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Star Bars: Lisbon's favourite pubs and nighttime entertainment hangouts.



Nightlife in Lisbon extends to a host of excellent bars that help make the Portuguese capital one of the great party cities of Europe. Bookworms and drinkers can combine their passion at Menina e Moça in Cais do Sodré, one of Lisbon’s most unusual bars. Meanwhile, sports fans can kick of their evening at The Couch Coach Sports Bar, the city's only nightlife venue dedicated to screening national and international sporting events. Few late night venues can offer you a shave or a beard trim while drinking a G&T but that's exactly what they advertise at quirky O Purista Barbière. After dark the barbers give way to DJs, and the evening proper kicks in. Up in Graça district is Damas, a hip little joint where you can eat, drink and then boogie the night away.

In Bairro Alto, live music entertainment also enriches Alface Hall, where customers can listen to jazz and blues over beers and long drinks. Up the road is Pensão Amor, replete in crimson velvet and a naughty but nice theme. Not far away are three of the bairro’s most celebrated nightspots: Clube da Esquina where the DJ’s mellow soundtrack never drowns out the conversation; Maria Caxuxa with its ever-changing themed decor and cute bar staff; and Portas Largas with its live Brazilian music and famous caipirinha cocktails. And back down in Cais do Sodré the quirky Sol e Pesca, a former fishing tackle shop, remains one of the city’s coolest bar addresses. 

 

 


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10
Bairro Alto/Principe Real


Everybody knows Portas Largas â€" 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.

Recommended for Bars because: Their caipirnha cocktails are so large you need both hands to lift them off the bar.

Paul's expert tip: Arrive around 8pm on weekends for a spot of peace and quiet because by midnight the place is heaving.

Read more about Portas Largas →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos

Anglers used to frequent this place when it sold fishing tackle and equipment. So how did a fishermen's hardware store turn itself into one of Lisbon's hippest bar-cafes. Owner Henrique Vaz Pato saw an opportunity to refurbish a long-abandoned commercial premises into a trendy nightspot, one that was right in the heart of Cais do Sodre clubbing district, and opened Sol e Pesca â€" "Sun and Fishing". Proud of the port area's seafaring tradition, he kept the shop's decor much as it was, and the fishing rods, lines, hooks and weights are still on display. Sol e Pesca also offers a tasty snack menu of tuna, sardine and other assorted seafood (great with wine or an ice-cold beer) and one side of the bar displays an array of these tinned delicacies, which are sold in colourful retro wrapping â€" American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain raved about them and featured the bar in his TV series. At night this place lures a young, vibrant crowd and on Saturday nights it really is filled to the gills.

Read more about Sol e Pesca →


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Bairro Alto/Principe Real


The giant film posters pasted across the walls of this lively and popular bar illustrate the owners' penchant for Hollywood B movies with a femme fatale theme, pulp popcorn classics like 'Girls on the Loose' and 'Attack of the 50ft Woman'. But the interior decor can change on the whim of the owner! This is one of Bairro Alto's most celebrated watering holes. Besides the poster art, the theme of which can change on a whim, 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 â€" the music is never loud enough to drown out conversation.

Recommended for Bars because: Highly decorative interior featuring all sorts of themes that change on a regular basis means there's always a different ambiance to enjoy.

Paul's expert tip: Pop in on a Friday or Saturday. The weekends are always busy, even in winter, and is often when the best music is played. Mind you, the decor might have changed... again!

Read more about Maria Caxuxa →


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Bairro Alto/Principe Real


A favourite Bairro Alto hangout, this friendly and inexpensive bar is known for its cocktails â€" caipirinhas, mojitos and their famous morangoska, among many other concoctions. The crowd is mixed, mellow and totally laid back, chilled no doubt by the jazzy-funk soundtrack spun by resident and guest DJs most evenings. During the summer, and especially at weekends, this place is heaving and the soiree tends to spill out onto the street. But no problem, the same thing happens to neighbouring bars and before you know it you're part of one big street party.

Recommended for Bars because: Part of the neighbourhood furniture, this bar has managed to successfully weather fashion, recession and fickle music tastes for years.

Paul's expert tip: This is a great place to meet up. Arrive a little earlier, say 8pm, and it's pleasantly un-crowded and perfect for a pre-dinner aperitif.

Read more about Clube da Esquina →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos

An established venue on Lisbon's nightlife circuit, Pensao Amor is located in an old boarding house near Cais do Sodre; (the name translates as "Love House"). It's aptly themed around an upscale, 19th-century burlesque club, complete with crimson velvet furnishings and walls lined with gilt-framed mirrors and dozens of antique prints and lithographs depicting ladies in risque poses. The decadent mood is further set by careful attention to period detail right down to the faux trompe l'oeil ceiling and pub-style piano. The bar serves a great selection of beers, wine, spirits and cocktails and guests are further entertained by regular live music performances, burlesque shows, and clean and tasteful pole dancing exhibitions in an adjoining salon. The upper floors are occupied by a number of independent retailers, many specialising in alternative fashion and handcrafted jewellery.

