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Mafra travel guide for food lovers

a group of people sitting at a picnic table


Nestled in the heart of Portugal, Mafra is more than just a picturesque place. As the main city in the Zona Saloia, Mafra embodies the country’s rich agricultural history. This region, historically significant as the primary breadbasket for Lisbon, still resonates with the echoes of its past. Here, agriculture was not just a practice but a way of life, shaping the town’s identity and certainly its cuisine too.

Mafra’s culinary scene is deeply rooted in its agrarian heritage, making it a haven for traditional Portuguese dishes. One of the town’s most renowned culinary offerings is pão de Mafra, also often referred to as pão saloio, one of the most acclaimed regional breads of Portugal. This bread is just the beginning of the gastronomic journey that awaits in Mafra, where every dish tells the story of the land and its people.

The town is a convenient 50 minute drive from Lisbon. From downtown Lisbon, you can easily reach this area following about 40 KM down the A8 highway or, if you prefer to avoid tolls, taking about 20 minutes longer, and taking the scenic route which, using the national road, will take you past Amadora, via some suburban towns and eventually a little more into the proper countryside. To reach Mafra from Lisbon using public transportation, we recommend heading first to Campo Grande, on the green line of the metro, and, from there, taking one of the regular buses operated by Carris Metropolitana – you can check their schedules here

Beyond its culinary delights, Mafra offers a mosaic of culture, history, and nature. We wouldn’t be alone in saying that this is one of the best day trips from Lisbon, one that even us, locals, love to do every now and then for the sake of a change of scenery and, particularly, to detox from the big city’s hustle and bustle.


Feat image by Tasquinha do Gil

a large statue in front of a building

Photo by prilfish on Wikipedia


No visit to Mafra would be complete without checking out the Mafra National Palace (Terreiro D. João V), at the very least from the outside. This architectural marvel is a symbol of Portugal’s baroque era. It was commissioned by King João V in 1717, as a symbol of his reign’s wealth and power, funded by the gold and diamonds flowing from Brazil, which was at the time a Portuguese colony. The palace’s construction played a significant role in the development of Mafra, transforming it from a modest village into a landmark of cultural and architectural significance. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is impossible to miss in the very center of Mafra. While some parts of the palace, like the basilica, might be accessible free of charge during specific times or events, most of the palace, including the library and the royal apartments, requires a paid ticket. The fees contribute to the maintenance and preservation of this historical monument, ensuring that its beauty and legacy continue to be shared with future generations. The ticket pricing is reasonable and often includes guided tours, which are highly recommended to fully appreciate the palace’s history and architecture. These tours provide a deeper understanding of the palace’s significance and the stories behind its walls. Additionally, there are often special exhibitions and events hosted within the palace, offering unique experiences to visitors.


a tree in a forest

Photo by Visit Portugal


Adjacent to the grandeur of the Mafra National Palace lies the Jardim do Cerco (Largo Gen. Humberto Delgado), a serene and beautifully landscaped garden that offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. This historic garden, with its origins dating back to the 18th century, serves as a perfect complement to the palace’s architectural splendor and provides a lovely setting for a leisurely walk. Yet, if you are a nature lover, there is no spot around Mafra which could be more ideal than the Tapada de Mafra natural reserve (Portão do Codeçal). Originally established as a hunting ground for the royal family, this expansive forested area was transformed into a sanctuary for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. You could come here simply to connect with nature from up close, but also to follow a hiking trail, or join organized activities such as guided tours, bird watching sessions, and even archery classes. At the tapada, namely within the Iberian Wolf Recovery Center (Quinta da Murta, Gradil), they also often put together educational sessions often focusing on the importance of preserving natural habitats.


a person standing in front of a house

Photo by Mafra Guia Local Digital


To immerse yourself in the quaint charm of typical Portuguese villages, we recommend visiting either Aldeia Típica José Franco (N116 34), dating back to the 1950s; or Aldeia da Mata Pequena (Rua de São Francisco de Assis). While both these places provide a vivid glimpse into traditional Portuguese village life, Aldeia Típica José Franco is an open air ethnographic museum, but Aldeia da Mata Pequena is a privately owned little village which was recuperated and where, now-a-days, visitors can book to stay the night at a typical rural home.

