Everyone in Lisbon has a different story about this neighborhood, but they’ll all agree that Bairro Alto has some of the best bars in Lisbon.
A quiet residential neighborhood by day and bar hopping destination by night, Bairro Alto in Lisbon is a well-known area of the city. Its alternative entertainment vibe from the 1980s may be long gone, but Bairro Alto still attracts hundreds of locals and tourists on weekends.
The atmosphere is casual and most bars are too small to stay inside. Therefore the crowds of clients standing outside with drinks are the neighborhood’s trademark image. But don’t get too comfortable—once you finish your drink, it’s time to move on to the next place.
Top 5 Bars in Bairro Alto in Lisbon
Lisboans have learned not to grow too attached to bars in Bairro Alto, although some of them insist on staying put despite the recent trend to move further down towards Cais do Sodré. Most of the bars in Bairro Alto in Lisbon are budget-friendly and a favorite hang out spot for students.
1. Rua do Diário de Notícias
In honor of Bairro Alto’s true spirit, let’s start with not one bar but a street full of them. Rua Diário de Notícias is the neighborhood’s central street, jam-packed with iconic Lisbon bars like Páginas Tantas with live jazz music or Nova Tertúlia Bar. If you’re not sure what bars to pick, this street is a great first start.
2. The Insólito
With a view over Baixa and the Bairro Alto behind it, The Insólito is for many the first stop for drinks and sometimes dinner. A sort of place to kill time before the streets of Bairro Alto come to life and a recommended bar for enthusiasts of signature cocktails with witty names. The view is their best asset.
Despite its young age (this pub and disco opened in late 2016), Cheers took over the space of what was once the very first bar in Bairro Alto, Frágil. In the 1980s, all of the city’s artists wandered to this place for alternative entertainment. Now, the current owners admit they target mostly tourists. Nevertheless, drop by if you want to be at a place that once revolutionized Lisbon’s cultural and artistic scene.
4. Clube da Esquina
On the corner of Rua da Barroca, Clube da Esquina is one of the classic spots in Bairro Alto in Lisbon. It’s an affordable bar that completely fits the too-small-to-stay-inside profile. Everything in this bar, from the name (esquina is Portuguese for street corner) to the drinks on the menu, is literal and straightforward.
5. Zé dos Bois
Typically known by its acronym ZDB, this is much more than just a Bairro Alto bar. In fact, we don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a cultural institution. Established in 1994 by a group of artists, Zé dos Bois has been the main stage in the city for alternative and exploratory music since then. Here, music and art are priceless and drinks are cheap.
Where to Stay in Bairro Alto
Travel 20 years back in time, and no one would advise you to stay in Bairro Alto. Residents were old-timers and budget-friendly students who didn’t mind the noise at night and being close to the bars. But Lisbon is a city that constantly reinvents itself and there are now more accommodation options in Bairro Alto.
1. Raw Culture Bairro Alto
Long before hotels saw Bairro Alto as a business opportunity, tourists were going for short-term rentals in the area. However, most locals would prefer to have fewer people buzzing the wrong doorbell late at night. Therefore, places like the aparthotel Raw Culture are a great mix of the like a local experience, supporting the local community, and having all the commodities of a hotel.
2. The Independente Hostel & Suites
Can a hostel and a luxury hotel coexist under the same roof? Not only can they, but at The Independente they do. This hotel has a view of the most romantic viewpoint in Lisbon, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara and the only requirement is that all guests must be over 16 years old.
3. The Lumiares
The Lumiares blends luxury with a casual atmosphere in the heart of Bairro Alto in Lisbon. Breakfasts and evening cocktails are served on the rooftop, so you’re gifted with a spectacular view before and after a day out exploring the city.
Where to Eat in Bairro Alto
Eating out in Bairro Alto is usually an expensive decision. If you’re traveling on a budget, there are cheaper options around Largo de Camões which happens to be the long-time meeting point before heading out to the bars in Bairro Alto.
If you’re keen on the experience, top recommended restaurants in Bairro Alto include chef Ljubomir Stanisic’s 100 Maneiras, with a menu full of his signature dishes, and Café Luso, where they pair traditional Portuguese food with live fado music.
Top things to do in Bairro Alto
The top thing to do in Bairro Alto is, of course, bar hopping at night. But on a Sunday in Lisbon, visit the neighborhood during the day and you’ll see a completely different side. Not only will you find it less crowded—it’ll seem deserted since most of the building’s first floors are bars. However, you’ll still see a glimpse of typical neighborhood life.
But one thing most people don’t know is that Bairro Alto is the best spot in the city for alternative shops, the majority of them owned by small, local entrepreneurs. Here you can find anything from nuts and bolts at Casa Travanca Capucho, one of Lisbon’s historic stores, to several vintage clothes shops, to art supplies. Even if you’re just window shopping, taking a day to explore them is worth it.
Sandra Henriques is a freelance web content writer and travel blogger born in the Azores and based in Lisbon for 20+ years. Since 2014 she’s been blogging about travel, culture, and the people she meets in between at Tripper, a blog on sustainable cultural tourism.