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Is there street food in Lisbon?

a man cooking in a kitchen preparing food


Lisbon has a great dining scene. However, unlike other major cities where street food is an integral part of daily life, the Portuguese capital presents a different scenario, where traditional street food is not as prevalent or defined. Visitors arriving in Lisbon may expect to find a bustling street food scene similar to those in other parts of the world but soon discover that in Lisbon, street food has its unique characteristics and cultural significance.

Street food, in its essence, refers to ready-to-eat foods and beverages sold in public places like streets or markets from portable food booths, carts, or trucks. Globally, street food is liked for its accessibility, affordability, and the way it reflects local culinary traditions. In many places, it provides not only a quick meal but also a taste of the local culture and social dynamics.

Feat photo by Andrew Littlewood on Flickr


a group of people standing in front of a buildingPhoto by Lisboa de Antigamente


In Lisbon, the concept of street food is a little more nuanced. Rather than the continuous presence of street vendors commonly seen in parts of Asia or Latin America, Lisbon’s street food scene manifests more subtly and is closely linked to specific contexts and social gatherings. The historical evolution of Lisbon, especially following the catastrophic earthquake of 1755, led to urban developments that slowly cultivated spaces where street food vendors could thrive, albeit in a different format than seen elsewhere. Historically, as Lisbon evolved from a series of devastating events and into a bustling metropolis during the industrial era, the culinary habits of its residents also transformed. The shift from lengthy, family-centric meals to quicker, more convenient eating options marked the beginning of what we now recognize as Portuguese fast(er) food, even though these options are more often than not sold in small cheap eateries, rather than as street food as such. 


a truck is parked on the side of a roadPhoto by Casal Mistério


Today, while traditional street food might not be omnipresent in Lisbon, the city offers a variety of foods that embody the spirit of Portuguese cuisine and adapt to modern lifestyles and festive traditions. The emergence of food trucks and makeshift street vendors in Lisbon often caters to a nocturnal crowd, looking for sustenance after a night out or a quick bite before heading to work. These mobile eateries, known locally as roulotes, offer a mix of international fast food items like burgers and hot dogs, alongside quintessentially Portuguese sandwiches such as pregos, bifanas, and sandes de courato (pictured below). These food trucks strategically position themselves near clubs and popular night spots. They also serve as quick-stop meal points for the city’s working class and sport fans heading to a football stadium on match days – if you go attend a football match in Lisbon, make sure you have a cold beer in one hand, and a pork rind sandwich on the other!

Additionally, during popular festivals, especially in the summer months, the streets of Lisbon transform to accommodate temporary food stalls that serve as focal points of celebration. Events like the Feast of Saint Anthony see a surge in street food activity, where traditional Portuguese snacks are prepared and sold, contributing to the vibrant atmosphere.


a hand holding a hot dogPhoto by Bucha My Tugão on X


In Lisbon’s evolving street food scene, a distinction must be made between the authentic local fare and the “pop food” clearly targeted at tourists. As the city has become a major travel destination, numerous food trucks and pop-up stands have emerged, offering internationally popular dishes like pizza or absolutely out of place things like piña colada cocktails. These modern vendors, often located in tourist-centric areas, are tailored to appeal to international tastes and do not typically reflect traditional Portuguese culinary practices.

For those seeking genuine Portuguese street food experiences in Lisbon, those that resonate with the essence of local food culture and everyday habits, it’s essential to look beyond these tourist-focused spots. As food and cultural experts, we aim to guide travelers through these authentic culinary experiences, emphasizing not just the food itself but the stories, traditions, and context behind them.

From the seasonal roasted chestnuts that herald the arrival of winter to the makeshift grills that light up during the Feast of Saint Anthony, Lisbon’s street food scene certainly is worth exploring, even though it may not be obvious for those who are visiting our city for the first time.