If you happen to be into Portuguese wine, the region of Mafra has several estates (quintas), which we would recommend checking out to get closer to Portugal’s wine culture, while partaking in an organized wine tasting. Some of our favorite wineries near Mafra include family-run Quinta de Sant’Ana (Rua Direita 3, Gradil); and ManzWine (Largo da Praça 8 A, Cheleiros), producer of the only wine in the world made from jampal, a near-extinct white grape variety from southern Portugal.

While Mafra itself is a focal point of our exploration today, we would certainly recommend that, once in the area, you also venture to the various parishes which are a part of Mafra and which no doubt contribute to its diverse character. As covered in a separate article, Ericeira deserves its spotlight for its natural attractions, namely its beaches, but also because of its culinary scene. 


Whatever you end up doing when you travel to Mafra, make sure to replenish energies with some of the very best local food served in the Zona Saloia:


Best restaurants for Portuguese food in Mafra

Adega do Convento

a barrel on a wooden tableSituated near the historical Mafra National Palace, in the very heart of the city, Adega do Convento offers an authentic Portuguese dining experience. This restaurant is renowned for its traditional dishes, particularly the bacalhau à adega, a dish that literally translates as adega-style cod and that very well showcases the Portuguese love affair with cod. This signature dish features fried cod, similar to Minho style salt cod, but in this case served with an onion crust, shrimp sauce and home-made potato chips. The ambiance, reminiscent of a classic Portuguese adega (wine cellar), complements the rich, hearty flavors of their cuisine. Hands down, Adega do Convento offers the possibility of a great culinary experience in Mafra.

📍Rua Moreira 11, 2640-507 Mafra

Photo by Adega do Convento on TripAdvisor


João da Vila Velha

a glass of beer on a tableJoão da Vila Velha is one of the highest rated restaurants in Mafra and a testament to the time-honored Portuguese culinary traditions. The restaurant which opened its doors back in 1986 is celebrated for its authentic recipes cooked in a homely manner, including Portuguese classics such as cozido à portuguesa (the national dish of Portugal), Lagareiro style octopus (roasted octopus with copious amounts of garlic olive oil), carne de porco à Alentejana (a regional dish from the Alentejo region which brings together on the same plate fried chunks of pork and clams), and even a rarer dish in this part of the country, which is the northern Portuguese dobradinha com feijoca (tripe stew with large buttery beans). The food may be quite hearty, but trust us when we say that you will want to leave some room for a sweet ending, as João da Vila Velha’s menu features some of the best desserts to be enjoyed in Portugal.

📍Rua Pedro Julião Papa João XXI 4, 2640-518 Mafra

Photo by Best Guide


Tasquinha do Gil

a stone buildingTasquinha do Gil, nestled in the quaint village of Mata Pequena, about 9 KM from downtown Mafra, is a charming establishment that specializes in local cuisine. It sounds cliche to say that this is a hidden gem, but indeed it is, as it is not in an obvious location but, once you know about it and make your way there, you can enjoy traditional Portuguese flavors, affordable dishes and drinks, and savor it all in a very cozy setting. If the restaurant’s space inside is super welcoming, on a warm sunny day you will certainly want to take advantage of Tasquinha do Gil’s outdoor terrace, and let the good times roll. Their menu includes twenty different petiscos which, just like their range of desserts, change completely every year. The essence is Portuguese but there’s a lot of creativity that shines through creations like cheese and bacon croquetes with banana chutney, pork loin with ancient style mustard, or their pataniscas de grão, that is, chickpea fritters with red onions and spices.

