5 December 2023


Few things are better than that fresh coffee in the morning. The air itself dances with this drink’s fragrant serenade. That first sip? A flavour fiesta of earthy vibes and a hint of sweetness, painting your day with optimistic colours. Holding a cup of that warm elixir? It is like holding a slice of dawn, each sip making you one with the rising sun.

Did you know Portugal is a big coffee lover? The Portuguese like their coffee strutting in with boldness – strong, short and just a hint of sassy bitterness. And those tiny espresso cups are more than just a caffeine fix, it is culture in a cup! Portugal's clock is coffee o'clock, anytime, every time. But where did this love story start? Well, get comfy, have a sip, and get ready as we unveil the epic tale of Portugal's timeless coffee romance.

The coffee culture in Portugal

2 - The coffee culture in Portugal

Back in the 15th century, during Portugal's colonial heyday, daring explorers and globe-trotting traders stumbled upon coffee wonderlands. These beans took a voyage to Portugal from spots like Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. This taste of the exotic introduced Portuguese high society to the magic of coffee's flavour and energizing charm.

Fast forward to the 18th and 19th centuries, when coffeehouses popped up like lively mushrooms in the country’s bustling cities – Lisbon and Porto were the hotspots. Picture this: pals meeting up, chats flowing, and grand ideas being exchanged over cups of liquid inspiration. These spots were not just for deep conversations among artists and thinkers, but a hub of social life for everyone. The fancy term? "Bica" for short espresso shots, and let us not forget the delightful dance of coffee with "pastéis de nata" pastries.

As time twirled on, Portugal joined the global coffee evolution while keeping its own traditions close. Even though espresso remained the hero, newcomers like lattes, cappuccinos and chilled brews took centre stage. The coffee scene expanded, embracing change while keeping that cherished coffee connection alive.


When do the Portuguese enjoy their coffee?

NEW When do the Portuguese enjoy their coffee

In Portugal, coffee is a daylong delight, yet certain moments stand out for their coffee camaraderie. Mornings, just like anywhere else, kick off with a caffeine boost. A quick "bica" (espresso shot) or a velvety "meia de leite" (latte) sets the pace for the day. Espresso's encore arrives post-meals, especially lunch and dinner. It is a classy digestive tradition, a flavour-packed finale. Waitstaff often check if you are up for this aromatic epilogue. Then there is the "lanche," a mid-morning or afternoon pause. Amidst work whirlwinds, it is coffee's time to shine. Pair it with a pastry or snack, a moment to recharge and savour.

Ah, and let's not forget its social splendour. Coffee's the star at friend reunions and family feasts. Picture this: "Fancy a coffee?" – a summons to share moments and conversations that flow as smoothly as the drink itself.

Portuguese coffee is all about the small wonders. Espresso or a swift "bica" is the go-to. Quick sips for instant smiles during these cherished coffee junctures. And guess what? Café counters are where it is at. No need to settle in – it is all about that joyful jolt while standing. It is more than caffeine; it is the rhythm of life and a slice of Portugal's social charm.

Coffee varieties in Portugal: a glossary

4 - Coffee varieties in Portugal a glossary

Navigating Portugal's coffee symphony is an art so, let us dive in! Picture this: short, slightly bitter, a caffeine punch. Just ask "um café, por favor," and you will score an espresso. Fancy a local touch? In Lisbon, it is "Bica." Some say the term sprouted from "bicos," those spouts on old coffee machines resembling bird beaks. Over time, "bicos" morphed into "Bica," in order to differentiate this type of coffee.

Now, let us head to Porto. Here, it's "Cimbalino." Why? La Cimbali, an Italian coffee machine brand, was a local staple. Espresso got a snazzy nickname, showing the North’s love for its coffee machines.

Espresso's the star, but Portugal's got its own remixes: the "Italiana", an espresso blink; "Café cheio," a slightly larger sip; "Café pingado", espresso with a milk droplet; "Carioca", watery second espresso, gentle and mild. Then there's "Café sem princípio" – the beginning's skipped, yielding a lighter espresso. For caffeine-free souls, "Descafeínado" is the decaf delight.

Ever heard of "Café com cheirinho"? It is a Portuguese wink. Coffee meets a dash of “Aguardente”, a local brandy. The result? A fragrant symphony, a warming twist. It is not just a drink; it is a story shared on special days.

And finally, milk and coffee, a timeless duo. Portugal adds its own flair: meet the "Garoto", a petite coffee-milk marvel in an espresso cup. For a bigger hug, there's the "Meia de Leite", a harmonious blend of coffee and milk in a larger cup. Then comes the "Galão", a tall glass delight akin to a latte's embrace. Morning or afternoon, these milk-infused choices shine.


