When you think of the great coffee houses of Europe, perhaps you think of Vienna, Paris, or even those elegant cafes of Turin.
Coffee is at least as important to Portuguese as it is to the Italians, I learned on a recent trip from a tourism representative:
“When we go to conferences, we always search out the Italians—because they bring their espresso machines and know how to use them.”
History, a strong literary tradition, and a link to some of the great coffee growing regions make the cafe tradition in Portugal an interesting one to explore. The tourist office web site Visit Portugal recommends
- Café Astória, in Braga
- Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, in Leça da Palmeira
- Café Majestic, in Porto
- Pastelaria Garrett, in Estoril
- A Brasileira, Café Nicola, Café Martinho da Arcada, Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém and Pastelaria Versailles, in Lisbon
- Café Central, in Évora
- Salão de Chá As Maltesinhas, in Beja.
My own favorite is not on the list; it’s Santa Cruz de Coimbra, housed in a former chapel of the cathedral and still sharing the reverential features of the historic coffee house and place of worship. You’ll find it at Praça do 8 de Maio, Coimbra.
You can get coffee, tea (tearooms are casas de chá), and pastries and sometimes sandwiches and small meals at these cafes.