📍Rua de São Francisco de Assis 3, 2640-365 Igreja Nova

Photo by Tasquinha do Gil on TripAdvisor


Restaurante Escondidinho

a man preparing food in a kitchenRestaurante Escondidinho, true to its name, is a delightful retreat, as escondidinho is Portuguese for “a little bit hidden”. Chef Helder Freire (who’s become quite a TikTok sensation while sharing his recipes online) is responsible for the kitchen’s team that day after day works hard in keeping up with the reputation and even elevating the name of an establishment whose origins originally date back to 1943, even if back then things around here were done very differently. Originally, Escondidinho was all about  traditional Portuguese flavors. Now-a-days, Freire’s cuisine is much more fusion based, blending Portuguese with international influences. This translates into dishes that are not only surprises for the palate, but that are very beautifully plated to. Some of the highlights include veal strudel with dried and fresh fruits, hazelnut foam, goat cheese and pomegranate rubies; cod au gratin, served with shrimp and spinach; or their take on octopus rice, here with an Indian inspired twist of spices and apple. If you’re not sure what to order, Restaurante Escondidinho also serves a tasting menu including two appetizers, a fish dish, a meat dish and a dessert. Drinks should be ordered separately but the wine menu is well worth exploring.

📍Tv. da Quinta Nova 17, 2640-473 Mafra

Photo by Escondidinho


Restaurante Beija-me

a tray of food on a plateBeija-me and chef Filipa offer a contemporary dining experience with a focus on inventive Portuguese cuisine. Many Mafra residents are known to come to Beija-me for the sake of sipping their home-made sangria, but even knowing the drink is indeed very good, it’s mostly an excuse to explore the menu full of irresistible fish and meat dishes. Meat lovers will have a great time digging into the different options, including meat cuts that have come all the way from South America or Australia, but also national beef. For something with Portuguese essence, we would recommend asking for the filet mignon with asparagus, and mushrooms with muscat wine reduction. If you prefer fish, you can’t go wrong with the monkfish and shrimp skewers (espetada de tamboril com gambas), the Beija-me style octopus with cornbread crust, or a classic salt cod loin, here cooked with their own touch. The restaurant’s modern décor provides the perfect backdrop for a rather sophisticated dining experience that still pays homage to Portuguese culinary traditions.

📍Rua José Silvestre 10 e 12, 2640-497 Mafra

Photo by The Fork


Restaurante Paris

a store inside of a buildingOpen in the bustling heart of Mafra for over 33 years, Restaurant Paris offers what they call “elaborate Portuguese cuisine”. It’s essentially Portuguese cooking, with some elements of refinement that show that great care is put into every dish. The recipes are quite standard but this is not a bad thing. On the contrary, Restaurante Paris in Mafra is a great place to explore typical Portuguese cuisine, with satisfying dishes cooked home-style, served at very fair prices. No wonder this is a popular choice for both locals and visitors seeking an authentic local food experience.



📍Praça da República 14, 2640-495 Mafra

Photo by Restaurant Guru


O Galo da Manhã

a plate of food on a tableThis restaurant’s cozy and unpretentious atmosphere offers a genuine taste of Portugal’s culinary heritage, making it a beloved spot among those who appreciate the simplicity and richness of Portuguese flavors. A section of their menu is dedicated to Madeirense cuisine, that is, to typical dishes from Madeira. So, when you come to O Galo da Manhã, if you’re into trying something you will not easily come across elsewhere in Mafra or around Lisbon, we’d suggest going for dishes such as tuna steak with fried polenta (bife de atum com milho frito), Madeira style skewers (espetada Madeirense), limpets (lapas) or a rare fish known as castanheta



📍Rua Primeiro de Dezembro 13, 2640-454 Mafra

Photo by O Galo da Manhã on Facebook


A Toca da Raposa

a dining room tableA Toca da Raposa in Mafra is celebrated for its rustic charm and exceptional regional dishes. Their cozido à Portuguesa, aka Portuguese boiled meats dinner, a medley of meats, cured and smoked sausages, and vegetables, is a heartwarming dish that encapsulates the essence of traditional Portuguese comfort food. If you crave Portuguese comfort dishes, especially during winter, A Toca da Raposa will not disappoint. You could also try their bitoque steak with fried egg, several salt cod dishes, the oven roasted duck rice, and so much more. They are only open during lunch time and the daily specials keep changing. This may be a no-frills place but the atmosphere is nonetheless warm and inviting, and you bet their hearty food hits the spot!


