Coolest late night bars in Lisbon's Bairro Alto and Principe Real neighbourhoods

The Lisbon neighbourhoods of Bairro Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real are the city’s liveliest nightlife districts. The bars that line the cobblestone warren that is Bairro Alto are characterised by eclectic nightspots, places like the much cherished A Capela, known for its DJs and a cool, funky soundtrack. Another well-known neighbourhood favourite is Loucas & Sonhadores, another bar that welcomes a loyal clientele. Nearby Cine Bairro serves great gin cocktails and screens classic movies on the wall. And just up the street is legendary Portas Largas, a landmark venue where many long nights begin. Likewise, Clube da Esquina is another perennial favourite with residents and visitors alike. The popular and wonderfully named Alface Hall (alface means lettuce in English) is where jazz and blues in played out on most nights. Wine lovers on the other hand should head for The Old Pharmacy Wine Inn. As the name suggests, this is a wine bar fashioned out of an historic chemist. Meanwhile, Maria Caxuxa woos customers with funky decor artwork and seriously strong shots. Up in Príncipe Real meanwhile is one of the Portuguese capital’s most celebrated watering holes, Pavilhão Chinês. A bizarre collection of curios and knick-knacks line the walls of this extraordinary homage to classic kitsch. For a more refined night out head over to the sophisticated Cinco Lounge, the award-wining cocktails are mixed with skill and finesse – a marvelous place to wind down after dinner.  

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Master mixologist Dave Palethorpe runs this super cool cocktail lounge, tucked away in one of the city's quieter neighbourhoods. The Englishman's whacky imagination and mischievous sense of humour has produced an astonishing menu of drinks, concoctions like "Black Pepper and Basil" " ripped basil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a touch of black peppers lengthened with Tanqueray gin and a slash of soda sprayed with citrus zests. He can also whip up a "Hugo-A-Go-Go", a combination of Pampero rum, Liquor 43, lime and lemon juice and fresh ginger dry shaken and showered with a lemon zest. Still not convinced? Then ask for a sublime "Apple and Eve". This is his version of the Appletini " Granny Smiths muddles with Bison Grass vodka balanced with apple infused sugar. In all there are 55 different cocktails to choose from complemented by a range of spirits, wines and champagnes. But if you really want something different, order "Breakfast at Trevor's". This is a novel way to make a shot and features Mozart dark chocolate, Baileys and Grand Marnier. Unbelievable!

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


This is one of the most unusual bars in the city. With an interior decorated with an astonishing variety of collectibles, curious and bric-a-brac, the "Chinese pavilion" resembles a museum, a fact that makes a night here totally unique and wonderfully absorbing. The pub's warren of rooms and salons are lined with floor-to-ceiling glass display cabinets neatly crammed with antique toys, ceramic Toby jugs, Flamenco fans, all manner of mantle clocks, china bulls and artists' palettes. The overall theme, however, is military. Hanging in formation above the bar are model biplanes, jets and WWII bombers. Rows of miniature battleships line shelves above officers' caps and sheathed daggers pinned to the walls. And guarding all this are thousands of carefully painted lead soldiers " infantry and cavalry " all standing to attention. There's a pool hall located at the rear of the premises, but players often find themselves in a bemused state of distraction such is the allure of the contents in this fascinating watering hole.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Come here twice in the same month and the decor's likely to have changed. One night giant film posters might be pasted across the room publicising Hollywood B movies with a femme fatale theme, pulp popcorn classics like 'Girls on the Loose' and 'Attack of the 50ft Woman', the next week, kid's cartoon characters or Lisbon monuments. It's that kinda place. This is one of Bairro Alto's most celebrated watering holes. Besides the whacky decoration another lure is the soundtrack, anything from fado to disco. The bar is known for its head-spinning selection of spirits, and the shots here are legendary. But it's also a place to recline on comfy sofas in good company " the music is never loud enough to drown out conversation.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