Historical cafés in Portugal

Across Portugal's every nook, coffee is a constant. Even in the most far-flung corners, you'll find its warm embrace. Cafés come in all flavours, from modest settlings to opulent 18th-century urban hubs. Imagine those time-honoured spots, a haven untouched by modern rushes and international chains. Here, time has a different pace, and each sip is a journey. Join us as we unveil Portugal's hidden gems, the enchanting historical cafés that paint the nation's story in every cup.


Café Astória, Braga

5 - Café Astória, Braga

Our journey starts in northern Portugal, in the enchanting city of Braga. Café Astória graces Républica Square, fondly known as Arcada to Bracarenses (Braga's people). Arcada, the city's heart, has witnessed Braga's evolution over the years, and Café Astoria has been a steadfast presence since 1928. In the Diário do Minho newspaper of July 15 that year, Café Astoria was introduced as a "chic establishment, catering to the discerning, providing comfort as a worthy expenditure."

This café has been more than a place to sip coffee; it is a space where locals convene to unravel current topics, particularly football – forever intertwined with Sporting Clube de Braga. So dear is Café Astória that during its closure, a group gathered daily in hope, a collective plea answered when its doors swung open once again.

Architecturally, Café Astória is an elegant fusion of Art Nouveau and Belle Époque styles. Its adorned façade and exquisite details weave a spellbinding welcome. After a recent facelift, it straddles tradition and modernity, beckoning both young souls and travellers discovering ancient Braga.

Café Astória is not just a café; it is a Braga icon, a thread binding generations, celebrations, and connections. Through its walls, Braga's story unfolds, reflecting the city's essence and offering a portal into its splendid character.


Café Majestic, Porto

6 - Café Majestic, Porto

Off to Porto we go, where Café Majestic reigns. Established in 1921, this café is more than legendary – it is a masterpiece often regarded as one of the most beautiful cafés in the world. Nestled in Porto's heart, it is an ode to Art Nouveau, a realm of sheer beauty. Café Majestic has etched its name as a sanctuary of culture and art in Porto's fabric.

Its inauguration drew crowds, unveiling a new architectural gem within Porto's embrace. Situated on Santa Catarina Street, a bustling boulevard adorned in Art Nouveau splendour, it illuminated the pedestrian path of commerce. Among its admirers were Porto's elite, thinkers, and artists, converging to witness the city's burgeoning arts and letters scene in the early 20th century. Café Majestic transcends mere café status; it is a living chronicle of Porto's narrative.

Art Nouveau is Café Majestic's signature. Curves, flourishes, and stained glass frame its interior. An era's opulence blooms through ornate details and plasterwork. This café's elegance echoes through time, ushering guests into a bygone world. Chandeliers, antique furnishings, and artistic touches dance in harmony, casting a spell. Today, Café Majestic keeps its status as a cultural landmark and architectural marvel has made it a must-visit destination in Porto.


Café de Santa Cruz, Coimbra

7 - Café de Santa Cruz, Coimbra

Our next stop is none other than Coimbra, the vibrant heartbeat of Portugal. Picture this: cobblestone charm, ancient university prestige and a rich cultural tapestry. Amid this vibrant symphony, we have got Café de Santa Cruz – a time-travelling tale woven into the city's very fabric.

Nestled in 8 de Maio Square, this café is like a cultural compass, guiding locals and tourists alike through Coimbra's vibrant rhythm. Though newspapers whispered of its charm back in 1921, it officially strutted onto the scene in 1923. Yep, it is turning a hundred this year – a centenary celebration! Time has been kind, preserving its role as a cultural guru through Coimbra's twists and turns.

Situated near the Santa Cruz Monastery, Café de Santa Cruz has its very own time capsule. It is like history's design fusion, a dance of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. This place oozes early 20th-century elegance.

Literary legends, artsy souls and brainy thinkers – they have all waltzed through Café de Santa Cruz's doors. And the fun does not stop there! Fado, Portugal's soulful melody, takes centre stage, adding to the café's electric vibes. This historic café is not just a stop; it is a whole adventure through time, taste and Coimbra's captivating soul.


A Brasileira do Chiado, Lisbon

8 - A Brasileira do Chiado, Lisbon

Continuing south, we arrive in picturesque Lisbon! And our first stop is A Brasileira do Chiado. One of the most iconic and historically significant coffee shops in Portugal. Founded in 1905, the café quickly became a cultural and intellectual hub, attracting artists, writers, poets, and thinkers from all walks of life. Its location couldn't be better: it is in the Chiado district, a historic neighbourhood known for its artistic and literary heritage, which further contributed to its reputation as a gathering place for creative minds.

