Some food experiences never fade and eating sardines at an outdoor café atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills is one of them. I’m not talking about those oily little canned filets – save those for the Caesar salad. I’m talking about whole, fresh caught, grilled Atlantic sardines – each the size of an eye glass case, generously salted and coated in robust olive oil. It’s no wonder sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines) are the country’s most popular fish and worthy of a month-long festival in June.
Two words: short and strong. That’s how the Portuguese like their coffee and you will too (once you get used to it). Lisbon is littered with cozy coffee shops and cafés where you can settle in for a good cup of joe made from fresh roasted beans. Find a place that sells pastéis de nata – a creamy egg custard in a flakey buttery crust. It’s the perfect companion to your short and strong.
There’s simply no better way to get a true taste of Portuguese culture than by listening to a live Fado performance. Fado is Portugal’s folk music and it tells the story of its working-class people. Strong, passionate vocalists are accompanied by melancholy guitars or mandolins and together the sound creates a mountain of emotion. Even if you don’t speak any Portuguese, you know there is struggle, resignation, and longing. In fact, the world “fado” comes from the Latin word, “fatum” which means destiny.