Lisbon’s Bairro Alto area is, in some ways, reminiscent of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde; by day, it is a quiet, shady oasis of pastel-fronted houses with delicate iron balconies and dangling flowers. But, by night, the Bairro Alto leaps into action, its seemingly-abandoned houses morphing suddenly into tiny bars and clubs, with people seeping out onto the streets in search of food and cocktails. It is this warren of alleyways, with its woven, colourful streamers and nocturnal chatter, which gives Lisbon its party-loving reputation.
With so much on offer, and an endless array of places to visit, the Bairro Alto can be overwhelming at times. This guide will help you plan your next visit, from sunrise to sundown, giving you a taste for Portuguese culture and cuisine.
Padaria de São Roque
Rua Dom Pedro V 57, 1250-092 Lisboa
If you’ve come to Lisbon in search of good pastry, beautiful tiles, and traditional coffee, then this pint-sized corner café will be a dream come true. The Padaria de São Roque sits at the top of the Bairro Alto, and is glorious in its high-ceilinged splendour. With marble pillars and detailed artwork, you would never expect the food and drink from this café to be so modest. Order a glass of homemade white wine for only €1,30, or a ‘bica’ (espresso) for €0,60.
Travessa dos Fiéis de Deus 59, 1200-043 Lisboa
As the name suggests, this modern little café has one main selling point: its enormous croissants. Choose from a variety of fillings, both sweet and savoury, and settle yourself into one of its window seats. Its funky, repurposed furniture and friendly staff will have you coming back for their evening happy hour, too.
Pastelaria da Rua da Rosa
Rua da Rosa 190, 1200-348 Lisboa
Anyone craving one of the city’s infamous Pasteis de Nata should make sure to stop off at this traditional pastelaria in Rua da Rosa. Its glass cabinet is teeming with pastries of all shapes and sizes, and stretches from the doorway right through to the back of the café. If you’re looking to rest your legs awhile, then accompany your Pastel de Nata with a coffee and pull up a stool at one of their marble benches; if you’re too busy exploring, then grab one to go instead.
Pop Cereal Café
Rua do Norte 64, 1200-365 Lisboa
Made famous by its London counterpart, this unique café makes for an interesting mid-morning snack. Cereal lovers around the world come to visit Lisbon’s Pop Cereal Café and dip back into their childhoods with its fun, eccentric décor. Where else could you munch on a bowl of cereal with your legs dangling from a bunk bed, as you watch streams of tourists wander past the window?! If cereal doesn’t excite you, then try one of their freak shakes, loaded and topped with as much whipped cream as possible.
Travessa Inglesinhos nº 49, 1200-109 Lisboa
For a laid-back evening of live music and delicious tapas, Jam Club is the ideal place to spend your evening. Music lovers will be taken in by their black-and-white tributes to some of jazz’ greatest faces, while the low-level lighting and cosy seating make the perfect setting for a relaxed night. Try one of their homemade burgers as you sip at your draft sangria (that’s right: DRAFT SANGRIA).
Rua Luz Soriano 36, 1200-247 Lisboa
A popular hangout, the funky colours and inventive shot menu at O 36 makes it stand out from other bars in the neighbourhood. If it gets a little too cosy inside, then do like a Lisbon local and take your drink into the street. This bar is a great spot to get chatting to new people and listen to good hip-hop, and is open until 3am at weekends.
Rua da Atalaia 29, 1200-036 Lisboa
By day, you would walk straight past Camone Bar, with its shuttered-over windows and lack of signage. But by night, this is one of the busiest and most well-loved bars in the street, and is as famous for its large football screens as it is for its uber-strong mojitos. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat, then this corner bar is a great place to start an evening of dancing and bar-hopping. If not then, as usual, grab your cocktail to-go!
Rua da Barroca 3, 1200-047 Lisboa
With its stone-clad walls and endless shelves of wine, Bairru’s Bodega is one of the more relaxed options for an evening in the Bairro Alto. One of the only bars in the area with an outdoor seating option, it is easy to while away a summer evening here, if you’re looking for a good glass of wine and a chance to catch up with friends.
M&M Bar and Restaurant
Rua da Rosa 136-138, 1200-043 Lisboa
Another of the Bairro Alto’s typically tiny haunts, this modest, understated restaurant has space for only 5 or 6 tables. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in delicious seafood petiscos. Its lengthy wine list and cosy atmosphere make this the perfect place to share some traditional Portuguese food.
1 de Maio
Rua da Atalaia 8, 1200-086 Lisboa
If you’re looking for a truly local experience, then look no further than 1 de Maio: a tiny, subterranean restaurant at the foot of the Bairro Alto. It has traditional, tiled walls, a large dessert cabinet, and the friendliest set of waiters you’ll ever have met. With a penchant also for creating delicacies for you off-the-menu, you’re sure to have a unique experience here. Try their calamari, or – if you’re feeling brave – try their prawn açorda: a typical Portuguese dish, made with shrimp and mushy bread…
A Nossa Casa
Rua da Atalaia 31, 1200-037 Lisboa
A modern twist on traditional cuisine, A Nossa Casa is a glittering gem amongst the dark streets of the Bairro Alto. But don’t expect to get a table without a reservation: this is one of the most popular restaurants in the area, and for good reason! Its Brazilian-Portuguese fusion menu, including the likes of their pork cheek tacos and ‘Tiborna’ octopus, will have you ordering more and more. Grab a bottle of wine and settle in for an evening of delicious food, surrounded by cosy-yet-modern décor.
Rua do Diário de Notícias 31, 1200-141 Lisboa
The first thing that will strike you upon entering this miniature restaurant are the walls: whitewashed, but covered in writing from customers all over the world. Forget TripAdvisor – if you want a real review, then take some time to read the glowing recommendations and wonderful comments scribbled across this warm, homely restaurant. With a mixture of petiscos and larger dishes, there is something for everyone on the menu. But, be warned: the padron peppers are hotter than you’d expect.
Don’t leave without asking for a marker pen and signing your name on the wall – or the ceiling!
Rua das Gáveas 21 a 33, 1200-206 Lisboa
Another popular favourite, located on one of the area’s busiest streets, is Stasha. Much bigger than its other Bairro Alto counterparts, you can often find people waiting outside for a table in this rustic restaurant – make sure to book beforehand! Its exposed brick walls and shelves of wine really set the mood for a relaxing evening. If you’re a fan of seafood, then order their wonderful octopus.