A Brasileira is perhaps most famously associated with Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's poetry maestro. He practically lived there, and his bronze self, chilling outside, is an emblematic symbol, showing the poet’s contemplative spirit.

Step in, and it is a journey into an Art Nouveau time capsule. Think ornate magic, woodwork with a wink, and decorations that shimmy. But wait, the outside's a treat too! The façade of the café is adorned with beautiful tiles, a traditional Portuguese form of ceramic art.

Due to its historical importance and distinctive ambience, A Brasileira has become a tourist magnet. Imagine history with a dash of cool. Pessoa's statue? An Instagram legend. The vibe? A ticket to Portugal's coffee time travel. A Brasileira? More than a café – an opportunity to experience a piece of Portugal's culture.


Martinho da Arcada, Lisbon

9 - Martinho da Arcada, Lisbon

Lisbon's got another gem: Martinho da Arcada, hailed as the "Oldest Café in Lisbon." Let's rewind to 1778 when it all began as a modest liquor and ice store. However, in terms of historical accuracy, the official date of its inauguration is 1782. It was by the light of olive oil lamps and the sound of a fanfare that its owner Julião Pereira de Castro, provider of ice and ice creams to the Royal House, showed a sign with golden letters saying "Casa da Neve" (Snow House), that was later changed to Martinho da Arcada.

Over more than two centuries, several generations of rulers, politicians, military, artists and writers, elect this café as a meeting point. Once again, the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa is linked to a historic café. Martinho da Arcada was one of Pessoa's preferred places to write and socialize and his presence is still felt today through the historic table still gracing the café.

Its prime location in the stunning Praça do Comércio, one of Lisbon's beautiful squares facing the Tagus River, made it a convenient and attractive destination for both locals and tourists. It exudes a traditional ambience! The inside? It oozes classic vibes, vintage touches, and wooden elegance. It is a time capsule, a sneak peek into Lisbon's yesteryears.


Pastelaria Versailles, Lisbon

10 - Pastelaria Versailles, Lisbon-1

Step into elegance – Pastelaria Versailles, born in 1922, is a palace of vibes, pastry art, and stories galore. The elegant café has remained a beloved destination for both locals and visitors, offering a taste of classic Portuguese sweets and a glimpse into the city's cultural heritage.

Now, picture this: opulence defined. Located in the beautiful Avenida da República, Pastelaria Versailles is celebrated for its intricate chandeliers, ornate mirrors, marble floors, and decorative mouldings. The café's design reflects the grandeur of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles of the early 20th century. Its ability to maintain its charm and authenticity has contributed to its reputation as a historical landmark.

Your taste buds? In for a ride. You can enjoy their pastries accompanied by coffee, tea, or other beverages in an environment that evokes a sense of refined nostalgia. From pastéis de nata to eclairs, each treat is prepared with attention to detail and the use of quality ingredients. And then just let the refined nostalgia wash over you.


Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon

pasteis de belém 2

And now let’s have a round of applause to the renowned Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém, often simply referred to as "Pastéis de Belém," in the Belém district of Lisbon. Established in 1837, it is famous for producing the traditional Portuguese custard tarts known as "pastéis de nata” which has become an iconic symbol of Portuguese culinary culture.

Rewind to history's kitchen: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery). That is where the magic began! The monks whispered the recipe and Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém holds that treasure close. Generations later, they still sprinkle that magic into each bite – flaky pastry layers hugging creamy custard dreams.

Step in, and it is a nostalgia fiesta. A 19th-century building serves as the backdrop, making your pastéis de nata moment an authentic time travel. Tourists from galaxies afar and locals alike gather here for the taste of Portugal. But remember, it is not just any taste; it is the Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém taste, a slice of Lisbon's heart, wrapped in pastry goodness.


Care to share a coffee moment?

Within these historic café walls, Portugal's culture and coffee fuse in a timeless dance. These cafés, like vintage postcards, whisper stories of poets, thinkers, and lovers of life. With each cup, you take a sip of history and a taste of the nation's passion.

Inviting you to join this rendezvous is Portugal itself – a beckoning embrace of culture and caffeine. Beyond the tourist path, these cafes unveil a Portugal where every corner brew tales and every sip is a connection to a cherished past. One cup at a time, you will find that in Portugal, coffee is not just a drink; it is a culture, a warm invitation to be part of something truly remarkable. Come, let's take a journey through the heart of Portugal's coffee love affair.



Topics: portugal, lisbon, portuguesetravelagency, travelagency, Visit Portugal, self-guided, history, culture, vacations, viewpoints, Visit Porto, coimbra, tourtailors, tourism travel, holidays, Braga, coffee

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