Nowhere else in Lisbon will you find so many types of bars so close together. It’s what makes the Bairro Alto quarter so famous and its bar scene second to none.
If you ask around Lisbon for advice on where to go for a fun night out, you’ll likely get directions to Bairro Alto. This quaint downtown neighbourhood has been the city’s nightlife hub for the past 40 years, with all sorts of bars lined up along its narrow cobbled streets. It fills up regularly with a happy mix of foreigners and locals, young and old, all revelling and bar-hopping into the late hours. To help you find what suits you best, here is Culture Trip’s pick of the top bars in Bairro Alto.
Tasca do Chico is a staple of Bairro Alto, known for being the go-to bar to hear impromptu fado – a Portuguese musical tradition, filled with heart and sorrow. The walls are decorated with posters and photos of famous singers who have graced the bar with their voices. Most nights you can easily find a table to sit and share a flame-cooked sausage (ideally paired with the house red wine), except on Mondays and Wednesdays. That’s when the singing happens and crowds show up – be sure to get there early.
Discreetly set inside a shopping mall, Le Baron would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the line at the door. This stylish bar, with dark lighting, red velvet and a touch of French decadence, is one of Lisbon’s trendiest, where a sophisticated crowd goes to dance to funk, disco and house music. An entrance fee is usually required, and drinks are not so cheap, but you get what you pay for.
o 36 is where hip-hop crews hang out, and it’s not unusual to spot popular musicians getting ready before their set. The bar’s decor is a blend of traditional tiles and iconic rap lyrics, which was put together by Lisbon-based artists AKACorleone and Kruella D’Enfer. Bar shots are named after legendary rappers and local stars, so you get to choose between a ‘Tupac’ or a homegrown ‘Sam the Kid’.
When you think of live music in Bairro Alto, you think of 49 da ZBD. The bar is attached to art space Galeria Zé dos Bois, which has graffitied walls and local art on display. Emerging local bands strive to play at this esteemed music venue, and international indie artists often make a pitstop here on the Portuguese leg of their tours. Concert tickets sell out fast, but you can drop by anytime to check out DJ sets and let yourself go on the dance floor. If you need a break from dancing, there’s also a rooftop bar just one floor up.
At the edge of Bairro Alto, craft beer lovers will find their home away from home. Duque Brew Pub was founded by three biochemistry PhD students who started toying with craft beer, created their own label and ended up opening a relaxed bar with good background music and great brews. Although the 12 taps they have are mostly slated for beers made in loco, the bottle menu features labels from all over the country, making this the perfect place to get a taste of Portuguese craft beer. While you’re savouring, order a plate of hummus – you won’t be disappointed.
Páginas Tantas has live music almost every night | Courtesy of Páginas Tantas
Páginas Tantas (which translates to ‘so many pages’) is Bairro Alto’s best known jazz bar, and rightly so. They have live music nearly every night, mostly from trios, which you can listen to for just the price of your drink. The walls are decorated with pictures of famous jazz musicians, and there are small tables spread out across the room, with dim lighting and colorful decor giving it a smooth and relaxed atmosphere that complements the tunes.
Easy to spot with its bright orange doors, Purex is best known for its imaginative calendar: hosting everything from Marie Antoinette-themed parties to Ed Wood film festivals. It’s a popular spot for the LGBTQ community, yet you’ll find people of all walks of life here, making for a fun, welcoming environment. The bar has a few lounging areas where you can enjoy your drink, but its heart is the tiny dance floor ruled by electronic music DJs. It fills up on weekend nights, so be ready to share your space.
Loucos e Sonhadores is a deceptively large cocktail lounge. Past the entrance bar, where people tend to gather, you’ll be surprised to find a saloon and two more rooms to choose from, all of them decorated with recycled kitsch furniture, books and odd antiques. The ambience is a bohemian one, calling to a mixed crowd looking to loosen up in good company. The salted popcorn is free, but for something more filling have a look at the toasted sandwich menu – they’re big and tasty.
Feel like banging your head to rock classics from the likes of Pearl Jam? Then Eclipse Bar is where you want to be. Standing proudly as the definitive best rock bar in the neighbourhood, beer is the designated drink here, sold in wide varieties at affordable prices. The bar doesn’t have a dance floor per se, but people make do with the available space they find inside and, on most weekend nights, outside as well.