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Lisbon's waterfront restaurants: eating by the river



In Lisbon, choosing to eat at waterfront restaurants presents an ideal opportunity to dine at some of the city’s best-known riverside eateries. Perched on the docks near the city center is Ibo, a contemporary eatery specializing in African-Portuguese cuisine. West over at Belém is Restaurante do Clube Naval de Lisboa, a local haunt founded way back in 1892. The spectacular views afforded from Amarra Ó Tejo, situated on an elevated position on the south bank of the River Tagus, make the effort of reaching this wonderful culinary retreat well worth the effort.

Similarly, sited lower down almost on the water’s edge is the lovely Ponte Final with its outside tables set on an old jetty. Meanwhile, back on the opposite bank, Feitoria Restaurant & Wine Bar, a Michelin-starred establishment, is the waterfront dining venue of choice for those seeking a memorable gourmet experience. Located near the city center is another local favorite Portugalia, which sits on the quay near Cais do Sodré. Upriver east of the Portuguese capital is trendy Bica do Sapato, a fine-dining spot part-owned by Hollywood actor John Malkovich. Dress to impress! Back in Belém is the remarkable Espaço Espelho d’Agua, housed in a beautiful 1940s-era modernist building and which sits in its own lake. Somewhat off the beaten track but always worth investigating is Darwin's Cafe, which is set near Algés, a riverfront suburb easily reached by train. And there's always funky café-restaurant À Margem at Belém with its trendy vibe and uninterrupted coastal views. 


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For casual dining with a waterfront view, this trendy little cafe-restaurant is hard to beat. Set on the esplanade in Belém, the terrace looks out over the River Tagus and is especially alluring during the warm summer months. Snacks and light meals â€" steaks, sandwiches, salads and soups â€" are served throughout the day, with a selection of tempting desserts available as a follow-up or as a delicious treat (check out their ice creams). Service can get a tad slow when it's really busy but this is made up for by the quality of the food and the location. In fact, to make the most of the locale arrive just before dusk, order a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over the horizon. Magical!

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Contemporary cafe society with a waterfront view perfectly sums up À Margem and the surrounding area.

Paul's expert tip: Order the cheese platter and try one of their red wines â€" a tangy, full-bodied combo that works wonders with the sea air.

Read more about À Margem →


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Outside the City


Darwin's Café is named after Charles Darwin (1809-1882) the eminent British scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution. It's housed within the modern and techy Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, home of the private Champalimaud Foundation. Set on the waterfront at Algés, a pleasant western Lisbon suburb, Darwin's menu showcases traditional Portuguese cuisine with southern European accents. Lunch is an ideal time to relax on the terrace over a light meal and a glass or two of wine. Dinner can be more elaborate, with the menu offering linguine with spinach, cream and goat's cheese, duck magret in a mustard crust and homemade jam and grilled vegetables or saffron risotto with salmon and cherry tomato, among other choices. Patrons should note that smoking is permitted at outdoor tables. The area is wonderful walking territory, and nearby Belém can be reached by following the promenade that hugs the River Tagus.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Sited off the tourist trail, Darwin's Cafe is nevertheless worth making the effort to reach for its delicious cuisine and the wide river mouth panorama.

Paul's expert tip: For a wonderful stroll, head west from Belém (with a short diversion along the dual carriageway) where you'll eventually reach the cafe.