📍Rua Primeiro de Dezembro 6, 2640-454 Mafra

Photo by A Toca da Raposa on TripAdvisor


Restaurante Feito ó Bife

a close up of foodEven though the restaurant’s name literally translates as “done to the steak”, feito ao bife is a Portuguese expression that stands for being screwed in a given situation, or feeling trapped in a complicated circumstance, when you know something not exactly positive is coming your way. Of course here it’s nothing but a play on words, while making a reference to steaks, as when you visit Restaurante Feito ó Bife you certainly know good things will land on your table. Unsurprisingly, Restaurante Feito ó Bife specializes in steaks and grilled meats, offering a carnivorous feast with a very local interpretation. The bife à Portuguesa (Portuguese style steak, featuring beef with a layer of cured pork ham) here is a must-try, cooked to juicy perfection and served with a flavorful sauce. 


📍Rua Maj. João Gomes 33, 2640-491 Mafra

Photo by Uber Eats


Restaurante Primavera

a person preparing food in a kitchenRestaurante Primavera is a cozy establishment known for its homestyle cooking. This is a straightforward eatery, that clearly puts more effort into its food than it does in its decor, just like a good Portuguese tasca should. You come here to eat well, to eat a lot, and to pay not all that much for it. If you like the sound of that and generally appreciate the comforts of home-cooked meals, come to Primavera and sample Portuguese dishes such as arroz de pato (duck rice), rancho (a stew with a medley of vegetables, legumes and pasta), fried fish with naughty rice, and so much more. Everyday there’s a different soup, meat and fish dish, making Primavera a great spot for a weekday lunch. 


📍Terreiro D. João V 63, 2640-492 Mafraé-Restaurante-Primavera-100063490361340

Photo by Primavera


Restaurante Espaço P

a sandwich and fries on a plateEspaço P is right across Mafra’s National Palace, so the city’s most touristic area. But you can be rest assured that what you’ll enjoy here is a very local experience. Tasty food and friendly prices, yet affording a lovely view out to the palace, thus making it an ideal location for special occasions or a romantic evening out – so, what’s not to like? When you come to Espaço P we recommend trying their Francesinha, a typical dish from the northern city of Porto, which consists of two slices of bread stuffed with a heavy assortment of fresh and cured meats, covered with tomato and beer sauce, melted cheese and a fried egg, and which always tastes best with enough fries to keep dipping in the sauce.


📍Terreiro D. João V 42, 2640-492 Mafra

Photo by TiagoRMiranda on TripAdvisor


Restaurante Marcelo

a dining room tableRestaurante Marcelo is a family-run establishment, known for its welcoming atmosphere and for preparing authentic Portuguese cuisine. They may not be reinventing the wheel here at Marcelo, but that’s exactly why this is a much beloved spot among locals – because they serve hearty meals which are usually exactly just like what you’d want them to be and, as such, tend to hit the spot when you’re craving something familiar. Whether you eat their sopa da pedra (one of the heaviest yet most delicious Portuguese soups, with beans and cured meats), their bacalhau à brás (salt cod with fried straw potatoes, onions and scrambled eggs), or go for a portuguese style seafood rice (arroz de marisco), we’re positive Marcelo will leave you full and content.


📍Rua Dr. António Fernandes Cura 4, 2640-486 Mafra

Photo by Marcelo


O Azeiteiro

a woman preparing food in a kitchenO Azeiteiro is a favorite local haunt, particularly celebrated for its fresh fish and seafood dishes, but certainly not limited to specialities from the sea. We love to start a meal at O Azeiteiro indulging into sapateira recheada, that is, stuffed crab shell with a creamy concoction that is delightful spread on toast. Their BBQ skewers with squid and prawns are delicious, but going for their açorda de gambas, a savory bread porridge topped with shrimp, would also be a good idea for the sake of trying a very representative recipe of Portuguese low-waste cooking. The restaurant may be unassuming, but its comfortable setting sure provides a relaxed environment for enjoying some of the best seafood Mafra has to offer.


