Tom and I recently traveled in Portugal for almost six weeks, and what a trip it was! Our food and culture explorations began in Lisbon, and we re-visited the area some weeks later. The first time through, we explored a single neighborhood, Mouraria. When we returned a month later, the food court at Mercado da Ribeira had just opened, and we were eager to take a look.
We were in Portugal last year, mostly in Alentejo. This trip, we were after a broader and more in-depth experience. To get us started, we turned to Taste of Lisboa, organizer of food and culture experiences in and around the city, and visited both Mouraria and the Food Court at Mercado da Ribeira.
Five highlights of our walk in Mouraria
Diverse Mouraria is Lisbon’s melting pot, and its residents, restaurants and boutiques mix long-time traditions and the completely new. Our culture and food walk included stops for nibbles, a nip of sour cherry liquor (taken as medicine until the end of the 19th century), and a chance to “have a mini!” with an African fish cake.
1. Culinary fundamentals
2. Fado facts, with Ginja
Fado was born in Mouraria, and its most celebrated singers are commemorated here with plaques, portraits and music wafting from ancient buildings. We stopped at a tiny tavern to taste Ginja, the cherry liquor, with fado eddying around us.
3. Casual gourmet at Leopold
Chef Tiago Feio and his wife Ana recently opened the four-table restaurant on Rua de Sao Cristovao, one of several innovative start-ups in the neighborhood. Leopold’s Post-it-Note “business cards” come with quotes:
Mine, from Homer Simpson– “Give me liberty or…OOO…a jelly donut!”
For Tom, a quote from Calvin Trillin–“Health food makes me sick.”
For more about Leopold, read this rapturous review of another blogger’s Alfama Mouraria discovery on the way up to Castelo de S. Jorge.
4. “A Tribute” by Camilla Watson
Camilla Watson tells how “A Tribute” came about, and what the neighbors thought, in this video.
5. Vintage boutique
Entrepreneurs are moving into Mouraria, enlivening and enriching the neighborhood. We enjoyed a peek into A LOJA, a boutique on Rua de São Cristóvão featuring vintage and artisanal items lovingly selected by owner Gabrielle de Saint Venant.
In an interview Gabrielle tells about her move to the “international village” of Mouraria.
Mercado da Ribeira, re-born
Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeiro has been around for ages, selling top-quality produce and seafood trucked into the city from farms in the region. Another side to the market opened in May, showcasing products and concepts from well-known chefs in the city, in a venture managed by Time Out Lisboa. The aim is to present the best in urban lifestyle, from gastronomy to culture.
Open just a few days at the time of our visit, the place was still working out the kinks. Still, we met some of the vendors, enjoyed a personalized introduction to Portuguese cheeses and a fine piece of cake to keep us going until evening.
Out and about with Taste of Lisboa
We highly recommend Filipa’s tours. Her knowledge and passion for sharing the food and culture of her city is unrivaled, and contributed greatly to our food travel experience in Portugal. Thanks to Taste of Lisboa, we also enjoyed a day in the Setúbal District, and a marvelous evening of cooking and sharing dinner with locals in Lisbon. More about that later!
* * *
To see all our travel stories from Portugal, click here.