Read more about Pensão Amor →


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Bairro Alto/Principe Real


One of the city's cosiest jazz bars and cafes, the wonderfully named Alface Hall (in English alface means "lettuce") is part of the Alface Hostel, an inexpensive place to stay set right in the heart of Bairro Alto. The bar resembles an old uncle's front room, full of comfy sofas, beanbags and decorated with a collection of antiques and curios. Staff are friendly and service orientated and really do look as if they enjoy their work. The atmosphere here is super casual and mellow and the idea is to sink into an armchair, order a long drink and enjoy the live music, which strikes up around 9pm. Depending on the night, the crowd can be loud and raucous, or quiet and appreciate. Either way, the evening will be a memorable one.

Recommended for Bars because: This is where to chill for the early part of the evening before listening to some of the city's best live acts.

Paul's expert tip: For blues, drop by on Mon, Tue and Wed. Jazz lovers will be rewarded on Fri, Sat and Sun.

Read more about Alface Hall →


A popular and informal restaurant, this late-night hang out is also a funky bar and live music-DJ venue. Concerts are regularly staged in a salon next door to the bar, mainly at weekends but also on other days. Otherwise, Damas welcomes the casual night owl and bar fly. In fact, the place resembles a sparsely decorated front room, its walls festooned with posters announcing up-and-coming gigs and other cultural get-togethers. The vibe is bohemian and alternative – this is a favourite haunt of students and those with a grudge against the mainstream. The music is eclectic and experimental and gigs are often free to enter. Some great international bands and DJs complement invited Portuguese artists, and the place is often heaving on Saturday nights.

Read more about Damas →


By day an old-fashioned styled barber's shop replete with antique barber's chairs and gilt-framed mirrors, by night, one of the most interesting and surprising bars in Lisbon. Dual-purpose Purista attracts with its mismatched second-hand furniture and whacky décor – check out the beer bottle wall and hanging light bulb installation. The original stone arch ceiling is still visible, reminding everyone of the building's historical provenance. Drinks choice includes German and Belgium beers, brews like Affligem Blond, and Portuguese Bohemia. They also do some fine gin cocktails, and there's a useful wine selection. Providing an achingly cool soundtrack on weekends are guest DJs. The rear salon, meanwhile, features a pool table, which is free to use.

Read more about O Purista Barbiére →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos


The Couch Coach Sports Bar is currently the only venue in Lisbon dedicated to screening sport. Boasting 33 TVs and two huge LED video walls, the state-of-the-art screens between them offer 3,000 international channels that show football, rugby, boxing, cricket, athletics, Formula 1, MotoGP, and a host of other world sporting events and tournaments. You can tune into American football, baseball, and basketball. Minority sports as diverse as darts, skiing, surfing, and equestrian contests are also screened. This year's Winter Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, played out over the summer, are two hugely anticipated sporting competitions that will be showcased in their colourful and exciting entirety. Besides non-stop action, the 100-seat bar offers sports fans a menu of Portuguese and international cuisine, delicious comfort food that includes hearty burgers, spicy BBQ ribs, generous helpings of egg and chips, plus mouth-watering tapas-style snacks—perfect half-time belly fillers. Drinks range from national and international beers and lagers to wines and spirits. Bar staff can also mix a variety of inventive and original cocktails. An additional feature of The Couch is Grant's Room, a standalone salon ideal for groups, private parties, and corporate get-togethers. Guests here enjoy plush seating, a giant LED wall and four, smaller LED TVs.

Recommended for Bars because: The first dedicated sports bar in Lisbon, The Couch Coach Sports Bar is where sports fans can "coach" their favourite teams from the couch.

Paul's expert tip: Call ahead to book the Grant's Room. It's reserved on a first come first served basis.

Read more about The Couch Coach Sports bar →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos

A bookshop and bar under the same roof, this is one of Lisbon's more unusual drinking holes. Anyone can drop by, but those with an interest in literature will be pleasantly surprised by the array of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and picture books lining the shelves, all of which is for sale. Portuguese and English-language books prevail, but literature in other languages is also available. Meanwhile, the bar serves up a thirst-quenching selection of drinks — beers, wines, cocktails, and spirits — plus hot drinks. In addition, snacks and cheeseboards grace the menu. Live music is performed every Tuesday, from 8-10pm, while on Sunday anybody with musical talent can join a jam session, which starts at 8pm.

Read more about Menina e Moça →


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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

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