The 5 most iconic Lisbon cafés
These are the five most iconic Lisbon cafés you will have to visit
With centuries of history, Lisbon is also famous for its cafés and bicas (Portuguese for espresso). The Portuguese love going to cafés to have their bica, be it in the morning, after lunch or in the evening, any excuse will do to take a break and enjoy the wonderful coffee that Lisbon has to offer. Below are five of the most iconic coffee houses in Lisbon that are sure to delight caffeine addicts.
Pastelaria Versailles. Photo credits: Open House Lisboa
This iconic Lisbon patisserie has been around since 1922 and is known all over town for the best possible reasons. The famous café is located in the heart of Lisbon, in Avenida da República, in a splendid Art Nouveau building that is in itself a more than enough reason for visiting.
Despite the name and its sumptuous interiors ranking among those of the most famous European tea and coffee houses, Versailles has by no means lost its Portuguese identity. Not only does it serve the best Portuguese pastries (much more than pastéis de nata), it also functions as a traditional restaurant, serving the finest quality Portuguese cuisine.
In 2017, Versailles spread to the Belém district, where it opened a new and equally good branch close to the National Coach Museum.
A Brasileira. Photo credits: NiT
Brasileira is, perhaps, Lisbon's most famous and most photographed café. It opened in Rua Garrett, in the Chiado neighborhood, in 1905 and it has been popular since then. Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa was known to have his bica there and that's the reason why you can find him immortalized sitting outside. Together with Brasileira, Pessoa's statue is one of Lisbon's best-known attractions and it has already become a tradition to be photographed sitting in his lap.
Brasileira sits right opposite Chiado's subway exit and is easily identifiable by the number of people sitting outside on the terrace. The café opened its doors in 1905 and it owes its name to the fact it imported its coffee beans from (you guessed it) Brazil.
The building isn't any less impressive on the inside than it is on the outside. Having been built and subsequently renovated in the XX century, it displays beautiful Art Nouveau wooden panellings and ceilings. It is also possible to try some of the best Portuguese traditional delicacies there while enjoying a hot bica by the counter.
English newspaper The Telegraph has recently listed it as one of Europe's best historic cafés.
Confeitaria Nacional's mainshop. Photo credits: Confeitaria Nacional
Founded in 1829, Confeitaria Nacional is still one of the best cafés in Lisbon today. The family-run establishment is known for having introduced the now traditional Bolo-Rei (King's Cake) to Portugal. This cake is still made the way the 1850 recipe dictates and it is the centerpiece on every Christmas supper table in the country.
The cake is easily recognizable by the candied fruit on top and the large hole in the center but it hides a quite important secret. Among the ingredients, a bean is traditionally added to the batter and whoever finds it will have to buy the Bolo-Rei the following year.
King's Cake. Photo credits: Confeitaria Nacional
Despite having suffered some restorations, Confeitaria still maintains the original XIX century tracery and it is sure worth a visit for it. It goes without saying that all the delicacies are also worth a try, especially around Christmas time.
The Art Deco facade dates back to the late 30s. Photo credits: CML
Café Nicola is located in Rossio and it dates back to 1929. The café also functions as a restaurant, but it is on the terrace facing the Rossio Square that people flock the most. In addition to great coffee, the steaks are the specialty of the house. We recommend trying the Bife à Nicola or the Bife à Café.
On the inside, the Art Déco lamps stand out along with Bocage's statue in the back. Photo credits: CML
Portuguese poet Manuel Barbosa du Bocage was known to have made this establishment his second home and for that reason, it is possible to find his statue on the inside. In the late 30s, the café suffered its first renovation and adopted a very modern-at-the-time Art Déco style of which the light fixtures are one of the most impressive features.
Martinho da Arcada
Martinho da Arcada. Photo credits: Gazeta do Povo
The famous Martinho da Arcada opened in 1782, which makes it the oldest café in Lisbon. It is known to have been attended by poets, including Fernando Pessoa, whose picture is up on one of the café walls. Amadeo de Souza Cardoso and Cesário Verde were also some the famous habitués. This café is located at Praça do Comércio and perhaps because of that most of the customers are now tourists.
Nevertheless, it is well worth a visit and having a bica in.
Fernando Pessoa (sitting on the right) having coffee with friends at Martinho da Arcada
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