They reckon breakfast is the most important meal of the day and in Lisbon there are some memorable places to eat for that morning pick-me-up. If you’re staying in the Anjos area of town, try the welcoming Brick Cafe, a favourite with locals and itinerant 20-somethings. Back in the town centre, the aptly named Chiado Caffe includes a healthful bean tart on its menu. It’s worth heading over to Campo Ourique for breakfast at the homely Botica do Café, another eatery with an unpretentious local flavour. Tartine in Chiado is well liked for its crunchy fresh bread rolls fresh juice selection but if you’re in the Saldanha neighbourhood, breakfast should be taken at Café Versailles where you can soak up a genuine 1920’s vintage atmosphere. Alternatively, join early morning commuters as they grab a bite to eat at the busy Casa Brasileira in the city’s downtown Baixa district. A classic Lisbon teahouse, Café Pastelaria Benard in Chiado is renowned for its chocolate croissants – order them hot! If you’re in Rossio and especially if it’s warm and sunny, grab a terrace table at Pastelaria Suiça and watch the world go by while enjoying toast and coffee. Lisbon’s Rossio Starbucks is one of the most attractive in the city and its breakfast offer is what you’d expect from this global chain. Otherwise, A Padaria Portuguesa-Camões exemplifies Portugal’s own excellent national chain of café-bakeries. Arrive early before the queues get too long.
A Padaria Portuguesa-Camões
This city-wide café-bakery franchise has caught the imagination of locals and tourists alike. The concept is simple - a bright and breezy French-style boulangerie (lots of croissants and baguettes) shining under 60s-style lamp lights and lots of blackboard and chalk. Very European café society. The shop in Praça Luís Camões is particularly attractive with its tangerine walls and dark wood stairs. A staff of twenty-somethings full of wit and banter serve up the morning special - a breakfast menu of juice, expresso and a cheese and ham sandwich - in rapid succession. Around 9am it gets so busy the queue backs up to the front windows. Besides the set menu customers can order sausage rolls, meat pies, donuts, flan and a variety of teas, coffees and soft drinks. (+351 21 342 6346, +351 964 930 842)
Lisbon's most eye-catching Starbucks outlet opens at 9am and is conveniently located in the heart of the city. It's housed within Rossio railway station and the cafe carefully incorporates the neo-Manueline architectural design of this late 19th-century transport hub. Spacious and airy, the floor is open plan and furnished with comfy sofas, plump armchairs and wooden chairs and tables. There's also an outside terrace for people watching. The menu of course is Starbucks standard - a great range of different coffee (your caffeine or sugar rush is guaranteed) teas, juices and a good selection of freshly baked muffins, wraps and pastries. There are also plenty of rolls and sandwiches available. The waiting staff all speak English, and the vibe is youthful and very international. (+351 21 346 9254)
A famous Lisbon landmark since 1922, this pastelaria serves the surrounding Rossio and Praca da Figueira areas favoured by budget and independent travellers. It's a deceptively large cafe with the main salon providing service on both sides of the block. Open all day, breakfast or brunch is best savoured on the sprawling sunlit terrace overlooking Praca D. Pedro IV which provides wonderful views of the square and excellent people watching opportunities. As well as a popular meeting point, Suica is also stocks a tempting selection of cakes. The counters inside positively heave with sweets and pastries typical of Lisbon and the rest of Portugal so why not buy a box to go? (+351 21 321 4090)
Café Pastelaria Benard
If breakfast for you means chocolate croissants, then this charming late 19th-century cafe is just your cup of tea (or is that the other way round?) Another one of Lisbon's historic landmark eateries, Benard opens at 8am, and is famous for baking its own croissants using a secret recipe. Beside chocolate, fillings include marmalade and other jams. The sweet selection extends to whipped cream cakes and other tempting pastries. Benard is situated on one of the busiest streets in Chiado and fills up quickly during the rush hour with locals who often take their coffee standing up at the counter. This means that tables outside are usually free, and this is the place to relish your own breakfast as the day begins. (+351 21 347 3133)