📍Av. Dr. Francisco Sá Carneiro 6A, 2640-486 Mafra

Photo by O Azeiteiro


Churrasqueira do Sobreiro

a person sitting at a table with foodChurrasqueira do Sobreiro is the go-to place for grilled chicken, known locally as frango assado or frango de churrasco. Their perfectly seasoned and grilled chicken, paired with homemade piri-piri sauce, offers a mouthwatering experience, and one that can’t simply be missed when you travel to Portugal, as this is one of our most well-known dishes in and outside the country. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty when you come to Churrasqueira do Sobreiro or any other churrascaria in Portugal – you’re supposed to grab those chicken legs with your hand, let the juices drip, lick your fingers, and leave no traces of food behind. This is Portuguese casual food at its best!


📍Estrada Nacional 116, 88, 2640-578 Mafra

Photo by Uber Eats


Restaurant Lagoa d’Ouro

a man and a woman standing in a roomRestaurant Lagoa d’Ouro, situated by a scenic lake, is known for its tranquil setting and exquisite cuisine. And, most of all, because of its healthy approach to Portuguese food, in the team’s own words, featuring “healthy and homemade food, with no refined sugars, and vegan/vegetarian options”. If you’re looking for something other than the usual hearty Portuguese fare, make sure you head to Lagoa d’Ouro, as this would be a lovely option for a palate-pleasing experience that is nourishing and also peaceful, as you leisurely eat with the serene backdrop of the lake.




📍Rua Luís de Camões 27, 2640-501 Mafra

Photo by Laga d’Ouro


Best bakeries and cafes in Mafra

Pastelaria Fradinho

a piece of foodPastelaria Fradinho is a local favorite nestled in the heart of Mafra. Even though they sell both sweet and savory treats, Fradinho stands out for its unique creations, marrying classic Portuguese flavors with a modern twist. Locals rave about their signature item, the fradinho, which translates as little friar, a nod to the convent right in front of the bakery. Fradinhos are little tarts made with almonds, white beans (similarly to a typical pastel de feijão) and doce de ovos, that is, velvety egg jam. Besides their renowned pastries, referred to by many as the most typical sweet from Mafra, they also offer a variety of sandwiches and Portuguese savory snacks, ideal for a quick bite. As it happens whenever you have pastries around, there’s also good coffee, a perfect accompaniment to most baked goods.


📍Praça da República 28, 2640-595 Mafra

Photo by Público


Pastelaria Polo Norte

food on a tablePolo Norte has four locations in the district of Mafra and it is one of the most well-known bakeries in the region. The focus here goes towards crafting high-quality traditional Portuguese pastries that evoke a sense of nostalgia. Their pastéis de nata are a must-try, perfectly crisp on the outside with a creamy, rich filling. Besides doing a great job at preserving the authenticity of Portuguese pastry-making, Polo Norte also incorporates rather contemporary items amongst their offerings, namely macarons, crepes and artisanal ice-cream. Apart from pastries, Polo Norte also serves a range of light meals, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely lunch. Their lunch specials often feature traditional Portuguese dishes, offering a taste of local cuisine in a comfortable setting.


📍Praça da República 15, 2640-525 Mafra

📍Rua Santa Casa da Misericórdia 8, 2640-528 Mafra

📍Largo Mira Parque 1, 2640-437 Mafra

Photo by Polo Norte


Cafetaria Doce Camélia

a close up of a toyNestled in a quaint corner of Mafra, Cafetaria Doce Camélia offers a contemporary take on the traditional Portuguese pastelaria. Known for its chic and modern decor, Doce Camélia is the place to be for those who appreciate a stylish atmosphere paired with quality food. They specialize in a variety of baked goods, with an emphasis on creative and aesthetically pleasing pastries and party cakes, which are both rich in flavor and beautifully presented. In fact, they even regularly host cake design workshops to share their craft with their customers. Beyond sweets, they also offer a range of sandwiches and light meals, perfect for those seeking a more substantial option. 



