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Eating Cheap in Lisbon
Lisbon is a great city for eating out as there is no connection between the cost of the meal and the quality. Often all you pay more for is the ambience and decor while some of the best restaurants are the most rowdy, with the most basic appearance. This guide will provide some useful tips, information and advice regarding how to eat well in Lisbon but not break the bank.
Always remember the philosophy that if it is busy then it must be good and if it full with locals, it must be even better. Portuguese restaurants and cafes are noisy places, as the Portuguese are not quiet nation but they are hospitable and welcoming. For tight budgets never discount shopping centers, some of the best value food can be found in Centro Colombo or Vasco da Gama Shopping centre in Expo Park.
A traditional Portuguese breakfast, two cakes and a strong coffee!
Tips for Eating Cheap in central Lisbon
Rossio and the Baixa districts are the hub of the tourist trade in Lisbon but finding good value food can be difficult. The area is rightly popular with visitors as many of the historic tourist sights are within walking distance, Bairro Alto night time entertainment is close and there are plenty of budget hostels and cheap hotels.
Rossio and Baixa are great place to be based while in Lisbon except that eating with a tight budget can prove to be very difficult as most of the areas restaurants cater the for high end tourist trade. In Rossio and Baixa there are only 2 locations where the majority Lisbon’s residents would even consider eating because of the over inflated prices.
A plate of Lisbon snails, an acquired dish
One of the most popular places in Baixa is the Café Beira Gare, just to the left of Rossio train station, that serves great food and a fraction of the cost of many others and is loved by the locals. It’s busy, crowded and loud but a great traditional place to eat.
Another option close by is Restaurante Leão D`ouro which has an eat as much as you can buffet for €5.90 at lunch or €7.40 at dinner. One of the hidden secrets for a great lunch in Rossio is in the supermarket Pingo Doce to the east of Pedro IV square. Inside the supermarket (furthest side from the tills) is a café that sells a range of traditional dishes and are purchased by the weight of the meal and is exceptional good value.
All cafes provide free tap water (tap water is safe to drink) when purchasing a coffee or cake never be afraid to ask for water as the Portuguese all have no qualms about asking. A popular Portuguese alternative to MacDonald’s is “Pains Sardines” which sells a range of fast-food baguettes and they also sell delicious healthy soups. There are three outlets within Baixa, with one on the main Rua Augusta which includes seating in the pedestrian area, drinks purchased here cost 2/3 less than the seating area café next door.
The Bitoque Scale
Consider the scenario, your new to a city not knowing where to eat or how much dishes should cost. Your selection of restaurant is chosen by a very friendly waiter who persuades you to eat at his establishment and at the end of the meal a bill arrives which is half of your budget. Don’t let this happen to you, use the Bitoque scale!
Bitoque is a delicious meal of grilled pork chop with wine sauce, chips, rice and salad and is sold in every restaurant and café throughout of Portugal. This meal can act as a gauge to indicate the price of the eating establishment; the cheapest that the meal has been purchased for in 2018 is €6.50 and commonly in Lisbon expect to pay 8-10€. If you are seeing more on the menu expect everything else to be equally as expensive.