In this article, I hope to convince you that Lisbon nightlife is the best in all of Europe. Forget Berlin (too druggy), London (too expensive), Paris (too dangerous), Oslo (too cold), or Rome (too many dudes). Only Lisbon offers the perfect balance between hedonism, tourism and friendly-wallet-ism. Let’s go.
1. It’s cheap, like crazy cheap
To put things into perspective, a cheap night out in London is basically equal to an expensive night out in Lisbon. For many tourists, the prices will seem incredibly low. €1 beers, €6 mixers, €7 cocktails and €70 bottles compared to £5 beers, £12 mixers, £15 cocktails, and £150 bottles. You can’t argue there.
But there’s another thing. The Portuguese, regardless of how much money they have, just don’t like to spend it. They simply aren’t into VIP tables and bottle service, preferring instead to be among the people, deep inside the crowd, enjoying the party. For many, spending as little as possible also means that they can go out as often as possible.
So really it doesn’t matter how new, fancy or happening the place is. You won’t convince your Portuguese friends to go there with you (unless you’re paying). Your Portuguese friends will always prefer to drink the cheapest booze available while standing outside on some road because that’s just what we do.
2. Behold the quirky bar
That said, bars know that if they want to get the Portuguese inside, they need to make it pretty special! A great example is the Pavilhao Chines, an old bar full of world war era memorabilia. Hundreds of toy soldiers and random collectables make this one hell of a place to get drunk in. The waiters are old school, formally dressed, while the clientele is a strange yet interesting mix. There’s also a pool table if you got the hustle.
For years, Bairro Alto was the favoured drinking neighbourhood, until it was overtaken by Cais do Sodre. Here, you’ll find another quirky classic, Pensao Amor,which used to be a love hotel. It is situated above the former red light district, which has since been made over into the popular Rua Cor-de-Rosa or Pink Street (official name is Rua Nova do Carvalho). Although you can no longer rent their rooms by the hour, they’ve kept the sexy theme in the decor, burlesque shows, and even has an erotic bookstore.
3. Incredible rooftop views
The hilly nature of Lisbon means that you can find incredible views from almost anywhere in the city. There are many great hotel rooftop bars, such as are Epic Sana, Tivoli Hotel, Hotel Mundial, Hotel Chiado, and Hotel Bairro Alto. As well as other rooftops, such as PARK at the top of a seven-story carpark.
Another special place to enjoy the views is from the natural ‘balconies’ of Lisbon called miradouros. My favourite is the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, while another popular one is the Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
Now I know I said the Portuguese don’t do fancy, but there are always exceptions to every rule. If you decide to break away from the pack and have some money you want to get rid of, try Silk or Sud Lisboa. If this is you, you’ll already know who, and how, to get in.
4. The nightclub
It can be a real pain deciding which nightclub to go to and making sure you’re on the guest list. Personally, I hate planning nights out in advance like that. It should be spontaneous! Here’s the good news, you won’t have that problem in Lisbon because there is only one club you need to know about: LUX Fragil.
It’s the best club for so many reasons that I decided to list them.
- Beautiful three-story superclub with a basement dancefloor, elegant first-floor bar with wrap around balcony and rooftop terrace
- The best DJs, the best sound system, the best lighting
- Ham and cheese toasties, in case you’re hungry or a friend needs something solid
- The allusive stuffed giraffe. There’s an actual stuffed giraffe neck and head inside the club, but for some reason, so many people have never seen it
- It used to be part-owned by John Malkovich, or still is, who knows
- It’s a well-oiled machine that’s been churning out epic nights for years
- No guest-list, no queue-jump, no dress-code. Just one queue, one standard, affordable price for everyone, and in you go
- When you’re done, there are always taxis waiting outside to take you home, happy face
Like any club, there are some important do’s and don’t you should know about for getting in…
- If they tell you it’s €200+ to get in, that’s their way of saying, not tonight, buddy. Chances are, either your group is too big, you’re too many dudes, you’re already too f***ed, and/or you’re dressed like a douche. It happens. Don’t pay it, just go somewhere else. Lisbon has plenty of other clubs, just not as awesome, tough luck.
- While there is no formal dress code, they prefer casual dress (but no flipflops). Someone I know once got in wearing jeans and trainers covered in mud coming straight from a festival (you know who you are). Although it’s a beautiful, classy club, they reject more girls in heels and bodycons than they do jeans and trainers. Same goes for men. Suits and shirts are something of a no-no.
- Lastly, never negotiate on the door. Don’t try to jump the queue (you’ll get sent straight to the back) and don’t try to arrange to buy a bottle or anything you think will give you any kind of preferential treatment. When it comes to the door, it’s non-negotiable. Simply queue up, say hello (preferably in Portuguese) and pay your €12 ticket. Only once you are inside should you make any arrangements for a table or bottles. This is handled on the spot, no need for advance reservations or anything.
5. Long nights, late mornings
The Portuguese are definitely night owls, so don’t feel bad about sleeping in. It’s worth knowing that the Portuguese like to sleep in late, often going for lunch around 2-4pm. They usually sit down for dinner around 9-10 pm and head out for drinks from 11-12. Bars close around 2am when it’s time to hit the club. So don’t expect to be home much before 6-7am.
Other than that, Lisbon has great weather, the cheapest Uber, almost no mosquitos and you won’t go to jail for smoking a doobie. It’s not Amsterdam, but it’s not criminal.
This article was written by Lara Olivia and originally appeared on MissPortmanteau.com. Follow her adventures on Instagram. Club Elsewhere publishes travel and lifestyle design guides. Work with us here.
Lara Olivia is a Norwegian and Portuguese writer sharing all she knows about the good life on her blog, MissPortmanteau.com. Follow her @miss.portmanteau on Instagram.