Lisbon, one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful capitals – city of seven hills, nine districts, centuries of history – and an ever-growing veg(etari)an scene, as the locals kept proudly telling me. I visited during June’s Festas dos Santos Populares when Lisbon is particularly vibrant: the streets strung with colourful flags and garlands, and full of locals eating and drinking and dancing well into the night. Aside from the incredible architecture, street art, museums, nearby beaches, endless sunshine and warm people, here are several reasons for you to visit, at any time of the year.
The Food Temple (1) is in an almost hidden courtyard in the middle of the Mouraria district which is known as the ‘Berço do Fado’: the birthplace of Fado music, the style of music most famous in Lisbon. Portraits of famous Fado singers can be seen on building walls throughout the neighbourhood, and The Food Temple often hosts performances in its courtyard, the sloping stairs of the popular dining area forming an ideal amphitheatre. Though there is plenty of space outside (and some tables inside too), The Food Temple fills quickly, so arrive early if you can, take time to soak up the atmosphere, and share some excellent tapas, fresh juice, local green wine or craft beer. The menu changes daily and will be recited to you by one of the friendly multi-lingual staff.
Princesa do Castelo (2) was Lisbon’s second vegan restaurant to open, and features dishes with Mexican, Asian and Portuguese influences, as well as juices, smoothies and wonderful desserts, both raw and baked – including the curiously-named ‘chocolate salami’. Watch the trams go by from one of the terrace tables or a spot just near the door, and head here on your way to or from the Castelo de São Jorge (4), which is just a few minutes walk up the hill, or the Miradouro das Portas do Sol (3), one of Lisbon’s many stunning panoramic viewpoints.
Ink Café (5) is right by another popular lookout point, the Miradouro de Santa Catarina (7). Everything here is organic and vegetarian, with plenty of vegan options, including a super vegan lasagne and some very green salads. Sandwiches, soups, juices, Pukka Teas and some tasty raw desserts are also on the menu. Eat in the brightly-coloured interior, or take away and enjoy as you gaze over the city and across the river to the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Cristo-Rei monument.
Pharmacia (6), just around the corner from Ink, is a lovely and amusing place to enjoy the sunshine and a cocktail or two. The large grassy terrace is just behind the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, the bar/restaurant itself within the Pharmacy Museum – hence the running theme of the place. Drinks are named after medication and served in medical glassware, and the interior is decorated in the style of a 19th-century pharmacy, with cabinets full of old medicine boxes and lab equipment.
Fragoleto (8) make their Italian-style icecream fresh daily, and their passion for creating delicious flavours and a good-quality product is clear. As well as a range of fruit sorbets and dairy icecreams, they make vegan flavours from rice milk – chocolate, vanilla, mint, mint with green tea, apple cinnamon, ‘super vitamina’ (apple/orange/carrot), for example – served in a vegan cone or a cup. Vegan smoothies are also available, as well as icepops made from 100% fruit. Situated right by the impressive Arco da Rua Augusta, I recommend you order a large serving of vegan chocolate and mint icecream, then wander through the arch to the water’s edge, and enjoy.
If you’re self-catering, or planning a picnic to take to Sintra (9) or Cascais (also highly recommended!), or if sorbet isn’t the only way you like to get your daily fruit intake, there are a number of organic stores and markets around the city.
Brio is an organic store with several locations across the city, and Celeiro is another; each are well-stocked for food, drinks and cosmetic products.
The biggest market is the Time Out Mercado da Ribera, open daily, which comprises a large fruit, vegetable and flower market, as well as an enormous food hall more suited to our omni friends (though you will find a small organic stand inside with some vegan options, and another that serves gazpacho and juices).
A much smaller organic farmers’ market can be found on Saturdays behind the Pantheon, from 8am to 2pm.
Final tips: though Lisbon’s trams are iconic, the best way to see the city is on foot – just make sure you wear sensible shoes (those hills are steep!). A good reason to take the metro though is for the remarkable art on the platform walls, created with tiles by contemporary artists as a link and a contrast to the traditional tiled buildings above ground. And as I will undoubtedly return to Lisbon as soon as I can, if you have any recommendations for my next visit, please leave me a comment!
Photography by Emilee Seymour. Follow us on Instagram for more images of Vilda’s vegan adventures around the world!