Bairro Alto: the first drink
A quaint district like few others that has for decades undoubtedly been the place to meet for the first drink of the evening.
In the lively cobbled streets of this Lisbon neighbourhood the tradition is to order a caipirinha or caipirosca and drink it in the street, enjoying the mild temperatures (although even when it’s cold, the ritual is carried out with the same mathematical precision).
In Rua da Barroca, Clube da Esquina (Rua da Barroca 30-32) is a bar with a cult following, which they say serves the best mojitos in town.
Besides caipirinhas and good music, Bairro Alto also offers other attractions to enliven the warm evenings, with various designer boutiques and “concept stores” whose doors stay open until the early hours.
And on summer nights, nothing can beat one of the terraces of any of the area’s hotels, such as the BA Esplanade at Hotel Bairro Alto. This has been praised as the fourth best view of the world from a hotel terrace, and offers a stunning panoramic city view with the River Tagus as a unique backdrop.
Cais do Sodré, the Bohemian night
An area formerly littered with brothels and gambling houses where sailors went for a night of delight and a pair of arms in which to lose themselves after the hard months at sea, it has now been transformed into one of the most vibrant night spots in Lisbon.
The epicentre of this old/former Red Light District is Rua Nova do Carvalho, a street whose provocative garish pink-painted asphalt is home to a variety of unique and unusual places where you can watch a burlesque show, drink a cocktail whose name would shock our mothers (such as “chic whore”), eat some Portuguese tapas between drinks or watch an innovative live concert.
One of its greatest exponents is Pensão Amor (Hostel of Love), an old hotel whose rooms used to be rented by the hour by prostitutes and sailors, that has been converted into a multidisciplinary space where you will find, amongst others, an erotic bookstore, a sexy lingerie boutique, a hairdresser (Facto Fetish) cutting hair for to “students, sailors and lady-tramps” and an arts bar.
In this lively café it’s possible to do everything from contemplating the ceiling paintings that emulate the Sistine Chapel, to enjoying a good Peruvian ceviche with a glass of wine.
Alfama, the modern fado experience
There is nothing more Portuguese than the melancholy, profound fado singing which was born, it seems, in a tavern in the Alfama neighbourhood.
This was in the 19th century, and the notes imbued with nostalgia and heartache of a music that is all about hopeless love and longing have become one of the icons of Portugal.
Currently, fado remains inseparable from the essence of Alfama and it is here, among the alleyways, cobbled pavements and decaying Moorish houses, that you can find the best places to hear it.
A new generation of fado houses has recently emerged that, without losing its essence, offer a more up-to-date folkloric experience, of better quality and much more entertaining. These temples of fado are increasingly frequented by the people of Lisbon and are a crucible for artists and young professionals looking for a piece of the Portuguese soul.
One of our favourites is Sr. Fado (Rua dos Remédios 176, Alfama), owned by the fado singer Ana Marina and guitarist Duarte Santos, where you can enjoy a fantastic traditional Portuguese cuisine, while listening to good quality fado. A family atmosphere, warm hospitality and a perfect environment to understand a little more of Portuguese culture.
Lisbon, a time for Clubbing
Lisbon has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation since the 1990s as one of Europe’s avant-garde cities when it comes to clubbing. The city offers a wide repertoire of options ranging from those that provide lounge, house and electronic music sounds. Avenida 24 de Julho and Santa Apolónia are the most modern dance hot spots in the capital.
Lux is in Santa Apolónia, a club that has topped the European rankings of the most reputable clubs for years. And proof is something there is no lack of: one of the owners is the actor John Malkovich, Funky, retro furniture completes the impressive interior décor which is divided into two very distinct ambiences: on the ground floor, the exciting dance rhythms on the dance floor are the left to top DJs mixing the latest and greatest tracks; upstairs, a much more relaxed atmosphere, ideal for a drink in good company.
Queues at the entrance and rigorous entry criteria are the drawbacks of what is probably the reference spot on Lisbon’s night scene.
On Avenue 24 de Julho, “Main” deserves a mention. This replaced the mythical “Kapital” which reigned supreme in Lisbon’s nightlife for more than two decades. Young people (20s and 30s) and intense weekends in a place that reinvented itself into various spaces and environments.