Food Tour in the Alfama district of Lisbon

Due to our jetlag, we woke before the sunrise on our first morning in Lisbon. We therefore had a few hours to kill before our 10am food tour of the Alfama district with the tour company, Treasures of Lisboa. We stopped in to the coffee shop next to our hotel for a morning coffee and tea and some pastries to tide us over until the food tour. The Pao de Deus, or God’s bread, is a Portuguese coconut sweet bread which made a perfect morning treat. Surprisingly, the best Pao de Deus we found during our trip to Portugal was this one we had on our first day at a local chain coffee shop, A Padaria Portuguesa.

View from Miradouro de Santa Luzia

We would meet our tour guide at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol but as we had some extra time, we did a bit of exploring first. We walked from our hotel through the winding streets past the Lisbon Cathedral (Se de Lisboa) and up to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. A miradouro is a viewpoint and Lisbon has many beautiful viewpoints from the many hills overlooking the city. The Miradouro de Santa Luzia was one of my favourite viewpoints as we arrived not long after the sun had risen and because we had it mostly to ourselves. I’m sure this viewpoint is especially pretty in the spring when the purple jacaranda trees are in bloom.

View over Alfama from the Miradouro das Portas do Sol

The Treasures of Lisboa food tour (not sponsored) was the perfect way to explore the Alfama district while tasting the local Portuguese delicacies along the way. Treasures of Lisboa is a local tour company run by a young couple. The tour focuses on incredible food and drink tastings from family run restaurants.

We met our energetic tour guide, Ruthy, and about 10 other guests at the Statue of St. Vincent in the Miradouro das Portas do Sol. This was a nice spot to watch the famous yellow trams make their way up the steep streets filled with tourists. Busier than nearby Miradouro de Santa Luzia, this miradouro has a more expansive view over the narrow alleys of the Alfama district. It is a great place to start exploring my favourite neighbourhood in Lisbon, Alfama.

Mural documenting the history of Lisbon

As our tour was in the morning, the first two stops of the tour were some sweet snacks, the Pastel de Nata and the Pastel de Feijao. The Pastel de Nata is a creamy egg custard pastry flavoured with a hint of vanilla, cinnamon or lemon. Each bakery has their own variation of the secret recipe originally created by the monks at Jeronimos Monastery and made famous at the bakery, Pasteis de Belem. The Pastel de Nata we tried at a local bakery in Alfama was delicious with a hint of lemon and was molten hot straight from the oven.

Pastel de Feijao

The Pastel de Feijao is another pastry filled with beans with a crispy crust made with sugar and almonds. This sweet treat also has religious origins as it is believed to have originally been made by nuns. However, it is most commonly attributed to the town of Torres Vedras which is just north of Lisbon.

Portrait of a local Alfama resident

After these first few snacks, Ruthy guided us through the maze of streets and stairways in Alfama pointing out small courtyards with orange trees and buildings covered in beautiful azulejo tiles. She told us stories of local Alfama residents who have been honoured with portraits which are hung on the walls around the neighbourhood. Many of the portraits include some details about the resident and their life in Alfama.

Returning to the same wine bar for dinner
Pasteis de bacalhau with a Sagres beer

Our next stop was a small family owned restaurant where we tried a few different Portuguese delicacies including sardines on toast and Pasteis de bacalhau (fried cod fritters) with a Sagres beer to wash it all down. Pasteis de bacalhau is essentially a fried cod fritter which is deliciously crispy on the outside but with a tasty filling of codfish, potato, onions, eggs and parsley. They are the perfect Portuguese appetizer and just one of the many ways bacalhau (cod) is served. The sardines fillets were canned in olive oil by a small Portuguese company run by two sisters. Their artisan food company was named in honour of their grandmother who was nicknamed “the Santulhana”, which is also the name of a variety of olives which grow outside a village named Santulhao. The sardines were so delicious we purchased a few cans to take home with us.

Sardines on toast

After our group had all made purchases of sardines and olive oil, we made our way to a small wine bar where we were presented with another feast of Tibornas de Bacalhau, Chourico de Porco Preto and vinho verde wine. The Tibornas de Bacalhau was one of our favourite dishes of the tour and we came back to this restaurant for dinner another night to have more. It is a salted cod on toast with arugula, tomatoes, onions and garlic. The Chourico de Porco Preto is thinly sliced cured pork from the Black Iberian pig. This type of pig is indigenous to the Iberian peninsula and is widely revered for its taste due to being fed a diet primarily of acorns. The vinho verde wine was light and refreshing young wine that paired well with these appetizers.

Local Portuguese cheese

The last stop of the day was at a lively restaurant where we were served some lovely cheese and chorizo sausage which was flamed tableside by the restaurant owner. The end of the tour was toasted with a shot of ginjinha (or ginja) which is a Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherry. It is possible to find local ladies selling ginja from their homes in the Alfama neighbourhood.

This food tour from Treasures of Lisboa was the perfect introduction to the city of Lisbon and all the delicious food available in Portugal.

Flame roasted chorizo served table side

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