Lisbon City Guide: Gluten-Free Travel
Posted by Lisa on July 5, 2016 / 18 Comments
A healthy, gluten-free travel guide to Lisbon, Portugal with recommended restaurants and markets, travel tips and advice.
I’m excited to share with you my first city guide – Lisbon! I’ve been meaning to do these for a while, since I got home from my 5-months overseas travels of Sydney, Chiang Mai and Bali last year. But you know how it goes. I got home, got sidetracked with other projects…and then somehow (excitedly) took off to a new country. So I’ve started my city guides with my recent trip to Lisbon, but I promise to work backwards to the other guides very soon (psst – let me know in the comments which one you’d like me to do next).
But let’s jump to Lisbon! Because after just one day in the city, I fell completely in love with it. There are so many words that I could use to describe Lisbon, but I think one word that sums it all up is vibrant (and I find myself using it over and over). Vibrant and friendly people, vibrant and stunning architecture, vibrant and delicious food. Lots of vibrant! Lisbon is such an eclectic mix of cultural influences, yet somehow maintains a vibe all it’s own. There’s just something about the cobblestone streets, bright orange rooftops, decorative building tiles and inviting outdoor cafes. It may feel a little Italian, a little Parisian, a little Arab…it’s even reminiscent of San Francisco (with tons of cable cars). But all of those mashed together is what makes Lisbon truly unique.
Thankfully, I had several weeks to explore Lisbon – to meander the hilly, cobblestone streets and of course, discover all the best food spots in town. So let’s dive in!
(Note: my city guides do not go into the planning and preparation necessary for a safe and healthy, gluten-free trip. For that information, please see my ebook, Roaming Free).
Lisbon has a good metro system and taxis are relatively cheap, but the best way to see the city is to walk everywhere. Not only will you stay in shape (I did mention hills, right?) you’ll better understand the personality of each neighborhood. Here’s some of my favorites:
Baixa // Baixa is the busy commercial hub of Lisbon. It’s also the only flat terrain you’ll find in the city with parallel streets that all lead to Praca do Commercio (the square of commerce). You’ll find tons of restaurants, shopping and souvenir shops, though all on the touristy side.
Chiado // Chiado is just west of Baixa, where it starts to get hilly. Chiado is more upscale than Baixa with better shopping and a little less tourist craziness. A great place to book accommodations.
Alfama // The oldest neighborhood of Lisbon (just east of Baixa) is well known for it’s narrow, winding streets and rich, Moorish history. From Alfama, visit the Se Cathedral, Castelo Sao Jorge and depending on the day of the week, enjoy a fado show.
Bairro Alto/Principe Real // This is the trendy restaurant, bar and nightlife hub of Lisbon. I found myself constantly going back to Bairro Alto and Principe Real for top-notch, delicious meals and my favorite viewpoint, Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara.
Coffee Shops, Cafes and Juices/Smoothies
If you want to be a Lisbonite, drink espresso! Coffee shops are abundant on every street corner, so you’ll never go without. The healthy juice/smoothie trend hasn’t yet reached Lisbon, but I found two great spots. As for sweet treats, you’ll have to pass on the famous pasteis de nata (I couldn’t find any gluten-free), but organic gelato and artisan chocolate are fabulous alternatives. Here are my faves:
Cruzes Credo // I walked to this place nearly every morning from my apartment. It’s a casual coffee shop with free wifi and across the street from Se Cathedral. It’s a great place to grab a glass of wine or lunch/dinner. Many entrees are gluten-free.
Pois Cafe // Just down the street from Cruzes Credo, Pois Cafe also offers great coffee, free wifi and wonderful, casual meals. I had their smoked salmon salad which was delicious.
Copenhagen Coffee Lab // In the Principe Real neighborhood, Copenhagen Coffee Lab is a cool spot with a Nordic-designed interior. Unfortunately, most of the munchies are not gluten-free, but their coffee is highly regarded.
Fabrica Coffee Roasters // If you’re walking north of the city or along Avenida da Liberdade, make sure to stop at Fabrica for, you guessed it, a great cup of coffee.
Claudio Corallo // This family-owned cafe takes pride in their high quality coffee and artisan chocolate. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, they’ve got chocolate sorbets and other decadent goodies (like ginger chocolate bars), many of which are also dairy-free.
Liquid Lounge // A small organic juice/smoothie spot that’s got every combo of green juice or fruit smoothie imaginable. Great for a liquid breakfast on the go.
Yao Pressed Juicery // A new cold-pressed juice place west of Bairro Alto, but worth the walk. You can make your own juice combo or grab pre-made juices to go (perfect if you have a refrigerator).
Amorino // If you’re visiting Lisbon in the summer, you’ll need something to cool you down – like organic gelato! Amorino has tons of fruity flavors that are organic and vegan and two locations, in Baixa and Chiado.
Cone ou Copa // If you’re walking Avenida da Liberdade, stop into Cone ou Copa for organic ice cream, gelato and frozen yogurt.
A Ginjinha // This list wouldn’t be complete with a stop for Ginja, a Portuguese liqueur of infused cherries in aguardente. A Ginjinha, a historic (and always bustling!) spot in Rossio square is the best place to grab a sip, any time of the day.