a group of people standing in front of a storePhoto by Tiziano on Flickr


Churros and farturas | Deep-fried sugary dough

In Lisbon, the terms farturas and churros often conjure images of festive gatherings and joyful celebrations where these sweet treats play a starring role. While both fall under the category of fried dough pastries, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Farturas are typically larger and fluffier than churros, resembling an elongated doughnut that is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. They are traditionally sprinkled with a generous amount of sugar and cinnamon, offering a comforting, sweet bite that’s particularly popular during festivals and fairs, such as the Feira do Relógio market (Av. Santo Condestável) which takes place every Sunday near the neighborhood of Marvila. Churros, on the other hand, while similar in dough composition, are usually thinner and may be served either plain or filled. In Lisbon, churros filled with chocolate, custard or fruit jam have become increasingly popular with the younger generations. However, the traditional Portuguese churros are more often enjoyed plain, dipped in sugar and cinnamon. In both cases, the preparation involves extruding the dough through a star-shaped nozzle directly into hot oil, frying until golden and crisp, and then coating with sugar. They are ideal for outdoor events, where they are cooked fresh and served warm.

The presence of farturas and churros in Lisbon started in the 20th century as local festivals and street markets began to flourish post-World War II. Then and now, the vendors who sell farturas and churros are often family-run operations that have been in the business for generations. These families travel from fair to fair, festival to festival, bringing with them their equipment and expertise. The typical farturas food truck or stall is equipped with a large frying area visible to the public, where the dough is fried and the finishing touches are added. This not only allows for fresh preparation but also draws the crowds creating some interaction.

In Lisbon, farturas and churros are most commonly found at local festivals, such as the popular Festas de Lisboa in June, where the Festival of Saint Anthony fills the streets with various traditional foods and drinks (see more below). These treats are also staples at Christmas markets and summer fairs along the coast. The food trucks and stalls selling these sweet treats are typically adorned with bright lights and colorful signage, making them easy to spot among the hustle and bustle of a busy festival. 

If you can’t wait for a festival to take place in Lisbon to dig into some freshly fried farturas, walk around the neighborhood of Penha de França, as Churraria Doce & Canela is a churros and farturas food truck which is semi-permanently parked in Praça Paiva Couceiro.


a man standing next to a womanPhoto by Sapo Viagens


Castanhas assadas | Roasted chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts (castanhas assadas) are a  traditional Portuguese street food, typically sold from autumn through winter, providing warmth and a certain sense of nostalgia. Castanhas assadas are served hot, typically wrapped in paper cones, offering a portable and warming snack that’s deeply integrated into the local culture during the colder seasons. Vendors will often shout out “quentes e boas”, which means “hot and good” – a simple yet effective slogan, as they are indeed fresh out of the oven and very good!

Chestnuts were once a staple food in rural Portugal, serving as a significant source of nutrition in the diet of peasants, particularly in the northern regions where they were more abundant. With the urbanization of Lisbon and the growth of its population, this rural staple migrated to the city streets, becoming a seasonal treat. The street vendors who have been making a living selling roasted chestnuts in the streets of Lisbon since the 19th century, use a special roasting cart and a charcoal oven – of course you can roast some chestnuts at home but, let’s face it, they’ll never taste like this smokey ones, with their flavor only enhanced by some coarse salt. 

For those visiting Lisbon, finding castanhas assadas is part of the city’s winter charm. The best places to find these vendors are in busy areas such as Rossio Square or along the Avenida da Liberdade. For many Lisboetas, stopping for a cone of warm chestnuts is a seasonal rite, marking the passage of the year and providing a moment of respite from the brisk winter air. The experience of peeling the slightly charred, warm shell to reveal the soft, nutty flesh inside is a cherished winter memory for many of us, so we don’t really mind the little black parts of skin that often end up underneath our nails. 

a group of people at a beach umbrella in the sandPhoto by TV7 Dias


Bolas de Berlim | Berliners

If you hear street vendors shouting out while you are trying to relax at a beach near Lisbon, you can safely assume that they are selling bolas de Berlim, a sugary treat that has become synonymous with Portuguese beach culture. These fluffy, yeast-raised doughnuts filled with egg jam (doce de ovos) encapsulate the sweet joy of Lisbon’s summer days.

Originating from Germany, where they are known as Berliners, these doughnuts were traditionally jelly-filled pastries enjoyed during celebrations. The Portuguese adaptation, typically larger and generously filled with a sweet egg yolk-based cream, has taken on a life of its own. At some beaches, you can also find variations filled with chocolate or other fruit flavors, as well as plain. 

