In Lisbon, the bar for bars has been set very high: after all, this is a city where drinking and chatting well into the night is ingrained in local culture. Popular areas include Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s bohemian epicentre, and Cais do Sodré, known for its pink, bar-flanked street. From traditional drinking holes to swanky cocktail joints, here are the very best bars in Lisbon.
Alternative Lisbon has practically left Bairro Alto – once an unavoidable stop for the trendy and young – and flocked to other parts of the city. Located on the top of the Graça hill (where Lisbon’s most famous miradouros, or sightseeing spots over the old city, can be enjoyed), Damas takes up residence inside an old bakery, proving to be a versatile venue equipped with a bar, concert room and restaurant. An eclectic music selection and line up of impressive DJs makes this a popular spot among the hip and who’s who.
Some bars just exude good energy, and number 49 on Rua da Barroca – the street known as Bairro Alto’s LGBTQ hotspot – has plenty of good energy to share. The bar is the offspring of art gallery and concert venue Zé dos Bois, located right next door, and is an excellent starting point for those wanting to explore Lisbon’s queer scene. Music ranges from pop to alternative and electronic, which you can bop to on the dance floor located in the back. There are plenty of drink options, but beer and gin and tonics have a high rotation.
This speakeasy, featured on the The World’s 50 Best Bars list, is a quaint-looking establishment inspired by the drinking dens of America’s 1920s Prohibition years. But everything else is very much 21st century, with a notably contemporary cocktail menu. It is located near Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon’s luxury shopping and hotel artery.
Pavilhão Chinês is sensory overload: a succession of rooms filled with artefacts dating back several centuries, including statues, paintings and maps hung on walls, ensconced in glass cabinets or right in the mix. ‘Pavilhão Chinês’ is Portuguese for Chinese Pavilion, blending its bric-a-brac extravaganza with classic elements such as suited-up barmen, upholstered chairs and chandeliers. Cocktails are the bar’s forte, perfect to sip while you try to absorb the Pavilhão’s visual richness. The entrance door is always closed and requires that you ring the doorbell to gain entry.
Independent music lovers must visit this bar located close to nightlife hotspot Cais do Sodré, which has been operating for over 20 years. It owes its longevity to its location, sufficiently removed from the tourist avalanche so that it hasn’t had to surrender its soul. Tasteful electronic and alternative music are the daily dish here, with frequent live concerts. Swing between the bar, with a small dance floor, and the small square outside where people gather for a smoke and chat.
After being granted access to Foxtrot, the grand doors swing open to waiters in bow ties, ready to steer you towards your table before handing you a kilometric list of cocktails. This classical affair attracts a mixed crowd of all ages, making it a pleasant place to meet with friends. The small inner terrace is highly recommended on summer nights. There’s also a snooker table and smoking area inside, so take no shame in pretending you’re spending an evening in the 1920s.
Intendente, an erstwhile run-down area of Lisbon, is a site of rapid regeneration. The square now boasts cafés, bars and hotels in freshly rebuilt 19th-century buildings, some of them Art Nouveau-inspired and all coated with magnificent tiles. Casa Independente was one of the drivers of this tale of rebirth. The association, which harbours several artistic projects under its wing, has an excellent concert line-up, reflecting its care towards cultural programming. The bar, which offers light meals and tapas, is paired perfectly with a large outside patio a few steps away: an ideal place to enjoy the sizzle of Lisbon’s long summer nights.
Pensão Amor (Pension of Love) is a reinterpretation of what Cais do Sodré used to be: a meeting point for sailors – churned out from the ships moored in the quay nearby – looking for sexual divertissements in between their stints at sea. That era is now long gone, and the building has been refurbished to cater for Lisbon’s late-night revellers. This lively bar evokes sensuality, with ruffled feathers and red velvet decorating the space. Burlesque shows, jazz concerts, a sex shop and erotica bookstore are part of the cultural appeal of this Pensão, which still refers cheekily to its multiple compartments as ‘bedrooms’.
Close to Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, an architectural tour de force covered in pristine white tiles, unashamedly posh Sud is where the Lisbon’s rich and beautiful go for mutual recognition. The sophisticated decor asks for equally sophisticated dress and manners. The waterfront, just a few steps away, aided by the generous array of drinks and cocktails, washes away any possible stiffness, setting a relaxed ambience in this two-storey pavilion. It is also equipped with an Italian restaurant and panoramic pool.
Located on the very top of Tivoli Hotel on Avenida da Liberdade, this rooftop bar is one of the best places to experience the majesty of Portugal’s capital, with stunning views over the river and old city. Sky Bar’s signature cocktails are a thing to relish, best enjoyed while dancing to the tunes of the day’s DJ. No flip-flops and beachwear are allowed – a small demand in exchange for a chance to party with local and international celebrities.
A must-do for partygoers looking to experience Lisbon’s queer scene, this bar on the corner of Bairro Alto’s Rua da Barroca is always packed with a lively crowd hitting the small dance floor to the sounds of pop, electronic and dance music. It is a compulsory pit-stop for Lisbon’s LGBTQ community before heading to the clubs in Príncipe Real from 3am on. Be prepared for a late one!
This trendy bar is located on the very top of a parking silo, from which it takes its name. Access is given through heavily tagged and sticker-laden elevators, lifting guests up to what was until recently an idle terrace space. It is now an urban oasis: stocked with plants and furnished with wooden chairs and tables, music ranges from bossa nova to chill-out and jazz. Besides caipirinhas and mojitos, burgers are a speciality of the house. The view over the Tagus and the 25 of April Bridge is sensational.