Refúgio do Ciclista – hidden gem near Sintra

If our friends hadn’t taken us to Refúgio do Ciclista, we would never have found this place.
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For more than 35 years I’ve been looking out on the side of the hills on which restaurant Refúgio do Ciclista is built, and yet I hadn’t been here yet. If our friends hadn’t brought us here, we would never have found this great restaurant.

Typical local canteen

Describing Refúgio do Ciclista as a local canteen feels wrong, as if it’s a simple place to get something to eat quickly. But when you have eaten here you know exactly what we mean. It is certainly not a chic place, it’s very much picturesque and a traditional ‘churrascaria’.
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When you enter you will find long tables covered with paper tablecloths. On the tables are olives, bread, red wine, and a bottle of 7-up. Wait, what? 7-up? Yeah, the soda that brought us the cheerful Fido Dido character. The main reason there’s 7-up on the table is to mix it with the red wine.

Intriguing, right?

According to our friend José, the red wine served at the restaurant is not drinkable at all. The taste is way too strong, everybody knows that. But if you mix it with 7-up you get a delicious combination that goes down like lemonade! Very tasty and refreshing! So be careful when you get in the car or on your bike afterwards.

BBQ, menus and delicious food

When you enter, the barbeque and the refrigerated showcase on the left are immediately noticeable. Before you sit down at the long tables you’re supposed to order your dish here. You can choose from 7,50 euro or a 9 euro menu (that’s £6,50 and £7,50). The difference is the kind of meat you get.

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For example, the €7.50 menu has carapaus (horse mackerel) for fish. The €9,00 menu has a more extensive choice, like salmon, dourada, tuna and sardines. If you choose meat, you get hamburgers or bitoque (steak) at the €7,50 menu. The more expensive menu also has picanha or secreto.

So you order what you want at the entrance, you take a seat, have a wine with soda mix and wait for a maximum of 10 minutes, until the grilled meat or fish is served.

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A menu consists of meat or fish with chips or rice, and bread, olives, red wine (with or without the 7-up) or another drink, and dessert. In short, almost all you can eat for little money. With 4 adults and 2 children (there are no children’s menus but our daughters eat so well that they shared a 7,50 euro menu) we paid less than €40. That’s right, less than £35!

If you come here with kids it is good to know that there are no highchairs.

The staff is friendly, the food is simple and the taste and experience is fantastic.

Challenging access

Refúgio do Ciclista is located in the village of Penedo, between Sintra and Cascais The village can only be reached with private transportation, there is no bus here. If you go by car, keep in mind that the road to the restaurant is a two-way street, even if it doesn’t look like that. This makes it an adventure to get to Refúgio do Ciclista. The road is not always wide enough to let two cars pass, so you might have to reverse a bit when you meet an oncoming car.

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You can park your car right next to the restaurant. On the village square in front of the church of Penedo is ample parking available.

Pit-stop for cyclists

The name of the restaurant is not only due to the fact that it is a ‘pit stop’ for brave cyclists who try to conquer the mountains around Sintra. The owner of Refúgio do Ciclista used to be a professional cyclist who participated in several races in Europe. In the restaurant there are old cycling jerseys and bikes everywhere. There’s a definite feel of the last century cycling here.

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Attention! In summertime it can get very crowded here. If you want to eat here, make sure you’re there at noon or right after the regular Portuguese lunchtime around 2:15 p.m. At that time most locals will be busy with their dessert and ready to make room for you.

How to get to Refúgio do Ciclista

Address: Largo do Chafariz, Penedo
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday noon – 3:00 p.m

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