The vendors who sell bolas de Berlim on the beaches have become iconic figures of the Portuguese summer. They usually carry them with trays or coolers, navigating through sunbathers, offering these delightful pastries. You will often hear them announcing out loud “com creme” (with filling) and “sem creme” (plain). In all versions, bolas de Berlim are coated with sugar, which tastes wonderfully as you take a bite after a dip in the ocean, and the sugar mixes with the dried ocean salt around your lips. 

Beyond the beaches, bolas de Berlim are also present throughout the year in Portuguese pastry shops, as well as during street festivals, particularly in the summer months when various saints’ days are celebrated across the city. For those eager to experience them at the beach, with sandy hands and a view of the Atlantic, we recommend heading to close by beaches such as Carcavelos or Costa da Caparica.


a close up of foodPhoto by Cozinha Técnica


Pão com chouriço & salgados | Chorizo stuffed bread and savory snacks

Chorizo-stuffed bread, along with various other savory snacks called salgados, are staples of Lisbon’s late-night street food scene. Pão com chouriço is essentially a freshly baked roll filled with slices of chorizo that infuse the dough with its rich, smoky flavors during baking. The result is a warm bread that’s irresistibly tasty. This snack is particularly popular among native locals and tourists venturing out into Lisbon’s neighborhoods like Bairro Alto and Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho), where the nightlife is legendary and the street food can help improve the experience, particularly for those in need to soak up some alcohol after one too many drinks.

Accompanying pão com Chouriço, the term salgados encompasses a variety of savory fritters, including favorites like breaded turnovers with minced meat or creamy shrimp (rissóis), breaded meat fritters (croquetes), codfish cakes (pastéis de bacalhau), as well as mini pies usually filled with shredded chicken (empadas de galinha). Each of these snacks offers a quick and satisfying bite, perfect for on-the-go eating as you bar hop.

Vendors selling these savory treats don’t usually have a physical business. Instead, they carry trays or coolers and walk around crowded areas, bringing the food directly to those who could really use a savory bite, but can’t be bothered to make their way to Lisbon’s best late-night restaurants.


a man cooking hot dogs on a grillPhoto by Eco Sapo


Sardinhas assadas | Grilled sardines

Grilled sardines are a cultural emblem of Lisbon, especially during the city’s spirited Santos Populares festivities in June. Often referred to by visitors as the “The Sardine Festival”, this event sees the city transform into a lively hub of festivity, where the smoky aroma of grilled sardines becomes as ubiquitous as the sound of music and laughter that fills the streets.

Grilled sardines are a traditional Portuguese fare, but in Lisbon they take on special significance during the Feast of Saint Anthony. This festival not only celebrates the saint but also marks the unofficial start of summer, making it a peak time for enjoying Lisbon’s outdoor eating culture. The sardines are typically grilled over open flames right on the streets, served on a slice of bread – which soaks up the juices of the grilled fish beautifully, or a simple plate with a side of roasted peppers salad and boiled potatoes.

What’s unique about the grilling of sardines during the festivities is that it’s not only restaurants and established eateries that participate. Local families, small shop owners, and even grocery stores join in, setting up grills right outside their homes or business fronts. This practice turns private spaces into public feast zones, blurring the lines between home cooking and street food. It’s common to see residents of Lisbon’s most traditional neighborhoods where the street parties take place (Alfama, Mouraria, Madragoa, and others) selling freshly grilled sardines right from their doorsteps, alongside meats like pork steaks for bifanas (see below) and chouriços, enhancing the community vibe of the festival. For many local families and small businesses, the festival period offers a significant economic boost, and we’re honestly happy as we get to be well fed while partying the night away.


a person standing in front of a busPhoto by Time Out Lisboa


Pregos, bifanas & sandes de courato | Meat sandwiches

In Lisbon, the craving for a hearty, savory sandwich can lead you to discover three local favorites: pregos, bifanas, and sandes de courato (even though we have more). These meat sandwiches often serve as a quick, satisfying meal in various contexts, from festive street parties to late-night food trucks, known locally as roulotes.

A prego (singular of pregos) is a simple yet delicious sandwich consisting of a thin beef steak, usually seasoned with garlic and grilled or pan-fried, served in a crusty roll. You may squeeze in some mustard to taste to enhance the flavor and juiciness of the sandwich. On the other hand, a bifana is a sandwich of pork seasoned with a marinade typically made with garlic, white wine, paprika, which results in a rich tangy flavor that is distinctly Portuguese. Sandes de courato, for more adventurous eaters, offers a unique taste and texture experience. It features pork rind, usually not fried but grilled, remaining somewhat leathery, and served in a bread roll. This sandwich is a little crunchy but mostly chewy, a texture play that’s beloved in our country, particularly by older generations.

