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Sounds Good! Listen in on Lisbon's Live Music Scene



Some of the most popular and diverse live music in Lisbon can be heard at the city’s annual music festivals, at NOS Alive in Algés, west of the city centre, and at Super Bock Super Rock (SBSR), which takes place at Parques das Nações. These two events occur during the summer and between them bring together some of the biggest acts in the industry. Lisbon is known for its thriving local band scene, and some of the most exciting gigs can be caught at Lounge, a pocket-sized bar near Cais do Sodré. Similarly, Primeiro Andar often hosts live music acts, usually acoustic or percussion-led sets. Complementing SBSR but a stand-alone venue in its own right, the huge MEO Arena at Parques das Nações is Lisbon’s premier concert venue, and where all the big international entertainment acts choose to perform when in town. Smaller but no less significant is the Coliseu dos Recreios, a historic playhouse sited in the city centre that dates from 1890. In keeping with the type of gig it hosts, Paradise Garage over in the Alcântara district attracts a less mainstream, predominantly indie crowd. In the middle of this is the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Chiado, an opera house where classical music concerts are appreciated in gilt-edged surroundings. The ubiquitous Hard Rock Café is always a good bet to catch a band; the Lisbon branch is in Avenida da Liberdade. And for jazz aficionados it has to be Hot Clube de Portugal, where both traditional and more contemporary styles mesmerize the faithful. 


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This celebrated club is justly famous as one of Europe's finest live jazz venues. The club is well over 60 years old and has hosted some of the biggest names in the business including Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. A fire destroyed the original building in 2009, and the new space is situated next door. Inevitably, the historical ambiance of the old club is missing, but the fresh and contemporary look of its replacement is attractive, and the expanded floor space allows for more legroom. The rear of the building features an outdoor terrace. Concerts begin at 10.30pm and audiences can expect some truly virtuoso performances.

Recommended for Live Music because: A live music reference point since 1908, Ritz Club exudes a cabaret atmosphere.

Paul's expert tip: The club holds monthly jam sessions when budding musicians can join the professionals on stage.

Read more about Hot Clube de Portugal →


A tuxedo jacket owned and worn by Jimi Hendrix, a custom made Versace suit made for and worn by Elton John and a Gretsch guitar used by Ike Turner number just some of the priceless rock memorabilia on show in Lisbon's Hard Rock Café. The entertainment alternates between live rock music and pop DJ sessions, with the majority of sets performed by local bands. There are guest appearances by overseas artists, but for the most part it's Portuguese musicians that take to the stage. Needless to say, the atmosphere is high energy, especially if there's a party in full swing upstairs in the restaurant. The fun really begins though when the bands begin to play, usually at 11.30pm. And if you haven't already arrived, you may have to queue to get in.

Read more about Hard Rock Café Lisbon →


Built in 1792-5, the splendid Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos is regarded as Lisbon's first Neo-Classical building and remains one of the city's finest landmarks. An opera house whose design acknowledges La Scala in Milan, this historic venue hosts a regular programme of classical music concerts that celebrate the great composers of the age – Verdi, Wagner, Chopin and Mozart to name just a few. The beautiful Rococo interior, set around a vast chandelier, sets a wholly appropriate scene for the opera season that lasts from September to June. Ballet, choral recitals, orchestral works and performances of Portugal's own fado music is also performed here.

Read more about Teatro Nacional de São Carlos →


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24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara
Paradise Garage
Photo courtesy of Paradise Garage

One of the most respected venues on Lisbon's live music circuit, Paradise Garage shares its name with the influential New York City discotheque that operated from 1976 to 1987. Much more than a concert venue, the Portuguese version stages conferences, festivals, presentations and workshops, catering to a mostly 20-something alternative crowd. But it's the music that defines this loud and vibrant space. The sounds revolve around garage, hard glam and indie rock, with a bit of punk blues thrown in for good measure. Local talent have found their voice on stage here, but line-ups also include overseas bands like Anathema and Kissin' Dynamite & Huntress, and mainstream groups providing a softer, more conventional soundtrack.

