Nightlife in Lisbon: Lisbon's best bars
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Lisbon's top spots to go out drinking
Lisbon’s bar culture is a diverse mix of spit-and-sawdust taverns, chi chi cocktail joints and al fresco wine bars. Most nights start with a few sharpeners in one of these before moving on to one of the city’s bigger clubs.
You can seek out Lisbon’s finest cocktails in Cinco Lounge (Rua Ruben A. Leitão, Príncipe Real; +351 21 342 4033; www.cincolounge.com; 9pm–2am). Opened in October 2004 by British barman and owner, Dave Palethorpe and partner Julie Craig, it ignited a wave of cocktail adoration and enlightenment among the sangria-loving Lisboetas. The first specialist cocktail bar of its kind in Lisbon, the menu is so comprehensive that it’s listed chronologically to bring customers through the ages of mixed drinks. Those seeking further knowledge can enrol in cocktail-making courses, which are on offer most days.
Low-key and quirky
For more down-at-heel drinking, check out Majong (Rua da Atalaia 3, Bairro Alto; +351 21 342 1039). The institutional Bairro Alto favourite always feels like a boho house party. Open concrete flooring, harsh lighting and a general unwashed feel give this place serious industrial-decay chic points. Fun cliques of artisans hang out and discuss ‘commercial conspiracies’ and ever-perspective projects over ice-cold cups of beer, while table football is on hand for a bit of boisterous banter. Things get packed and chaotic around midnight, with a rowdy crowd at the bar and out onto the cobbled streets.
The out-of-towners favourite is Pavilhão Chinês (Rua Dom Pedro V89; Bairro Alto; +351 21 342 4729). There’s no escaping the touristy nature of this place, but it’s still one of the city’s most unique bars and should be experienced at least once. Cluttered to the hilt with kitsch and random décor, the maze of rooms is bursting with porcelain, china and glass knick-knacks. The en masse siege of dolls and props doesn’t quite err on the side of tacky rather than blunder right through the connotation. But it does make for good talking points to accompany the excellent cocktails. There’s also a back-room pool table.
For the more quirky kind of drinking den, try Santiago Alquimista (Rua de Santiago 19, Alfama; +351 21 882 0533; Sun-Thu 10am-2am; Fri-Sat 10am-4am). You’ll find this deceptively large cavernous building in one of the eerily quiet winding lanes below the imposing Castelo de São Jorge. Formerly a blacksmith’s space, the venue still has the original stonewalls that were used from the castle foundation. You’ll find any night goes here, from karaoke to poetry recitals. There are two vault-like rooms, which can take up to 600 people, most of whom are the cream of Lisbon’s creative and alternative crop.
A drink with a view
When the sun's out and you're looking for a drink with a view, Portas Do Sol (Largo das Portas do Sol; +351 21 8851299; www.potasdosol.biz) is just the place. More of a daytime drinking spot than a night venue, this bar has one of the most spectacular views in the city - just the spot for a long boozy afternoon. I’ve lost hours lounging in the outdoors, black cotton-covered sofas and beanbags looking out onto the dusk-orange rooftops, cobbled alleyways and castle of the Moorish Alfama district that surround the vast terrace. There’s a dancefloor inside for when things get more raucous at night, where DJs spin rolling house tunes to the chime of sunset and wine-fuelled chatter.
Another good sunshine spot is Kubo (Rua da Cintura, Cais do Sodré; +351 21 3932930). The sophisticated summer-only ‘beach bar’ is part of the Grupo K, that also owns clubland stalwarts, Kapital and Kremlin, and occupies a stellar spot on the waterfront, just five minutes’ walk from the Cais do Sodré ferry terminal. When the sun’s out, there are few better spots to sip a cocktail and catch a few rays while lounging on the all-white cushions and watching sail boats float along the Tejo. This is a place where cool beats and flirtatious chatter are accompanied by the lap of the river licking the rocks below. An essential summer socialising spot.
More expert advice on Lisbon
For suggestions on where to stay in Lisbon, see my Lisbon hotels page.