can dine, as well as stalls where you can purchase the freshest local ingredients for creating your own dishes back at your Airbnb. Here are my favorites:
- Mercado de Arroios for cuisine from all over the world
- Mercado de Campo de Ourique for the best seafood
- Mercado da Ribeira for incredible cuisine selected by Time Out editors
Another place you’ll find excellent meals for cheap in Lisbon is at the more recent shopping centers. They have a top floor dedicated to a food court, and the restaurants in the food courts are far from only fast food.
Dine Deliciously on a Budget in Lisbon
As you can see, you have lots of good options when it comes to eating on a dime in Portugal’s capital city. Enjoy exploring, finding your own amazing discoveries, and savoring local delicacies. Bom apetite!