It had to happen. Lisbon resisted the Starbucks invasion for so long, but it was just inevitable. Today it seems that a city without Starbucks is a city without an essential part of its urban furniture. But Lisbon thinks it is different and with what is recognized as the best coffee in the world served in classic and historic cafes, who needs Starbucks? It was always thought that no one would trade a bica for the Americanized “coffee on the go.” After all, going for coffee in Lisbon is staying for a few minutes and enjoying the café atmosphere, and savoring that tiny cup of good old, strong, black bica.
Of course having grown up with Starbucks, the American in me did find it strange when I saw Starbucks in Amman, Jordan and wondered if it worked in a place like that, why not in Lisbon? It works in Spain, France, and in so many other European countries, so it is a bittersweet welcome to Starbucks for me in Lisbon. The first one in Portugal opened a few weeks ago in a shopping mall just outside the city, and the second one will open in the Belem district soon. That will be the very first one in Lisbon, and will also offer some authentic Portuguese pastries such as the pastel de nata and pastel de feijão. But who will want to go there when Antiga Confeitaria de Belem is just around the corner serving the mouth-watering pasteis de Belem? For many tourists Starbucks will be a welcomed sight (and I have to admit, it is for me when I travel around the world), but hopefully tourists will still take some time to go into Lisbon’s beautiful cafes. I’ll save my caramel frappuccino cravings for my visits to America, and will instead try to go to Café Versailles or Antiga Confeitaria de Belem or Cafe Benard during my everyday life in Lisbon for coffee and pastries.