Read more about Darwin's Cafe →




A stunning example of a waterfront-dining spot, this unusual restaurant is fashioned within a beautiful art deco building that was commissioned for the 1940 Portuguese World Exposition. Originally designed by António Lino as a 'Water Mirror' pavilion, what you see today is a result of careful renovation that pays tribute to the architect's vision of a structure seemingly floating on the surface of a lake. Besides housing a restaurant and café, this modernist gem also works as an art gallery and performing arts venue. In addition, Espaço Espelho d'Agua hosts top-tier business and commercial events â€" a recent new car launch was a huge success! For the casual visitor, however, it's all about diverting off the promenade at Belém for lunch al fresco on the terrace or arriving at sunset for a meal in chic, minimalist surroundings. Both spaces afford outstanding views across the River Tagus. The cafeteria offers a range of deliciously inventive comfort food, from simple toasted sandwiches and pizzas to succulent grilled meats, seafood salads and tapas-style snacks. Note that during the busy summer months service can be a tad slow. The dinner menu lists a more sophisticated choice, where traditional Portuguese cuisine is enhanced with Mediterranean and North African flavours. A wall mural by the renowned conceptual artist the late Sol LeWitt lends the restaurant a dramatic perspective and further underlines the design credentials of this singular and most original place to eat.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: An interesting dining experience, Espaço Espelho d'Agua combines gastronomy with art and design in one of Lisbon's most important mid-20th-century buildings.

Paul's expert tip: Make sure you visit the bar. It features an outstanding vertical garden composed of no less than 60 different species of plant life.

Read more about Espaço Espelho d'Agua →


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Santa Apolonia


Standing right on the dock at the Santa Apolónia cruise port, this modern and funky venue has a well-known investor behind it, Hollywood actor John Malkovich, who even pops in unannounced on occasion. The menu here is international but also celebrated Portuguese culinary tradition with dishes like braised turbot with spinach and clams garnished with coriander. Needless to say, the wine list complements the excellent choice of gastronomy. Upstairs, a minimalist sushi bar serves excellent sashimi, tempura, kushiyaki and other Japanese delights. For a less formal experience, the riverside bar offers a lighter menu (and wonderful views) and is especially popular at lunchtime.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: One of the city's premier fine-dining spots, Bica do Sapato's allure is the varied menu choice and wonderful waterfront views from the restaurant's picture windows.

Paul's expert tip: The Japanese salon hours are 7-Midnight, Tue-Sat.

Read more about Bica do Sapato →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos


The well-respected national chain of Portugália restaurants and beer halls includes this hugely popular waterfront venue located near Cais do Sodré The restaurant specializes in catering for families, large groups and special occasions â€" birthdays, weddings, etc â€" and is often busy even during the day. Highly regarded for its seafood choice such as crab, lobster and grilled tiger prawn (which, it has to be said, can be a bit pricy) the menu also stands out for its succulent steaks including a great Portuguese standby, bitoque (fried beefsteak topped with fried egg with chips and garnished with salad). The range of beers is excellent and the wine list is of an equally high calibre.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Portugália's position along the promenade overlooking the river allows for pleasant waterfront views and well as a chance to dine with the locals.

Paul's expert tip: A creative menu aimed at kids provides bite-sized portions at half the price.

Read more about Portugália →


Fashionable Feitoria commands a compelling position on the banks of the River Tagus in Belém. It also benefits from being the in-house restaurant of the upscale boutique Altis Belém Hotel & Spa. Foodies, though, are drawn to this waterfront eatery for its Michelin-star menu, designed by chef João Rodrigues. The gastronomy is an inventive take on traditional Portuguese, Spanish and southern European recipes, with dishes presented in a beautiful and contemporary manner. Inaugurating the dining experience is a selection of hot or cold starters, entrees like the delicately flavored sautéed Algarve scarlet shrimp garnished with fresh cucumber. Succulent grouper served with green peas and smoked salami exemplifies main course choice, and the protein extends to tender veal loin with wild mushrooms. Wines are listed in the hundreds.