The premises of this wine bar used to house a pharmacy, and the former dispensary has been converted into one of the city's most eye-catching and alluring nightspots. The original glass cabinets have been left in place and now display bottles of wine from across Portugal In fact, there are over 200 different wines to choose from including celebrated labels such as Passadouro Reserva from the Douro, in northern Portugal. Wine can be ordered by the bottle or glass and the menu also lists a range of petiscos, snacks that includes hams, cheeses and other snacks. The new proprietors made sure the bar exuded the elegant look of the pharmacy in its heyday so refurbished the interior to maintain the vintage decor. But don't worry when you see the lights change colour. You're not drunk! Instead, the cabinets have been fitted with a fade in-fade out lighting system of green, amber and red.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Hugely popular with budget travellers staying at the neighbouring hostel, this informal jazz-rock bar buzzes with bonhomie and a jolly good vibe. Local musicians queue up to play here and the venue attracts a loyal clientele: the hostel provides an international audience. Shabby chic in appearance, this bar is nevertheless one of the liveliest in the neighbourhood! Early evening is the best time to turn up if you're after a quiet drink before dinner. The place is decked out with armchairs, sofas and plump beanbags and perfect to chill out in over an aperitif. After hours, however, it's often standing room only but no worries; you can still hear the music.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Sited on one of the bairro's busiest junctions, the one-room "club" lures a slightly less frivolous crowd who appreciate the pub atmosphere and a chill-out soundtrack that's never louder than the conversation. This bar has been pulling them in for years and is a regular haunt for locals, especially at weekends. Word of mouth and a busy social media network has also lured out-of-towners and young clubbers who like to commence a night out by sinking a few here in relative calm (and may even be lucky enough to bag a prized chair at one of the tables) before the midnight crowd turn up. After that, it's standing room only.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Everybody knows Portas Largas " the "Large Doors". This is one of Bairro Alto's most celebrated bars, a magnet for a predominantly young, gay-friendly crowd from all over the world. Its origins as a fado house are still apparent, with an azulejo (tile) panel depicting a singer and musician decorating one end of the bar. Battered old furniture and a slightly scruffy ambiance only add to the building's wonderfully ad hoc appeal. This place positively heaves during the summer months and ordering one of the famous caipirinha or mojito cocktails over the counter can be challenge. Once served, it's best to escape the sweaty interior and join the throng outside on Rua da Atalaia. The vibe is overwhelmingly friendly and laid back, more so at night when there's usually an African or Brazilian combo providing a live, hip-swaying soundtrack.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Now here's a bar with a difference. While sipping one of their superb cocktails, most likely mixed with one the many different gins available, pub-goers can watch a movie screened against a wall at the far end of the salon. It's a totally ad-hoc selection, a 1930's Hollywood classic perhaps, a French film noir or a homegrown Portuguese production. When the cameras aren't rolling this small intimate nightspot plays a great chill-out soundtrack, but the music is never too loud or intrusive because this is a place to chat with locals or meet like-minded travellers. During the summer months Cine Bairro can get pretty busy and the action often spills out on to the sidewalk. Winter however sees film buffs throng the bar. This is when the majority of movies are shown. Whatever time of year you visit, this lively venue is a Bairro Alto favourite known for its great drinks and friendly service.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


A quirky boho vibe permeates this long established drinking den. Decorated throughout with jumble sale kitsch, all mismatched furniture, flea-market décor and the odd antique, the bar welcomes an eclectic crowd seeking respite from one of Bairro Alto's busiest streets. Loucas & Sonhadores is deceptively spacious. The bar area leads through to a second salon where food is served in eccentric and sociable living room surroundings. The venue's name translates as 'Fools and Dreamers', a nod perhaps to the type of clientele that frequents the bar - artists, writers, musicians, and lots of wannabe students. For anyone else, this is a novel place to chill out in great company, especially if you like good old table wine: it's just €1 a glass!

Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Translated to English, capela means "chapel" and indeed, this bar occupies a site that was once a place of worship. Today it's still drawing the faithful after a 1998 conversion to a late night music venue. Manager Pedro Silva hangs out with some of Portugal's top DJs who provide Capela with its cool clubby vibe (by the way, they spin vinyl). The funky electronica is never too loud as to drown out conversation, which makes Capela a great choice for catching up with friends mid-evening over inexpensive drinks. The baristas mix a pretty good cocktail, and there's a good gin selection.


Meet Paul Bernhardt

Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul