When Bairro Alto became Lisbon’s nightlife neighborhood in the 80s and 90s, it had a variety of bars playing varied sounds (from rock to synthpop to Fado) and attracting diverse groups (from goths to punks to gays). Over the last decade most bars have become almost indistinguishable from each other, focusing on cheap beer, caipirinhas and mojitos. The neighborhood still attracts all kinds of under-40 crowds, gay and straight, but the more alternative bars have moved down the hill towards Bica and the former red light district Cais do Sodré on the riverfront. Nights in Bairro Alto are now essentially a street party, and which bar you end up getting a drink to enjoy outside really only depends on where you’re standing. However, if you’re looking for something different, a place where you can actually sit indoors, or perhaps where you can find more unusual drinks, there are a few places worth looking for. We’ve selected five:
Rua do Diário de Notícias, 95
One of the best bars in town to have a glass of wine, it also serves “petiscos” which is described to the non-Portuguese as “Portuguese tapas.” The wine list is huge, focusing on national wines, which are usually accompanied by a flaming chouriço (sausage) or a plate of cheeses.
TASCA DO CHICO
Rua do Diário de Notícias, 39
This is a Lisbon classic, as traditional as a bar can be, attracting groups of all ages, locals and tourists. The main attraction is Fado, often sung by amateurs in spontaneous performances. You can sit and enjoy a drink in a very informal, upbeat atmosphere, and join others in getting the “chouriço assado,” the roasted sausage.
PONCHA DO BAIRRO
Rua da Barroca, 75
Those looking for an alternative to beer and caipirinhas should try poncha. That’s a traditional drink from the Portuguese island of Madeira, made with brandy, lemon juice and honey. It’s this bar’s specialty, and here it combines other fruits to create close to a dozen varieties.
Rua da Barroca, 6-12
As one of the bigger bars in the neighborhood, you’ll find plenty of people sitting inside this bar once you go past the huge crowds by the door. Decorated with retro pieces, it attracts everyone from struggling artists to thirty-something singles.
Rua da Rosa, 99
This is one of the few bars open in the afternoon. Its pop hits (thing Gaga and Spears) attract younger groups, many of them gay boys often accompanied by female friends. However, you’ll find all kinds of people sitting with a drink and chatting, despite the blaring music. Setting this place apart from the competition (besides the spacious interior) is the number of books on the walls which give it a more relaxed vibe as a hangout in the early evening.