Read more about Feitoria Restaurante & Wine Bar →


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Outside the City


Half the fun of experiencing this quirky waterfront eatery is finding it in the first place. It's located on the south bank of the River Tagus, about a 20-minute stroll at the end of the long the esplanade that snakes out of Cacilhas, the passenger ferry destination that departs Cais do Sodre on the opposite side of the river (Ponte Final means "Full Stop" in English). Tables are set over a terrace and a disused jetty and on a clear, sunny day the views over to Lisbon are quite edifying. The restaurant is a favourite local haunt (pics of families and home-town footballers line the walls) and the familiar and unpretentious setting adds to the allure. The food is equally humble. This is a place to eat where the menu lists simple dishes like grilled sardines garnished with crunchy salad accompanied by wedges of bread and a house white. The gastronomy won't win prizes for presentation, but the locale is wholly appetizing.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: This is how the other half wine and dine, and the local ambiance Ponte Final exudes complements the wonderful river and city views.

Paul's expert tip: Even on a sunny day, the wind whipping off the river can be chilly. Bring a jumper! If visiting at night on foot, make a note of the return ferry times to Lisbon.

Read more about Ponte Final →


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Outside the City


The ferry trip across the River Tagus is reason enough to head for Lisbon's south bank, but especially so when the destination is Michelin-recommended Amarra Ó Tejo. This near-waterfront restaurant, set on a miradouro (viewpoint), really is off the tourist trail, but it's certainly worth making the effort to reach it. Every table commands a stunning panorama of the entire river, with the Portuguese capital providing a glorious backdrop. The city's magnificent suspension bridge is also in the frame, and at dusk, the scenario's wow factor is off the scale. Mind you, the cuisine is equally memorable: traditional Portuguese recipes have been cleverly reinterpreted, with dishes like the delightfully named lombinho de Porco preto recheado com sapateira puree de aipo e molho de Razel-hanout (black pork loin stuffed with crab and celery puree drizzled in a spicy Razel-hanout sauce) gracing the menu. The fish is always worth trying.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: The elevated views from the tables set near the windows mean Amarra Ó Tejo offers the widest panorama of Lisbon from any restaurant in the vicinity.

Paul's expert tip: Catch the ferry at Cais do Sodré for Cacilhas. The restaurant is within reasonable walking distance, but it's probably more convenient to catch a cab.

Read more about Amarra Ó Tejo →




Tasty seafood served with scenic views is the specialty of this waterfront diner. Set on the esplanade at Belém overlooking the river, the rather grand sounding Lisbon Navy Club restaurant is, in fact, a humble, no fuss eatery popular with locals who appreciate inexpensive food plated up with bonhomie in a great location. The menu features a range of tempting starters including gazpacho and a shrimp soup textured with cream. Cod, sea bream and tuna are among the main fish dishes, accompanied by boiled potato and garnished with a crispy green salad. The meat selection is modest but well presented. Diners can round off a meal with fresh fruit or a choice of traditional desserts. The restaurant is divided between interior salons (the tables upstairs set at the windows offer the best views) and an outside terrace, which has more of an al fresco café ambiance.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Restaurante do Clube Naval de Lisboa exudes a wonderfully unpretentious atmosphere heightened by a local laidback vibe.

Paul's expert tip: It's advisable to arrive early at weekends when family groups tend to snap up the best tables.

Read more about Restaurante do Clube Naval de Lisboa →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos


Set in the refurbished premises of a former salt warehouse, this dock front restaurant is named after an island located off the northern coast of Mozambique. The exotic destination has inspired the menu, which showcases tangy and spicy Mozambique specialties but also pays homage to the strong cultural links to Portugal. As you'd expect, fish and seafood feature widely, with dishes like tender octopus fillet served with tasty bean and coriander rice, and grilled tiger prawns bathed in Piri Piri sauce typical of the cuisine on offer. The African influence extends to meats, with "Zambeziana's" roasted chicken, an emblematic plate and a popular autumn dining choice.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: An imaginative and modern makeover of an early 20th-century waterfront warehouse and a creative Portuguese-African menu affords Ibo a funky but traditional vibe.

Paul's expert tip: For dessert, opt for the juicy stuffed papaya with ewe's milk cheese in a red wine reduction.

Read more about Ibo →


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Meet 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...  More About Paul

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