There is no doubt that Bairro Alto is the party neighborhood in Lisbon. And, if you’re visiting the city, it’s one of the “must-go” places. However, it is also the nightlife equivalent of a cesspool. But, there are always good bars even in the shadiest of neighborhoods — here are our top picks for Bairro Alto.
ZDB (Galeria Zé dos Bois)
Address: R. da Barroca 59, 1200-049 Lisboa
This is like a little pocket of decency in an orgy of cheap beer and flashing headbands. Escape the streets, and look down upon those still sprawled along them. No, literally. ZDB has a really nice little roof garden where you can avoid the chaos of the ground and enjoy a cheap beer or wine with your friends. Also, their club is one of the few “alternative” places in the neighborhood, with a great crowd and excellent tunes. Additionally, this place often has art installations in addition to the live music and performances on their middle floor. In fact, whatever you’re looking for, they probably cater to it.
TLDR: rooftop, art, music, alternative club, squalor-avoidance
Associação Loucos e Sonhadores (Madmen and Dreamers Association)
Address: R. da Rosa 261, 1200-385 Lisboa
Imagine going to the house of a late-victorian hoarder who has traveled the world. Now, imagine that in amongst their piles of knick-knacks and tidbits there are scattered bodies. Not in a creepy Amityville Horror kind of way, but rather just cool folk mooching about, as interesting as the items that surround them. That description will make far more sense once you go here, trust us.
With a good drinks menu and an awesome indoor/outdoor area at the back, this place is popular. Expect crowds if you go at peak times. But good crowds. Friendly crowds.
TLDR: Weird objects, weirder people, cool indoor-outdoor room. Also, popcorn.
Address: R. do Diário de Notícias 85, 1200-073 Lisboa
Feeling a little fancy? If you’re in Bairro Alto, then probably not. But, that can change! Get off the streets and into the soothing embrace of live jazz. Grab a whiskey or aguardente (or an imperial, we don’t need to get that fancy now) and sit back in style as the often very talented band strikes up. You may also notice that this is one of the few places with bar stools, so you can really get in that American feeling. But no chanting, please.
Also, just near here is a NY style pizza-by-the-slice joint. Hell, close your eyes and you could be in Harlem…
TLDR: Jazz, bar stools, nice drinks, more jazz
Address: R. da Atalaia 3, 1200 106 Lisboa
This place has vegetables on the ceiling and a giant bug on the wall. I mean, if that doesn’t intrigue you then this list probably isn’t for you. Despite their rather showy instant glass cooler, they actually serve some pretty decent drinks. One hot tip: don’t get the Old Fashioned. But the rest of their menu is very good. This place is busy but never really packed, which makes for a nice escape from the otherwise crowded bars in Bairro Alto. This may be due the fact that it is on the edge of the neighborhood and people aren’t willing to make the (impossibly short) walk over there. Don’t be like everyone else, go the distance!
TLDR: Cabbage, fancy glass cooler, cocktails, hiking
Address: R. da Rosa 244, 1200-119 Lisboa
And for some extraordinary food that’s somehow still in Bairro Alto (ok, technically in Príncipe Real, but it’s close enough to the bars), try Bonsai, the first sushi restaurant in Lisbon and one of the first Japanese ones, and still, having tried dozens, our favorite. It’s not all you can eat, but yes, you can get a sashimi platter. However, we’d recommend going with the chef’s suggestions and let the kind, mostly Brazilian staff take care of you and make you feel like you’re far, far away from the pee and vomit of Bairro Alto.
TLDR: Sushi, sashimi, chef’s choice, not really Bairro Alto at all
Address: R. da Atalaia 77, 1200-038 Lisboa
The best Thai food in the city hands down. It may be small, but just like their papaya salad, it packs a powerful punch. And the staff, like most of the Thai we have met, are polite to a fault. The tom yum and pad thai have us constantly craving a return visit. Don’t miss the Thai iced coffee to finish off your meal. Theirs is particularly well blended. And if you’re looking for beers, Thailand’s Singha beers are wonderfully refreshing, but these guys will gladly make you an (affordable) cocktail too.
Address: R. do Gremio Lusitano 8, 1200-212 Lisboa
Yes. There are seven. What, did you think Bairro Alto was overrun with cool places?
If you’ve found another, feel free to let us know and we’ll battle our way through the crowds and check it out.