I have seen heaven, and it is a food market in Lisbon.
Imagine: a vast cafeteria, the size of a football field, serving up nothing but unique local food items at affordable prices. Imagine most of the vendors here speak English, for ease of ordering, and you can just wander from stall to stall sampling all kinds of dishes.
The Mercado da Ribeira is the answer to your local food hunting dreams. The market itself has roots daying back to the 12th century, and has long been Lisbon’s central market. The current building was erected in 1892, and in 2010 Time Out Magazine bought out the rights to manage the main food hall, and turned it into a food court for foodies.
Each wall of the massive marketplace is lined with shop fronts serving up different kinds of food. There are your typical food court type items: hamburgers, sushi, ice cream, along with Portuguese specialties like steak sandwiches, local cheeses and all kinds of seafood. You can try traditional Portuguese foods alongside local ingredients served with a modern twist.
One wall has several wine bars serving neat little petiscos (the portuguese version of tapas). Another wall was devoted to upscale offerings from 5 famous Lisbon-based chefs. In the center are the beverages: a smoothie bar, a beer stand, a gin and tonic booth and more. There are plentiful huge wooden tables and benches to sit and enjoy your finds. Tourists and locals, couples and families all eat together.
You won’t be surprised to know that Mike basically had to drag me out of this place. I begged t come back the next day and eat more. I could have spent full days trying everything on the various menus and asking pointed questions about ingredients I didn’t recognize. Obviously it doesn’t replace the little hole in the wall spots and sunny cafes, but I can’t think of a better way to introduce yourself to Portuguese cuisine and try some famous dishes on a budget.
What we Ate:
Some Tips for Visiting:
- This goes without saying I think, but come hungry!
- This is a great place to try local drink specialties like ginja (wild cherry liquor) at Casa da Ginja and port wine.
- The Market is open Sun-Wed: 10am- 12 am, Thurs-Fri: 10 am- 2 am
- The market gets exceptionally crowded after 8 or so, so visit earlier in the evening or even for lunch.