Not to be confused with Café A Brasileira in Chiado, this near namesake enjoys an equally privileged location in Rua Augusta, Lisbon's animated pedestrian thoroughfare. Inside, the long stand-up glass counter is crammed full of chicken pies, fish cakes, rolls and sandwiches and other savory goodies, plus a huge variety of cakes, biscuits and other sweets. They do breakfast specials here, things like toasted bacon and egg sandwich with juice and coffee. You can also order toast on its own - torrada - that's as big as a doorstep! The cafe's popularity is measured by the amount of locals that call in on on their way to work (Brasileira opens at 7am) and the busy outside terrace seating area, a favourite with tourists, although items are priced slightly higher if ordered from the esplanade. (+351 21 469 713)
For those staying in and around the city's uptown Saldanha district or near Avenida da República you have an absolute gem of a breakfast spot on your doorstep. Café Versailles dates from the early 1920s and stands replete with original marble-clad walls, decorative stained glass panels and crystal chandeliers. It opens for business at 7.30am and the bygone ambiance is immediately apparent as you walk in. A wonderfully tempting selection of cakes, biscuits and pasties are arranged in original glass counters. Savory snacks are also available. Coffee, tea (including green and black varieties) can be ordered, but if you really want a morning pick-me-up ask for the house speciality - hot chocolate, a rich dark concoction coifed with a dollop of whipped cream. (+351 21 354 6340)
Hot crispy croissants, flaky pastries and arguably the best eggs Benedict in town are rustled up daily at this smart little bakery. Located just off Rua Garrett in the city's venerable Chiado district, the pastelaria is also known for its hot crusty bread, baked on site to leave a delicious aroma hanging in the air. Their range of toasties challenges the imagination and they do some great pancakes. And as you'd expect, the eatery is renowned for its tartines - hot, open-faced sandwiches crammed with all sorts of mouth-watering combinations. Tea, coffee and super rich hot chocolate complement fresh fruit juices and other drinks. (+351 21 342 9108)
Botica do Café
The quiet leafy Campo Ourique neighbourhood makes for rewarding exploration and is easily reached by taking the number 28 tram all the way to Prazeres. Make this journey early in the morning before the tourist hordes stir and you can enjoy breakfast with the locals at this lovely little café, which exudes a faintly rustic ambiance as if set in the countryside. Besides the mouth-watering cakes and pastries that are beautifully displayed in a glass counter, you can order toast (torrada) with jam or a ham and cheese combination known as a tosta mista – delicious with a mug of coffee. Another option is a warm oven-baked baked roll with goat's cheese and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, ideal if you're watching your weight or simply don't want to fill up before hitting the sight-seeing path. (+351 21 385 3868)
If you savour just one thing at this chic little bakery make sure it's the Pães de Deus. This is the 'Bread of God', a sweet roll with a crusty top sprinkled with light powdery icing sugar. Your dietician will no doubt raise an eyebrow, but these delicious cake-like creations are simply divine, and Chiado Caffe bake them on the premises to sell straight off the tray. One of these with butter and jam, plus a strong black coffee, is what breakfasts were made for. There's also a tempting selection of croissants, including a richly smooth chocolate variation, plus toast and sandwich combinations. And the super friendly counter staff can put together a combo of cakes and pastries to go – a great picnic idea. (+351 21 346 0828)
So named for the section of brick wall overlooking the counter, this place is ideal for anyone staying in or exploring the city's Intendente and Anjos neighbourhoods, areas of the city fairly off the tourist radar. Popular with budget travellers and in-the-know locals, the café is highly regarded for its breakfast and brunch menus. Start off with one of their natural fruit juices before tucking into a round of hot buttered toast smothered with jam. Alternatively, order a couple of fresh crunchy croissants. Still hungry? The fluffy scrambled egg and crispy bacon will set things right. Coffee is de rigueur here, but there's also a healthy and exotic range of teas and infusions including black tea from China with lychees and jasmine flavoured green tea. The vibe is always friendly and inviting and as well as a great way to kick off a day, you'll probably end up making new friends into the bargain. (+351 21 814 1516)
About Paul Bernhardt
Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more travel-related topics. He has journeyed the length and breadth of his adopted homeland and its islands, interacting with locals and photographing a fascinating range of subjects.
Paul waxes lyrical for a number of specialist travel magazines, blogs and websites, and Lisbon is a frequent subject. In fact, he never tires of rediscovering this most beguiling city, usually over a coffee at his favorite downtown café.
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