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Going to a show at this theatre is a real treat. This is one of Lisbon's oldest entertainment venues. The original playhouse dates from 1890 and hosted plays, opera and classical music concerts for an appreciative public. Enlarged over the years, modernisation has, thankfully, not overtly altered the beautiful interior and visiting the Coliseu is as much about appreciating late 19th-century architecture as it is catching a live music act or a dance performance. Classical concerts are still performed here, although opera tends to be staged at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in nearby Chiado. The programme errs towards highlighting home grown talent, but the Coliseu remains a favourite option for international artists seeking a historical and more intimate place to perform.

Recommended for Live Music because: An historic late 19th-century entertainment venue, Coliseu dos Recreios has been staging theatre and live music shows for over 100 years.

Paul's expert tip: The Coliseu is in the same road as an appealing choice of excellent seafood restaurants – handy for dinner beforehand or a post-show drink.

Read more about Coliseu dos Recreios →


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Parque das Nações
MEO Arena
Photo courtesy of cc-by-sa-2.0

Lisbon's (and Portugal's) largest indoor live music venue is also its most iconic. Designed by Regino Cruz, one of the country's most influential architects, and built for the Expo 98 World Exposition, the outer shell of this extraordinary and contemporary concert hall resembles a giant horseshoe crab in keeping with the oceans theme of the exposition. The venue has a capacity for over 4000 spectators and is well and truly placed on the international concert circuit: Prince, Madonna, Michael Bublé, Rihanna, Alicia Keys and a host of other world class acts have all played here. Furthermore, the arena is easily reached and situated within walking distance of several excellent hotels, a huge shopping mall and other visitor attractions.

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The "First Floor" works in fact on three levels – bar, restaurant and nightclub. Housed in the historic but rundown Ateneu Comercial de Lisboa, a grand old building dating from 1895, the venue is not readily advertised on the mainstream circuit. Instead this former commercial athenaeum attracts an arty, bohemian crowd, a young intellectual set that lends this somewhat tatty and dog-eared club a fascinating and highly creative character. An ad-hoc restaurant offers a basic but surprisingly well-prepared menu of Portuguese fare and a decent selection of drinks. Later, after the tables have been cleared, the room becomes a bar and by midnight is teeming with all sorts of interesting people. The layout affords floor space large enough to host live music events and patrons are often regaled with some truly talented acts.

Read more about Primeiro Andar →


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24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara

The vibe at this shoe box-sized venue on live music nights positively buzzes. Indeed, Lounge is an institution, a bar that eagerly promotes the indie scene and kicks mainstream out of the window. It gets crowded here: there's nothing intimate about a night out here! But the stuffy, smoke-filled living room with its bohemian atmosphere only accentuates the sense of occasion. Most of the bands hail out of Portugal but groups from as far away as Australia have played here, such is the reputation of this unpretentious back street den. Clubbers, too, are drawn here. Complementing the line-ups are some seriously clever DJs who get their own nights to stamp their mark on Lisbon's vibrant music scene.

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Parque das Nações

This annual music festival takes place at Parque das Nações, east of the city centre, and has previously attracted some of the biggest names in the industry, world-class acts like Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Coldplay and Prince. The event also provides a stage for world music, indie bands, electro pop and a great line-up of excellent homegrown talent, Portuguese acts like Dead Combo, The Legendary Tigerman and Rodrigo Leão. The music is played out over three days mid-July at purpose-built venues in the "Parque" and at the MEO arena. Keeping fans busy between sets are numerous bars, food stalls and entertainment stands.

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West of Center

Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Foo Fighters and Muse are among the top dollar musical acts to have played at this annual music festival, staged west of the city at Algés. Two stages host headliners and secondary acts while a third, a Clubbing Stage, features national and international DJ sets. There's also a Comedy Stage for mostly Portuguese stand-up acts, and a platform for up-and-coming local bands. A food court, commercial and merchandising areas plus plenty of bars ensure there's lots to do between gigs. The three-day extravaganza takes place towards the end of the first week of July and the venue is within a 15-minute train ride from Lisbon.

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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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