Lisbon has become a popular destination for young travelers, drawn to its nightlife and events. Major annual music festivals take place every May to September, hosting major bands that attract local young crowds and visitors from around Europe. Perhaps the most well-known festival is Rock in Rio-Lisboa, a huge event that first took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but there are more, such as Super Bock Super Rock, OlÃ¡ Love 2 Dance, among others.
But throughout the year, the biggest attraction is the city’s vibrant nightlife. Having grown up in New York, I was used to having a variety of places to chill out at, or to party the night away, so when I moved to Lisbon in my early 20s, I was curious how it would compare to the city that never sleeps. What I discovered was that yes, Lisbon also doesn’t sleep, especially on weekends. Starting with a late dinner, people then move up and down the cobbled streets of the funky Bairro Alto quarter, drink in hand, bar-hopping from eccentric-and-old to sleek-and-new bars. The less edgy or bohemian crowd moves down the river to a dock area simply known as Docas (its official name is Doca de Santo Amaro), filled with more restaurants, cosmopolitan bars and clubs. For visitors to the city, this is where they’re most likely to hear the sounds that are also popular back home. When it’s about 4AM, the party seems to die down in Bairro Alto and Docas, when most bars close their doors, but the night is not over. That is when most start queuing up by the clubs, mostly in the industrial areas by the river, in the district of Santos.
The most popular club of all is the much-talked-about Lux. European magazines have hailed it as Europe’s most stylish club, and part-owned by actor John Malkovitch, it is therefore a curiosity for those who visit Lisbon.
I first went to Lux about two years ago, and was able to confirm that it is in fact something to rival any club in the world. In fact, also attracting major international DJs, it tops most New York clubs: Here there are no sleazy dancers, no overdrinking and over-the-top behavior (although this being Europe, there is oversmoking), and the place is decorated almost as a gallery of modern design. People go to see and be seen, to be with friends and perhaps drink a little, and above all, to chill out (there is a wonderful, breezy terrace with views of the moon reflecting on the river and of the flood-lit monuments of Alfama).
Obviously such a place has to have a tough door policy. I was lucky to go with regular customers, so I had no problem getting in, but I saw three young British guys being asked for 180 euros when the cover charge is only 12! That’s their way of turning you away “nicely.” Maybe it’s already too crowded inside, maybe they don’t like your style, maybe theyâ€™re trying to keep an even male-to-female ratio… If that happens, don’t bother trying again. If you get in, consider yourself lucky and enjoy the rest of the night.
Over time, I have checked out other places in the city, and it seems that I came to Lisbon at just the right time. In the past two years or so, there has been a number of nice places opening up around the city. One of my new favorites is Cinco Lounge. It is a little hard to find, hidden in a residential zone (Principe Real), but you won’t find a better and bigger selection of cocktails in the city. When I went there recently on a weekday, it was rather empty (only two couples along with myself and two of my friends), so it didn’t really score points for ambience, but perhaps things are different on weekends or as it also becomes better known. Still, the chill-out music is just what you’re looking for at the end of the day, when you just want to chat away the night with your friends and a good drink. I highly recommend it.
You can find out more about the places mentioned above in our nightlife section.