The sun is bright in Lisbon, and during mid-day from Spring to Autumn, it will beat down hard on you. The perfect solution? ICE CREAM! Or rather, gelado as it’s called in Portuguese. Much more like its Italian counterpart that we all know as gelato, than the North American ‘ice cream’, because most Portuguese gelato places are run by (or started by) Italian immigrants. It’s made differently than ice cream, stored differently, and served differently. If you know where to go, the result is a perfect harmony of refreshing, smooth, and creamy, while highlighting the natural flavours that are used. Luckily, Susete and I have done some painstaking research (poor us), and we’ll tell you where to go to find the best… just like my plea with the natas post, please travel responsibly! Remember these shops are operating businesses, not tourist attractions… treat them as such. Obrigado!
Gelateria Nannarella (Principe Real)
Nannarella is the best of the best. Really, it is. I put this shop in the trendy, local-friendly area of Principe Real amongst the top 3 places I’ve tried in the entire world (along with Bella Gelateria in Vancouver and Cremeria Funivia in Bologna). The morango (strawberry) gelado tasted like it was made with strawberries picked straight from the field. The café has the aroma and flavour of the highest quality coffee. There’s no ice crystals in sight, the texture is velvety smooth, and best of all, it’s actually one of the cheapest in Lisbon! Yeah, go figure.
The next shop on this list gets all the fame, but don’t be fooled, I’m telling you right now, Nannarella is one of the best gelados you will ever have anywhere in the world. Get a cup of a couple different flavours and go to the little central square park up the road to sit and enjoy while watching local life go by.
All the guidebooks on Lisbon will tell you to go to Santini. It started in the nearby beach resort town of Cascais, and opened a second location in Lisbon in the super trendy shopping district in Chiado. On weekends, the lineups are out the door. Tourists queue up forever, taking photos all along the way to the counter. Buzz is a funny thing, but nothing we’re not used to in Toronto (which is pretty much all buzz). Don’t get me wrong, Santini is no slouch, it’s just not Nannarella… but then again, nobody is. That being said, I would put this famous shop in the top tier of gelado spots in Lisbon, along with Nannarella. All the rest on this list are good as well, just one slight notch down on the totem pole from these two. Santini also has a location inside the Mercado da Ribeira.
The next three gelado shops on this list are all great as well… they just fall a little below the top 2, but will do just fine when you need a good gelado fix on a hot day. Also, make sure you do try them all, as each place will have a couple flavours unique to them, alongside all the classics.
Daverro ( Cais do Sodré)
Located on the edge of the Praça de São Paulo in the once gritty, but now trendy Cais do Sodré neighbourhood (once was the Red Light district), we tried this place last, only because of timing, but Daverro is definitely on our favourites list. Just like Nannarella, you can eat your gelado in the nice praça next to it, to enjoy the local life.
When people ask me where to go in Lisbon, I’m always warning to stay away from eating in Baixa. The central downtown strip is the most touristy of all the neighbourhoods in Lisbon, resulting in higher prices for lower quality products… but there are some few exceptions to the rule, and Fragoleto is one of them. It’s great to have this located centrally when you’re running around in the middle of the city in the heat and just feel that yearning for a nice cold gelado.
Gelateria Portuguesa (Castelo)
This is probably the gelateria that surprised me the most. Castelo, the neighbourhood surrounding the old Castelo São Jorge overlooking the rest of the city, is one of the oldest areas, but it’s also within the walls of one of the most touristy spots in all of Lisbon. I wouldn’t have expected to find such a gem up there, especially with its proximity to the large queue to get in the castle, but Gelateria Portuguesa makes the cut in my books!
TOP TIP: Get to know what local fruits are in season, and try those flavours… strawberry (morango), lemon (limão), and orange (laranja) in the spring is so good!
HONOURABLE MENTION: There’s also some great gelado outside of Lisbon as well! If you’re in the north of Portugal (Porto and Braga), both Cremosi and Spirito are excellent places.