Lisbon's Best Dance Clubs: The Sound of Nightlife in the City

Dance clubs in Lisbon provide the city with an eclectic choice of nightlife and a thumping soundtrack of assorted musical styles. Arguably the most celebrated dance club in the Portuguese capital is LuxFrágil, located near the river in Santa Apolónia. Set over three floors, the venue caters for hedonists and socialites and there’s a top-floor terrace to chill out on. Up in Bairro Alto is Incognito, a fixture on Lisbon’s club scene since the late 1980s. Titanic Sur Mer, located near Cais do Sodré, provides a fun night out on the waterfront and is always busy. At K Urban Beach on Lisbon’s dock front the DJs mix a mellow sound with electric pop and a dash of hip-hop. Radio-Hotel, located in the Alcântara neighbourhood, works as a nightclub, social club and live music venue. Back over at Cais do Sodré, Music Box works brilliantly as a live music venue and a respected dance club. B.Leza, also situated on the docks near Cais do Sodré, hosts live African and Brazilian music where you can move to some of the hottest rhythms in town. Back near Alcântara on the waterfront is an old favourite, Dock’s Club, celebrated for its “Ladies Night”. For something a little more edgy, try Europa. The music’s louder, more urgent and continues way past dawn. And Ministerium, on Praça do Comércio, occupies the former offices of a government ministry and is set under an 18th-century vaulted ceiling. 



So named because it occupies a space in a building formerly used by the Ministry of Finance, this dance club is also makes use of some pretty nifty 18th-century architecture, not least a beautiful vaulted ceiling that lends it a classical appearance. Clever use of lighting heightens Ministerium's historical design aspect. The music, though, is as modern as it gets, with a soundtrack of seriously cool techno-electronica spun by some of Portugal's savviest DJs. Respected international DJs also guest here. Throughout the day Ministerium wears a different hat, that of a chef with its Cantina restaurant. Serving lunches and dinners, the eatery's outlook over Praça do Comércio, Lisbon's largest square, ensures a steady clientele. It's only on Saturday nights, when the club doors open, that the all-night party kicks in.

Cais do Sodré/Santos

Edgy and retro, with an ever-so-slightly underworld feel to it, Europa doesn't stand much on ceremony. But this modest-sized music bar is big on drum n' bass and brilliant mixing â€" on most occasions two DJs work a pair of turntables, and the dub is stonking! Respected Portuguese DJs like Diogo Ribeiro have garnered a reputation here as uncompromising sound smiths; international guests include the USA's Troy Pierce. The Lisbon Sound Division has also appeared here. On The bar holds special Europa Sunrise parties, when clubbers arrive here at dawn from other venues to carry on dancing, which can last until 10am or even noon.

24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara

Sited in a former warehouse on the waterfront near Lisbon's Alcantara district, this is a favourite venue with the city's mainstream youth. The club frequently hosts whacky themed nights presided over by savvy DJs. The soundtrack is what you'd expect, a thumping house vibe designed to pack them on to the dance floor. The mix is laced with African rhythms as the club enjoys strong Angolan patronage. Live music is also performed here. A second tier allows for seating and is excellent people watching territory. A real plus is the chill out zone, a patio at the rear of the building furnished with plump sofas. Currently Dock's Club is open on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, with not much happening before midnight.

Avenida 24 De Julho

This top-notch African music club is the place to listen and dance to artists from Angola, Cape Verde and Mozambique and other countries on the African continent. The club also hosts singers and musicians from Brazil. Together they offer an irresistible combination of ethnic sound composed of drum, guitar and percussion, and it's impossible not to tap your toes. Better yet, learn the kizzomba, a sexy, gyrating dance that is the very embodiment of the African soul. Once you've mastered the basic steps you'll understand why this is one of the hottest rhythms on the planet.

Cais do Sodré/Santos

This highly regarded live music venue champions the alternative music scene and regularly hosts up-and-coming local bands as well as more established World Music acts and visiting DJs. True to form, the club tends not to advertise itself and the frontage set under a bridge in the city's Cais do Sodre district is totally bereft of signage or neon. Ask a local for directions, or check the numerous flyers pasted up on nearby walls. The range and style of music performed here is refreshingly diverse and includes drum 'n' bass, electronic soul and fado, indie rock, hip-hop, jazz, dance and reggae. Music Box also showcases new media events like pod casts and video. Occasionally, non-musical nights are arranged when poetry is read. Shows and concerts usually begin around 11pm. For DJs, don't expect anything before 1am.

24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara

A nightclub, social club and live music venue, Radio Hotel appeals across a wide age range and various musical tastes. Sited in Lisbon's Alcântara district almost under the city's eye-catching suspension bridge, the club's soundtrack is for the most part electronica, with gust DJs supplementing the sound with deep house, chill-out and jazz. The split-level dance floor meanders through a cocktail lounge and VIP area. Early evening is ideal to relax with friends over long drinks. Later, the place heaves and there's little choice other than to hit the scene running.

24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara

Draped over a Lisbon quayside like a reclining model, Urban Beach is the quintessential cool hangout, a sophisticated nightspot that is a regular backdrop for fashion parties and VIP celebrations. That said, Urban's friendly staff always welcomes casual clubbers seeking a mellow retreat in stylish surroundings. The lounge-bar overlooks the river and during the warmer months soft plump sofas are positioned on the patio to create an outdoor chill out zone. The dance floor is bathed in lilac and emerald mood lighting, with the occasional laser beam display slicing the air. The music errs towards electric pop, with a more urgent beat at weekends.

Cais do Sodré/Santos

This appealing waterfront bar regales clubbers with an eclectic choice of music, depending on what night you breeze in. For lovers of electronic, the bar works with a decent set list of local DJs who spin to please, but the thumping soundtrack never overwhelms conversation. On other nights live bands take to the stage, anything from jazzy combos to guitar-led Indie pop. Latin Samba and African rhythm also gets played out - expect some hot, crazy moves on these themed nights. Occasionally, homegrown Portuguese rap artists get up and say their thing and the local vibe is cool and funky.

Bairro Alto/Principe Real

A favourite on the Lisbon club scene for over 25 years, 1988 â€" no mean feat in the fickle world of music and fashion â€" Incógnito wears its indie badge with pride and delivers a seething mix of alternative rock and '80s synthpop to a seasoned club-set crowd. It makes full use of its shoebox dimensions by working on three levels. The dance floor is in the basement which is overlooked by a narrow mezzanine where the main bar is situated. Above that is a loft bar â€" the club's chill out zone. Despite its retro tag the bright young things that pile through the doors are a sophisticated and fashionable bunch, and very much part of today's scene â€" so much so, in fact, that weekend door policy can be a tad selective. Arrive earlier to avoid the queues.

Santa Apolonia

Still pulling the in crowds well after a decade, Lux remains one of Lisbon's premier nightspots. The door policy can be a bit choosy, and it's best to arrive looking sharp. Better still if you're arm-in-arm with a local. But it's worth dressing up for. The club is known for its funky and ever-changing interior decor. Lux occupies three floors of a dockside warehouse building built on concrete stilts. The ground floor mixes house with a mainstream vibe while the basement throbs to heavy techno. A favourite venue on the European DJ circuit, the club often hosts celebrity disc jockeys â€" Fat Boy Slim has played here! The club's top floor is its chill out zone and the outside terrace provides fresh air and a perfect view of the river and, if it's been an all-nighter, a beautiful sunrise.


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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