📍Rua Primeiro de Dezembro 17, 2640-454 Mafra

Photo by Doce Camélia


Casa das Parras

a close up of foodCasa das Parras is a quaint establishment known for its rustic charm and for excelling in traditional pastries, with a particular emphasis on regional specialties. Their queijadas de Mafra (Mafra pastries made with cottage cheese) are irresistible bites which blend sweet and cheesy characteristics. They are particularly known for another local delicacy, parras, thus justifying the name of this establishment “house of parras”. Parras (pictured here) are oval shaped cakes made of puff pastry, with a filling of doce de ovos, that is, velvety and sugary egg jam. Casa das Parras also offers the usual range of cakes and pastries you’d find at any given Portuguese pastelaria, but there’s no doubt that what they do best is to encapsulate the essence of Mafra’s baking tradition via their local sweet delights and regional breads. 


📍Rua Prof. Guilherme de Assunção 41, 2640-542 Mafra

Photo by Fabrico Proprio on Pinterest


Pão Real

a sandwich cut in halfPão Real is more than just a bakery, it’s a celebration of Portugal’s bread-making tradition. Renowned for its pão de Mafra (Mafra bread), a staple in the local diet, Pão Real has established itself as a cornerstone of Mafra’s baking scene. Their bread, known for its crusty exterior and soft interior, is the result of age-old baking techniques passed down through generations. Pão Real is a family-run bakery, which has been in business under different brands since the 60s, and started to properly establish itself in Mafra after the revolution in 74. Even though mostly known for their freshly baked bread (as their brand name translates as “royal bread”), beyond bread and pastries, Pão Real also serves light meals, making it a perfect spot for an uncomplicated lunch.


📍Terreiro D. João V Lt. 40 2º Esq, 2640-492 Mafra

Photo by Pão Real


Padaria Sempre Quente

a couple of people posing for the cameraPadaria Sempre Quente is a beloved spot in Mafra, known for its warm, inviting atmosphere and consistently delicious offerings. Their pão de deus, a sweet bread topped with a coconut, egg yolk and sugar crust, is a heavenly delight and a must-try for visitors. This is a great spot to come hang out with the neighbors, do some people watching, mingle with the locals over good conversation and, of course, enjoy a cup of coffee and fresh pastries. Their menu do dia features ever-changing daily specials, but if you prefer a small savory meal, you’ll be happy to know they also have a good variety of sandwiches to be enjoyed during your lunch break or at any other time of the day.



📍Rua José Maria da Costa 36, 2640-454 Mafra

Photo by Revista Business Portugal


Pastéis de Mafra

textPastéis de Mafra is a testament to Mafra’s rich baking tradition. Renowned for its namesake pastéis de Mafra (Mafra pastries made with beans, almonds, egg yolk, sugar and wrapped in a thin shortcrust pastry, similarly to fradinhos above), this pastry shop has become a landmark for both locals and tourists. These pastries, with their flaky pastry and rich filling, are a must-try for anyone visiting Mafra. The shop’s interior exudes a traditional charm, inviting customers into a world where pastries are not just food, but a piece of Mafra’s history. Apart from their iconic pastries, they offer a variety of other baked goods, each prepared with the same attention to detail. The shop also serves excellent coffee and small snacks, making it a great stop for a quick, yet authentic, Portuguese snack experience.


📍Rua 25 de Abril 10A, 2640-702 São Miguel de Alcainça, Mafra

Photo by Pastéis de Mafra


Mafra, in the heart of the so-called Zona Saloia near Lisbon, offers a unique experience for food lovers. So, next time you’re in Lisbon, we hope you get to pack your appetite and embark on a day trip to Mafra. If you do, please share your food photos with us on Instagram, tagging @tasteoflisboa or #tasteoflisboa.  


Feed your curiosity on Portuguese food culture:

Ericeira travel guide for food lovers

Day trips from Lisbon that you will love to do

The 3 iconic Portuguese meat sandwiches: bifana, prego and leitão


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