Lisbon: Tracing the Roots of an Imperial Cuisine - August 26, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon: Tracing the Roots of an Imperial Cuisine

Lisbon is one of the world’s greatest food cities, and you’ll experience the very best of it. Visit markets and dockyards, meet fishermen and bakers, learn to make Portuguese specialties, and eat and drink glorious delicacies, all while getting the chance to explore one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. 

Journey beyond the city’s tiled buildings and narrow streets to discover the long legacy and vibrant present of culinary inventiveness in Lisbon on this unique adventure in partnership with Culinary Backstreets.

This trip is best for people who are...

  • Curious about Lisbon’s culinary history and hidden corners.
  • Ready to walk 3 to 5 miles a day and try out all kinds of food and drink, whether making pastel de nata or taking a shot of ginjinha.
  • Eager to make the most of each day—when you’re exploring the port district, visiting the Hydrographic Institute, and enjoying a seafood dinner with views over the Atlantic, you’ve got to cover a lot of ground.

We’ll learn about the voyages and trade routes that stocked the city’s pantry with spices, and sample the contemporary fare that inflects traditional dishes with Goan influences. We’ll enjoy iconic egg-custard pastries, baked in the shadow of historic convents, and venture far past the city center to get an insider perspective on fresh-from-the-water seafood at the city’s bustling ports. We’ll also be taking a day trip across the Sado estuary to the Troia Peninsula, where we’ll learn about garum production. This six-day journey will be a feast for your eyes and your stomach.


  • Engage your senses and your hands: On visits to the city’s distinctive restaurants, you’ll get an insider’s view of Lisbon’s distinctive food scene. You’ll also join in yourself, getting the chance to prepare the region’s beloved buttery, egg-custard tarts, at a local convent.
  • Shop magnificent markets: You'll eat your way across Lisbon's traditional market, meeting butchers, bakers, and greengrocers, and sampling the city's delicacies.
  • See seafood as locals do: Down at the historic docks, mingle with fishermen and survey the fresh catch before feasting on cod cakes and goose barnacles.
  • Experience one of the world's greatest food cities like a local: You'll get a chance to eat and drink the very best Lisbon has to offer. 


Célia Pedroso, Bureau Chief
Célia, Culinary Backstreets' Lisbon bureau chief, is a freelance journalist, writing mostly about travel and food. She is the co-author of the book Eat Portugal, winner of a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. Her work can also be seen in The Guardian and Eater, and she has appeared on television productions including the Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil."Célia wrote the Portuguese entries for the book 1001 Restaurants you Must Experience Before you Die, and has been leading culinary tours since 2014. She keeps searching for the best pastéis de nata so you don't have to. 