I was blown away by the high caliber of restaurants and chefs in Lisbon. Trust me, Lisbon is on the cusp of becoming a truly big food scene. This is great news for ordering real food, gluten-free…but I think Lisbon has probably been easy all along, with fresh seafood as the number one menu item. They do it well!
You’ll find bacalhau (salted cod) on almost every menu, along with sardines (my fave), prawns, lobster, seabass and numerous other seafood items. Most of these items are simply grilled and served with boiled potatoes and vegetables. A traditional Portuguese meal.
A Cevicherria // If I had to pick one favorite restaurant in Lisbon, this is it. Chef Kiko Martins created a Peruvian-inspired ceviche menu with Portuguese flair. I ordered the chef’s tasting menu (they modified a couple items to be gluten-free) and it was ah-ma-zing. Oh, they also have an octopus hanging from the ceiling, which is kinda cool.
Sea Me // Another trendy spot, Sea Me offers an Asian-inspired seafood menu, with sushi, sashimi and freshly caught fish. But I recommend skipping the menu and chatting with their fish monger to see what was caught fresh that morning. Trust me, the selection is huge. I had seabass and it was grilled to perfection.
La Paparrucha // If you need a break from seafood, go to La Paparrucha for the juiciest steaks. I ordered the tenderloin (without any sauce) and it melted in my mouth. La Paparrucha also has a spectacular sunset dinner view of the city, so make sure to reserve a window/view table.
The Decadente // A hip restaurant with modern Portuguese cuisine, The Decadent offers little bit of everything. I ordered the bacalhau which was served with roasted potatoes and spinach. And you wouldn’t know it from the front, but there’s great patio seating in the back.
Cafe Lisboa // This traditional Portuguese restaurant has seating inside their 18th century building or outside on the terrace. My friend and I started with the Portuguese cheese and charcuterie platter and I ordered the tuna steak with basil for dinner. Delicious.
Cervejaria Ramiro // Consistently ranked one of the top seafood spots in Lisbon, this locals restaurant is worth the detour north of the city. It’s unassuming, compared to others on the list, but the seafood is top-notch. I had garlic shrimp and prawns. If you get there with a line, no worries, they’ll serve you alcohol outside while you wait.
Open Brasserie Mediterranica // The only restaurant on the list with a specified gluten-free menu (and gluten-free bread). Open Brasserie Mediterranica prioritizes organic and seasonal ingredients with a mindset of sustainability. It’s a casual, family-style restaurant with fresh, clean and delicious food.
Kaffeehaus // This uber-popular Austrian restaurant isn’t exactly gluten-free (I think half the menu items start with “breadcrumbs”), but I found their brunch to be very doable and tasty with scrambled eggs, omelettes and several salads to choose from. Just make sure to hold the bread and verify the ingredients in your meal.
If you have an apartment with a kitchen, you’re in luck as Lisbon has several organic markets and grocery stores.
Mercado de Ribeira // This traditional food market (from 1892) was transformed by Time Out Lisboa magazine into a massive food court. Many local restaurants each have stalls. You’ll find produce sold in the early morning hours and a bustling lunch crowd in the afternoon. With dozens of restaurants to choose from (and one organic, gluten-free one!) it’s the perfect spot when everyone wants to eat something different.
Principe Real Organic Market // A Saturday morning farmer’s market in Principe Real with 100% organic produce.
Brio Organic Supermarket // Brio is like a mini Whole Foods, with organic produce, canned goods and gluten-free packaged foods. A great place to stock up and grab some snacks.
Celeiro // As health food shop, Celeiro has all the natural, herbal remedies you may need. They also have a good selection of organic, whole foods and gluten-free packaged foods, like Schar brand.
A Few Extra Tips
- Lisbon is a late night dinner locale. Most don’t eat dinner until about 8pm. But if you’d like to ensure your restaurant meal is as clean as can be, I always recommend going early, right when the restaurant opens. This also gives you the opportunity to talk with the chef, which I always do.
- Fresh sardines in restaurants are not the same as canned sardines. They’re about 3-4x the size, grilled and very flavorful. Though bring some canned sardines home as souvenirs – the tins are adorable!
- On packaged food items, look for Sin Gluten or Sem Gluten (the same phrases you can use when ordering), which means gluten-free.
- English is widely spoken, which makes communicating your gluten-free needs very easy. Just remember to always say “obrigada” (thank you).
- Wear comfy shoes. Lisbon’s cobblestone streets (while gorgeous) are also very uneven and slippery. I ditched flip flops after the first day for sturdier shoes.
- In Alfama, fado shows are usually only on Wed, Fri and Sat evenings, so if you’d like to see one, make sure to plan ahead.
- Remember that pick-pocketing in Lisbon is huge (unfortunately, it happened to me). Always keep a watchful eye on your purse or bag.
- And finally, for the best selection of high-quality, traditional souvenirs (all from Portuguese artisans), head to A Vida Portuguesa. I almost went over my baggage weight limit with the foodie items I grabbed here!
[Click the icon on the top left of the map to view all locations]
A very, very special thanks to my dear friend Sanda. She came to my rescue after I was robbed, made me feel welcome in her beautiful city and shared many of these fabulous “insider” foodie spots. Words can’t express my gratitude. xo
Have you traveled to Lisbon? If you’ve got additional tips or gluten-free advice, drop them in the comments below!