During Lisbon’s numerous festivals, particularly the June festivities, pregos, bifanas, and sandes de courato are everywhere. Vendors set up grills right on the street, cooking up these sandwiches in real-time, just like they do with sardines.

The roulotes that serve these meaty sandwiches are also a vital part of Lisbon’s street food culture, especially during the night. Positioned strategically near nightlife hotspots, these mobile eateries provide the perfect end to a night of dancing and fun. For club-goers, a stop at a roulote for a prego or bifana is almost a ritual, offering a tasty way to refuel before heading home. Moreover, these roulotes are not only patronized by the night crowd but also by those who work late shifts or start their day in the early hours. From taxi drivers to hospital staff, many rely on these food trucks for a quick, hearty meal that fits into their busy schedules. The availability of a warm sandwich during the odd hours of the night makes these roulotes indispensable to the city’s nocturnal workforce.

Here are some roulotes you can visit in Lisbon, where typically Portuguese items like these meat sandwiches are served alongside international fast food favorites like burgers and hot dogs:

Restaurante Roulote TiZé

On the road between Moscavide and Sacavém:


Roulotte Bar 11

In the area of Braço de Prata:


Bar J & M

In the industrial area near Lisbon’s airport:


Roulotte Pitéu da Rua

Near Alcântara-Mar, and quite close to LX Factory too:


Roulote Da Loira

In Sete Rios, right in front of the Lisbon Zoo:


Roulote da Pontinha

Right outside Pontinha’s metro station:


Roulote Os Putos

In Lumiar:


a person holding a signPhoto by Paulo Sergio on FourSquare


Ginjinha | Sour cherry liqueur

Ginjinha is a sour cherry liqueur, usually sipped from small shot glasses. It is particularly liked for its sweet and aromatic flavor profile, which comes from infusing alcohol with Morello cherries, sugar, and cinnamon.

There are several commercial establishments in Lisbon famous for their ginjinha, but a growing and charming part of this liqueur’s culture comes from the local families, especially elderly ladies, who sell it right from their front doors. These home-based sellers often use traditional recipes, offering a more personal ginjinha experience. It’s not uncommon for these locals to set up a small table or even just a window opening onto the street, from where they serve passersby a shot of homemade ginjinha (even though the urban legend tells us that it isn’t always really home-made…)

During festivals, home sellers of ginjinha contribute to the festive atmosphere, offering a warm welcome to those exploring the city’s streets, particularly around the historic neighborhood of Alfama. The tradition of selling ginjinha from home also reflects how tourism shapes local ways of living. For many visitors, the experience of buying ginjinha from a local’s home offers a personal connection to the city that larger commercial venues cannot replicate.


a man preparing food in a commercial kitchenPhoto by NIT


Honorable mention: late night bakeries of Lisbon

In Lisbon, the concept of street food takes a unique turn with the inclusion of late hour bakeries. Not traditionally categorized as street food, these bakeries offer a distinct experience that aligns closely with the spontaneous and accessible nature of street-side dining. Operating through the night, bakeries like Fábrica de Bolos do Chile (Av. Alm. Reis 149 A), serve freshly baked goods right out of the oven, and patrons can purchase these directly from a small service window. You don’t usually get to step inside the establishment, as there is no actual service staff or formal counters. Instead, customers interact directly with the bakers, who are often seen dusting off flour and serving pastries straight from the oven. 

The baked goods are typically enjoyed on the go, mirroring street food, while not technically being it as such. But categorizations aside, who would say no to a warm pastel de nata or a crispy pão com chouriço and enjoying it while walking through the quiet streets at night or early in the morning? 

a woman cooking food in a restaurantPhoto by CM Lisboa


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Feed your curiosity on Portuguese food culture:

10 must-try typical foods from Lisbon

Iconic foods and places Lisbon locals love

St. Anthony or St. Vincent: Who´s the patron saint of Lisbon?

The oldest restaurants and cafes in Lisbon


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