Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and in Lisbon there are dozens of good cafés where you can kick off the morning in style. If you’re in Chiado, head for A Padaria Portuguesa Camões. The set Continental breakfast of juice, sandwich and coffee is served promptly and with good humor. Not far away is French-style artisan bakery Eric Kayser, where the free wi-fi is nearly as popular as their freshly baked croissants. Quinoa, also located in this elegant neighbourhood, is known for its organic and gluten-free options. If you’re staying near Saldanha then breakfast can be taken at Café Versailles while soaking up the 1920’s vintage atmosphere of this historic teahouse. In Lisbon’s Baixa (downtown) district, a quick inexpensive brekkie can be enjoyed at Casa Brasileira, where commuters gather before sauntering to the office. Café Nicola, however, basks in a far mellower café society atmosphere and is found across the square. Similarly, Café Pastelaria Benard, back in Chiado, has a long noble history – and it sells hot chocolate croissants! At Pastelaria Suiça, breakfast can be taken at tables set on two separate esplanades. Starbucks, too, overlooking Rossio square, has great outdoor seating. Belém is famous for its collection of historic monuments. But this western suburb is also the location of Antiga Casa dos Pastéis de Belém where you can indulge the morning with the best custard tarts in the city.
Antiga Casa dos Pastéis de Belém
The big advantage of taking an early breakfast here is that you beat the crowds: this is the home of the world-famous pasteis de nata, Portugal's very own version of the custard tart. The recipe is a well-guarded secret and only at this venerated bakery do you get served the original and best. Honesty, it's best to arrive shortly after the doors open because the cafe is a favourite stop on the tour bus circuit and pretty soon the place is packed. Once inside, grab a table near the entrance and order a couple of the palm-sized cakes – layers of oven-fired pastry moulded together to resemble a bird's nest and filled with a light, creamy custard. (+351 21 363 7423)
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)
Sipping a small strong coffee (bica) here first thing in the morning is to follow a time honored tradition. There's been a cafe on this site since the 1700s (the present-day building dates from the late 1920s) and Nicola remains one of the most famous cafes in Lisbon. It opens at 8am on weekdays, 9am on Saturdays and an hour later on Sundays. Taking breakfast at the earlier hour avoids starting your day amongst too many tourists - this is a very popular spot for holiday makers. It also means service is brisker; the black aproned waiters can get bogged somewhat when it gets busy. The outside tables face Rossio Square and the view even affords a glimpse of Lisbon's castle perched high on a hill in the distance. (+351 21 346 0579)
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)
One of the first cafes in Lisbon to introduce a select organic, gluten free menu alongside more conventional options, Quinoa offers light, healthy fare, with lots of fruit and yogurt and some of the freshest homemade bread you'll find in the city. Scones, croissants, baguettes, and chunky rolls topped with sesame seed are waiting to be filled with ham, cheese or jam, and there's a wonderful selection of teas if you're not so much into coffee. On Sunday mornings the brunch is a creative ensemble of all the above, plus yummy extras like rich hazelnut spread. The premises are light and airy and feature a blackboard with a chalked-up list of all sorts of other goodies. (+351 21 347 9326)
This respected French boulangerie chain has two bakeries in Lisbon, and the shop in Chiado enjoys the more attractive location, sited as it is near the city's historic Elevador da Santa Justa (designed, incidentally, by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel). The breakfast here is excellent, and prepared as a menu consisting of freshly baked baguette and croissant, butter and jam, fresh orange juice and coffee. If you're still peckish after all that, there's a scrumptious choice of sandwiches, cakes, cookies and pastries. And if you'd rather tuck into a cooked breakfast, order brunch – scrambled egg, tomato and smoked salmon or ham. (+351 21 192 7894)
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)
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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