When a magazine becomes a market
Wandering aimlessly is sometimes the best way to explore a new city. Lisbon is perfect for that as you never know what you’ll discover down each cobblestone laneway. Imagine our surprise on a recent Saturday morning when we stumbled upon one of the best food gatherings in the city.
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira is a former market hall that has been reimagined by Time Out (yes the magazine). Reviewing food and directing hungry diners to the best venues is what the folk at Time Out do well. So when they decided to launch the market it was destined to be a hit.
Fish and produce have been traded on the historic site since the 13th century. Since opening in 2014, Time Out has breathed new life into the space by cherry picking the best restaurants in town and gathering them under one roof.
Mercado da Ribeira is ideally your first destination in Lisbon. Sample what’s on offer at each stall and then visit the main restaurants around town. Midday on a summer Saturday it is packed. Standing room only. The hustle and bustle of the historic market building has been fully restored with hungry diners queuing for fabulous seafood (octopus salad, sardines, codfish fritters, cheese platters and cold cuts) and washing it all down with fabulous Portuguese wines.
Long and high communal tables line the hall and give it a bar-like vibe. The best strategy to secure a stool is to linger behind diners waiting for them to vacate their seats. Enjoy a glass of wine while the rest of your party gathers meals at different outlets around the hall.
The Time Out touch is evident at every turn in this market hall. Information on each outlet is elegantly displayed beside their stalls. Our pick was Sea Me where simplicity and freshness are celebrated. The menu is Portuguese with Japanese influences. We loved it so much we made the trip to their main restaurant in Bairro Alto where the catch of the day was proudly displayed. The place fills quickly for every sitting. Bookings are essential.
Portugal has surely cornered the market on well designed souvenirs. At one end of the market hall is a well curated selection of Lisbon flavours to take home. Edible take outs that will travel include tinned sardines and pastei de nata (custard tarts). Fine stationery, art deco packaged soaps and homewares are a step up from standard souvenir offerings.
A Samsung demonstration kitchen stands at one end of the hall. Unfortunately it was empty and spartan on our visit but it’s easy to imagine the drawcard it must be. A second floor observation hall provides a great view of the hall as well a birdseye view of the kitchen.
This is not just a tourist mecca. Locals also visit the market just like they would have done in days gone by. ‘Tourists tend to go earlier to eat while we go later in the evening,’ said adventure tour guide Andre Catarino of Lisbon Bike Tour. Local endorsement of the venue is always a good sign.
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira
Avenida 24 de Julho
1200 – 481
Tel: +351 213 460 333
(Image credits: Peta Bassett)