The Ultimate Guide to Conserveiras in Lisbon, Portugal

Conserveiras are traditional canned fish shops or factories in Portugal, specializing in preserving and selling canned seafood, particularly fish. This type of shops has a rich history dating back to the early 20th century, when it was an essential part of the local fishing industry. 

No matter where you go in Portugal, whether it's to Lisbon or Porto, chances are you'll find some conserveiras throughout the country.

This time, James from Worldwide Shopping Guide will guide you through everything you need to know about conserveiras in Lisbon, Portugal, and why visiting this shop is also one of the best things to do in Lisbon on a budget! 

What are conserveiras in Lisbon, Portugal?

In most of the world, tinned tuna isn’t seen as a luxury food item and it is little wonder why. Most of the tuna sold in supermarkets worldwide is of a low-quality and preserved in something that’s fairly unappealing (like brine water). Unless you’re a student or going on a picnic, there’s usually no desire to dig out the tinned tuna from the back of the cupboard.

In Portugal, tinned food (collectively known as ‘conservas’) is seen as a delicacy. It’s a big part of Portuguese cuisine, it’s a common feature on petisco (tapa) menus, and is one of the best things that you can buy in Portugal for less than $10.

Conservas in Portugal.
Tinned products in Portugal.

Conserveiras emerged in the early 20th century as a response to the need for preserving fish, especially sardines, a staple in Portuguese cuisine. They were essential in preserving fish before modern refrigeration techniques became widespread.

What do they sell in conserveira?

Go to your nearest Conserveira (a shop that specialises in tinned food products), and you’ll find almost every type of tinned fish imaginable including cod, mackerel, sardines, smoked salmon, squid, mussels, octopus – you name it.

If it comes from the sea, there’s a good chance it has been tinned as well. Most will be preserved in Portuguese olive oil, but often with other additions like capers, chillies, peppercorns, preserved lemons, ginger, or onions.

Prices vary, depending on the ingredients, but start from around $2 and can work themselves up to $10 and beyond. With a $10 budget, however, you should be able to get your hands on a few different products to try at home.

Portuguese tinned tuna.
One of tinned tuna packaging purchased in one of conserveiras in Lisbon.

Where is the best conserveira in Lisbon, Portugal?

You’ll find conservas in all Portuguese supermarkets, but to really see the variety of products on offer it’s definitely worth making a special trip to a Conserveira. Conserveiras are fairly unique to this part of the world, and by shopping at one you help to keep this part of Portuguese culture alive a little longer.

In Lisbon, there has been an influx of new Conserveiras geared towards tourists. These are usually bright and gaudy, and stock novelty sardine products with people’s names or dates of birth on them. Aside from the modern decor, they’re usually easy to spot as they only stock tinned tuna or sardines as opposed to the wide range of tinned products traditional Conserveiras stock. They’re also usually located right in the city center, particularly around Baixa, Chiado, and Alfama.

Instead, head for somewhere like Conserveira de Lisboa, a shop that has been around since the 1930s. It stocks an excellent range of products, and the staff there are always happy to help.

Contributor: James from Worldwide Shopping Guide

James is a freelance travel writer who has spent time living in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, and South Africa. He is currently travelling around Eastern Europe, always keeping an eye out for the most interesting and most authentic souvenirs.

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