Top 5 Historical Cafes
Since the Portuguese discoveries in the 16th century, when the coffee started to be used as a currency, the Portuguese relation with coffee, exploration, roasting, and consumption have centuries of existence. Hence around the city, we selected the top historical cafes. Places that along history have their own stories, that have hosted important events, but most importantly that have survived throughout time and keep their soul.
Brasileira is perhaps the most known and emblematic cafes in Lisbon. Centrally located, in Largo do Chiado, with an Art Deco style, with its gold and green facade, has opened its doors in 1905. Since then it became a reference to Portuguese intellectuals and artist community. Home for artist and politicians gatherings. In Brasileira has inspired names as Fernando Pessoa who sought for inspiration and wrote part of his literary masterpieces there; Almada Negreiros or Stuart Carvalhais who have exhibited their art works there.
When it opened, the owner a former coffee dealer, it was possible to buy a kilo of Brazilian coffee.
Nowadays Brasileira is indeed a touristic attraction, and so some of its laise fair charm has gone with all the buzz and people around. However, is still worth a visit to take a small expresso (order a bica) with any Portuguese sweet treat.
Older than its neighbor, Cafe Bernard is a classic stopping place for Lisboners. During Summer it has outside tables, perfect for granddaughters meet granny, friends chatting over a coffee around, or simply to observe and to be observed among Lisboners and voyageurs. During Winter, inside is the perfect place for a cozy and comfortable afternoon indulging with the Benard’s must, the chocolate croissants (made from a secret recipe, are best when warm and filled with chocolate). It is also possible to have a meal there, in the back room where traditional Portuguese dishes are served.
Benard opened its doors in the late 19th century, and it was one of the few public places women could go to without the company of men.
Founded in 1829, Confeitaria Nacional was the official confectioner of the royal family dates nearly two centuries of existence, and still keeps its old reputation as one of Lisbon’s best pastry shops and cafes.
Confeitaria Nacional is particularly famous due to the traditional Christmas cake, Bolo Rei, which tradition started in 1850 when the owner bought the recipe.
Any other time of the year, try the giant selection of traditional biscuits and Portuguese pastries. Inside the treats are displayed in a classic and elegant marble counter, topped by a mirrored ceiling.
Upstairs there is a dining area, where Portuguese dished are served too at lunch time.
Located in the lively hood of Avenidas Novas in Lisbon, in an area where many locals do live and work, Versailles Cafe is one of the historical cafes in town, far from the tourist crowd.
Versailles is a classic cafe, that opened in 1922, with mirrored palatial interiors, glass and Art Nouveau influences recreate the atmosphere of a classic European cafe.
At Versailles, people can find perhaps the biggest variety of pastries in town. Is the place where families meet in weekends either for a morning lazy and indulgent breakfast or for an Afternoon Tea. During the week, expect it to be crowded by locals not only during tea time but also for lunch time.
Here grab some Castanha de Ovo, or any other “eggy”treats.
Antiga Confeitaria de Belém
Or simply known as “Pastéis de Belém”. Actually, Confeitaria de Belém no longer needs any name. Its pastries fame have crossed borders, known as the Portuguese custard tarts or Pastéis de Nata.
The original “Pasteis de Belém” recipe was created by the nuns from Jerónimos Monastery, by the 17th century. Later, in 1837 the ultra-secret recipe was passed to Antiga Confeitaria de Belém and followed since then. From its start to the success of the tarts was a blow. Other pastry houses and cafes have tried since then to discover and copy the recipe, however even the most successful ones are still different from the originals. The locals know the originals from its smell to the moment they taste it.
From Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, an average of 20,000 tarts are produced daily, with a peak in the Summer, reaching the double amount daily, 40,000.
Located in the historical neighborhood, Belém, Antiga Confeitaria de Belém is a non-miss spot. The place will be marked by the huge line at its door, where tourists wait to grab a box and try some. Locals usually don’t get scared with the enormous line, and sneak inside, where to find a table will be perhaps faster than to wait outside to bring some home.
Inside the place has seen some remodeling and enlargements throughout time. The older rooms are beautifully decorated with blue tiles. Inside, get delighted seeing the kitchen from where these gems are coming out of ovens every half an hour.
Tip. Become a local, and take some time to indulge inside with one, two, three… with an expresso or latte. Once you are filled, order the waiter a box to bring home.