Rodrigo Cabrita
Day 1
Welcome to Lisbon!
  • As travelers arrive, we’ll gather at our hotel for a welcome drink and begin getting to know our guides.
  • Afterward, we’ll take to the water: A chartered cruise will ferry us to a delicious al fresco dinner with a panoramic view of the city.
Rodrigo Cabrita
Day 2
A Culinary Crossroads, Explored
  • We’ll start the day by awakening our senses at a classic pastry shop beside the 18th-century Estrela Basilica. As we munch, we’ll be transported back in time, to the era when Lisbon was at the epicenter of the spice trade.
  • From there, we’ll journey off the beaten path—and to the present day—in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood, a “city within a city.” Here, we’ll learn about some of Lisbon's hidden history, such as plots to subvert the Salazar dictatorship that dominated the country in the 20th century.
  • On our way to one of Lisbon’s finest traditional markets, we’ll also enjoy a belly-warming shot of ginjinha, a local liqueur made from alcohol-soaked sour cherries. Once we arrive, we’ll visit fishmongers, butchers, greengrocers, and bakers. We’ll descend into a bookseller’s secret basement, which stocked contraband literature during the dictatorship.
  • At lunch time, we’ll nibble our way around the neighborhood. First, we’ll try a few traditional seasonal specialties, and then we’ll move along to a hidden gem that has been upholding a family’s culinary traditions for generations. At a private association with a subversive past, we’ll dig into vindalho—a curry dish with ancestral roots in both Goa and Portugal. 
  • We're working to arrange a special visit to the underground waterway tunnels and cisterns, ending the day in an unusual wine bar that resides in the mouth of the tunnel. After a tasting session, take the rest of the evening to explore on your own or relax at the hotel.
Rodrigo Cabrita
Day 3
A Sense of the Sea
  • Today, we’ll dive into Lisbon’s port district—where varinas, itinerant fishmongers, once peddled their catch from baskets hoisted on their heads—and learn about the deep affinity the city has for the sea.
  • We’ll begin with a bite at a neighborhood bakery, followed by a bica, a Portuguese-style espresso, at a wood-fired roastery still preparing coffee the old-fashioned way.
  • Next, we’ll wind through the neighborhood and its narrow alleys, catching the smell of fish roasting on charcoal grills. Down at the port, we’ll stop into port workers’ favorite grill joint, where—if we’re lucky—we’ll try in-season sardines. We’ll travel to the the lavishly tiled Convento das Trinas do Mocambo, a former convent now home to the navy’s Hydrographic Institute. On a private tour, we’ll learn about the building’s intricate decoration and Portugal’s Moorish heritage.
  • After our lunch at the docks, we’ll board the van and drive about 45 minutes along the coast to the Colares region near Sintra, home to Europe’s westernmost wine region. We’ll visit Viuva Gomes, a wonderful family-run winery, then, keeping with the theme of the sea, we will finish up with an early dinner at a classic waterfront seafood restaurant with views over the Atlantic. 
  • If you still have energy upon returning to Lisbon, you can head out to explore the city after dark.
Rodrigo Cabrita
Day 4
Sweet & Sacred Delights
  • Take this morning at your leisure—feel free to sleep in, wander on your own, do some shopping, read in a local coffee shop, or whatever else your heart desires. We'll be sure to provide a few recommended lunch spots.
  • In the early afternoon, we’ll reconvene for a journey to Lisbon’s last active convent. Hiding behind the whitewashed walls in the city center, it withstood the devastating 1755 earthquake and remains awash in original details. We'll tour the convent’s art collection and try our hands at making pastel de nata, the locally beloved egg-yolk tart.
  • After sampling our custard delicacies, we'll stop in for a brief respite at our hotel, before regrouping and heading to a multi-course Goan feast at Jesus é Goês, where the boisterous chef, Jesus, will describe the relationship between Portuguese and Goan cuisine.
Celia Pedroso
Day 5
The Rural Connection
  • After breakfast in the hotel, we’ll head south out of Lisbon to the center of Portugal’s fishing industry, Setubal. Known today for its lively fish market and tinned fish factories, the industry is rooted in Roman times when this area was the biggest producer of the garum, that funky fermented fish sauce beloved by the Romans. 
  • We’ll visit the fish market and have a lunch of spanking fresh fish at a local restaurant. We’ll then take the ferry across the Sado estuary to the Troia Peninsula, where we’ll visit the Roman ruins with local archaeologists. We’ll learn about garum production and even have a taste of it as a part of our picnic among the ruins.  (By the way, there’s a good swimming spot right nearby—though there isn’t a changing room, you can definitely still bring a swimsuit and towel for a dip!)
  • In the late afternoon we’ll head back to Lisbon and have the evening free to rest, relax, and explore on your own.  
Rodrigo Cabrita
Day 6
Hidden Neighborhood Heritage
  • This morning, you’ll be free to zip or wander around the city on your own.
  • After lunch, we’ll meet up at the hotel, where a historic tram will be waiting to whisk us off. We’ll ride through the city’s winding streets, stopping into a number local cultural institutions to hear their stories. Over a quick drink, we’ll meet the people keeping these institutions vibrant.
  • We’ll then tuck into a delicious farewell meal at a contemporary Portuguese restaurant, celebrating our final night in Portugal over local wines and fresh takes on classic fare.
Day 7
Farewell & Departure
  • Return to the Lisbon Airport in time for your flight home, or extend your stay and continue exploring on your own. 
  • Until the next adventure!
The Fine Print


  • All lodging in a modern, well-equipped boutique hotel throughout the trip. (Single supplement for a private room is available for $525. Otherwise we'll work to place singles of the same gender together.)
  • All meals and transportation during the trip, including in a private coach for visits outside the center city. Travel within the city will be by foot and public transportation.
  • The company of an experienced, local English-speaking guide throughout the trip.
  • Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Lisbon has to offer!


For flights in and out of Lisbon International Airport (LIS), we suggest you arrive anytime before 3 p.m. on August 26 and depart anytime on the morning of September 1. We are happy to book you extra nights at the group's hotel and provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own.


Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.


Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 3 to 5 miles each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Keep in mind that Lisbon is a bustling and crowded place!


A $500 deposit is required to hold your space. The deposit is non-refundable after three days. The final payment of $2,935 will be due by May 28, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $525 will be included in the final payment.


  • Transportation and flights to and from Lisbon. 
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • If applicable, applying for a Portuguese visa (not required for U.S. citizens).

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