To a lot of people, coffee is the necessary fuel to start off the day on the right foot. Many drink it to gain energy, others simply because they enjoy the taste. However, the Portuguese have mastered the art of having coffee simply for the sake of relaxing or enjoying quality time with friends.
In Portugal, coffee is more than just a breakfast beverage or a source of caffeine. It is a way of life that can be found even in the most remote villages! And there is no right time of the day to "ir ao café" (go to the coffee shop) or "beber um café" (drink a coffee)... you will always find someone drinking coffee in one of the traditional cafés that exist in practically every corner.
“Cafés” sell not only coffee, but also pastries and "petiscos" (snacks). Many are also used as small family-run restaurants to serve meals, especially during lunchtime when the locals enjoy homemade traditional food. Portuguese cafés are the place to be whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch and even dinner, if you’re in a hurry and just want to grab a bottle of water, a bite to eat or have the time to chat with the friendly locals.
The Portuguese name “café” means “coffee”, which make sense since this is the most popular product sold. But for the Portuguese, a “café” is much more than just the place you go to when you feel hungry or thirsty. Going to the “café” is synonymous to taking time off and enjoying the company of friends or neighbours — a tradition that it is firmly rooted in Portugal’s culture, as is enjoying coffee with a creamy pastel de nata!
How to order coffee in Portugal?
Did you know that ordering a coffee in Portugal might sound different depending on where you are in the country? If you’re in the North, in places like Porto, Braga or Guimarães, most locals will ask for a “café”. However, if you are closer to Lisbon or the Algarve, don't be surprised to hear “bica” instead. There are also several ways of drinking coffee! Find out more about how to ask for your coffee in Portugal...
The Portuguese love to socialize and to take a few minutes out of their to day to catch up with friends, neighbours or chat with random people. It’s fair to say that the taste of coffee itself is not the main reason why the cafés are so popular and always home to so many familiar faces! These walls hear stories, witness first time meetings and many other important or mundane things every single day.
Portugal's most famous cafés
Finding a café in Portugal can be easily compared to finding fish in the ocean… they’re everywhere! Literally, they’re in every street you cross and in every corner you find. However, some cafés also offer the most amazing décor and history!
From north to south of Portugal, you will find several coffee shops that look like they came straight out of a vintage movie set! Richly decorated and with a wide selection of pastries that are also a feast for your eyes, these cafés allow you to experience one of the most "delicious" traditions of the Portuguese laid-back lifestyle.
If you are in one of these locations, don't miss the opportunity to discover some of the most famous cafés in Portugal:
Café Majestic, Porto
Located on Rua de Santa Catarina, Majestic is one of Porto's most famous landmarks. This café, which opened to the public in 1921, has won several awards over the years and it is no surprise, as anyone who passes by will quickly be captivated by its luxurious decor. Although it is quite expensive in comparison to a typical Portuguese café, it is well worth the splurge!
A Brasileira, Braga
A Brasileira café is a mandatory stop in Braga, since it is considered one of the most emblematic coffee shops in the city. Founded in 1907, this café is known for still serving coffee the old-fashioned way: in a glass cup. It also offers an excellent outside area, which gets very crowded during the summer.
Café Vianna, Braga
Another emblematic place in the city of Braga is Café Vianna. This café has served several famous Portuguese icons, such as writers Eça de Queiroz and Camilo Castelo Branco. According to some reports, Café Vianna was the place where the fall of the First Republic was planned by the Portuguese military, but there is no official proof of such thing. “Bacalhau à Vianna” is one of the house specialties.
Café Milenário, Guimarães
Founded in 1953, Café Milenário is another café in northern Portugal that stands out for being located right next to the famous inscription "Aqui nasceu Portugal" (Portugal was born here), right in the city center of Guimarães. This café is part of the city’s culture and history, and is a mandatory stop for visitors.
Café Santa Cruz, Coimbra
Imagine having a coffee inside a parish chapel! Located in the heart of Coimbra, in the square bearing the same name, at Café Santa Cruz you can drink coffee to the sound of Coimbra Fado while enjoying the famous "crúzio": a regional egg-based pastry that is covered in almonds.
A Brasileira, Lisbon
A Brasileira is one of Lisbon's most famous cafés. Created in 1905, it was originally a store where it was possible to buy coffee from Brazil. Only later did it become a café, famous for receiving such Portuguese icons as the poet Fernando Pessoa, depicted in the bronze statue that sits outside. A Brasileira is considered one of Lisbon's most poplar places to visit!
Café Aliança, Faro
Located in the heart of Faro, in Algarve Portugal, Café Aliança is the 3rd oldest coffee shop in Portugal. Founded in 1908, it has received several famous Portuguese stars, such as poet António Ramos Rosa and musicians José Afonso and fado singer Amália Rodrigues, but also international stars such as French writer Simone de Beauvoir. This is a great place to go to if you want to get to discover Faro beyond its beautiful beaches.
Regardless of whether you prefer a more luxurious place, sitting on the terrace or inside, ordering just a coffee or tasting a traditional Portuguese pastry, one thing is for sure: a truly Portuguese experience awaits you! So just sit back, relax and enjoy... you won't regret it!
Want to know more about traditional Portuguese pastries?
From the creamy Pastel de Nata to the sweet Bola de Berlim, traditional Portuguese pastries are simply yummy …