Lisbon by Night: a handy guidebook for exploring the city's nightlife
When night falls over Lisbon, the streets of its most popular neighborhoods are filled with people looking for fun and its viewpoints and monuments show a different side helped by its beautiful lighting.
When you are researching what to see and do in Lisbon there is one aspect you should not neglect: the Lisbon nightlife. The Portuguese capital has always boasted a bohemian and crowded nightlife, especially in areas such as Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto.
In addition to nightlife, Lisbon also has other attractions once the sun goes down. The illumination of its streetlights gives it a particular beauty and strolling through its streets becomes one of the best activities you can do. In addition, several of its spectacular viewpoints offer at that time simply unbeatable views.
1. Do not miss the sunset from the Castle of San Jorge
Although it is almost certain that you have reached the Castle of St. George with an organized tour of Lisbon or on your own, if you have the opportunity I advise you to enter at a later time to admire the views from its viewpoint when the sun is setting.
Originally, it was the Romans who built this castle, but later it was completely rebuilt by the Visigoths and Arabs. Its position, on top of a hill, means that its silhouette can be seen from almost the entire historic center. And from the castle you can see much of the city and the estuary of the Tagus River, a view that becomes more magical when night falls.
- How to get there: the fastest way is to use the castle elevator that leaves from the Baixa de Lisboa. Another way, besides walking, is to take streetcar 28 to the Miradouro de Santa Lucia stop and, from there, walk to the castle.
- Hours: in winter from 9:00 to 18:00 and in spring and summer closes at 21:00.
- Tickets: adults must pay around 10 € and for children it is free.
2. Listen to fado while you dine
If you are going to spend more than one day in Lisbon you can't miss a Fado show, the most typical musical genre of the country. Even if you know nothing about this type of music, I assure you that you will enjoy the evening.
Fado has been recognized by Unesco as Intangible Heritage of Humanity and is a true symbol of Portuguese popular culture born in the most humble neighborhoods. This origin is reflected in the theme of the songs, generally marked by nostalgia and a certain sense of frustration.
As I explain in my article on the best places to dine while listening to a fado, the Alfama neighborhood is home to a large number of restaurants where you can enjoy a good meal while the singers perform various songs.
3. Walk through the old Alfama district
If a visit to see the Alfama district is always interesting, when the sun begins to fade the tour can be even more interesting. In recent years, the whole area has been revitalized and today it is full of atmosphere and many places to eat something.
With the lights on, the streets of the neighborhood regain some of its old atmosphere almost, to call it somehow, rogue. Walking through its steep and narrow streets you can reach some spectacular viewpoints where you can have a good time:
- Mirador de Santa Lucia: it maintains a typical Lisbon look, with a mixture of romanticism and a certain decadent air.
- Mirador de Gracia: located near the castle of St. George, this viewpoint has become a favorite of Lisbon's youth when night begins to fall.
- Portas do Sol viewpoint: much visited by tourists, this viewpoint has not lost the essence of the Alfama neighborhood. The panoramic view is simply breathtaking, with the church of Sao Vicente de Fora escorted by pastel-colored houses and the Tagus in the background.
4. Join the strollers at Praça do Comércio
The Commerce Square is one of the nerve centers of the Portuguese capital and from it depart some interesting tours in tourist buses. At night, in addition to the atmosphere, it is essential to walk around it and approach the banks of the Tagus to contemplate the illuminated Arco da Rua Augusta and, in the distance, the silhouette of the 25 de Abril bridge.
In this area you will also find many restaurants and ice cream parlors, as well as one of the most famous cafes in the city: A Brasileira.
This place, located in one of the streets surrounding the square, is housed in a historic art deco building. It is said to be the first coffee shop in Lisbon to serve the bica, a small cup of very strong coffee. It was also the venue for gatherings with the presence of great intellectuals, such as Fernando Pessoa.
5. Sign up for a sailing trip on the Tagus at sunset
Although the start of this tour is in the afternoon, the fact of being able to see the sunset from a sailboat makes it an incredible experience for any visitor.
In this activity you will embark on a sailboat to enjoy one of the best cruises in Lisbon. For about two hours you will sail along part of the Tagus River to see from its waters some of the most important monuments of Lisbon, from the Belém Tower to the Jeronimos Monastery, passing under the 25th of April Bridge.
The best moment of this river trip comes when the light begins to change color due to the sunset with the city in the background. When the sun sets, the boat returns to dry land so you can continue visiting Lisbon.
6. Take a night visit to the Belém neighborhood to see its illuminated tower
Normally, the visit to the Belém neighborhood usually takes place in the morning, which means that there are quite a lot of people seeing its main attractions at the same time. A good idea to avoid these crowds is to come in the evening and extend the tour until the impressive monuments are illuminated.
The two most attractive places in the neighborhood are the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower, closely followed by the Monument to the Discoverers. If you can stay until it gets dark, I recommend you don't miss the illuminated tower. With a little skill, you'll get one of the best pictures of your trip.
7. Go up the Santa Justa elevator
On your way to Bairro Alto you will find a strange iron structure that seems to come out of nowhere. This is the Santa Justa elevator, which connects the Baixa with the Chiado district. If you have time, I recommend that you go up just before sunset.
This elevator was built in neo-Gothic style with a no disguised inspiration in other iron constructions such as the Eiffel Tower. After crossing its 45 meters high you reach a large terrace that offers wonderful views of the river, the Baixa, Rossio Square and St. George's Castle.
On that terrace is installed a cafeteria if you want to have a drink while enjoying the views. Note that you may find queues to use the elevator in the evening, as many people want to watch the sunset and the lighting of the night illumination from the heights.
- Hours: 07:30 to 21:00 (November-April) and 07:30 to 23:00 (May-October)
- Price: about 5,30 € round trip with the entrance to the viewpoint included.
8. Mercado da Ribeira (Time Out Market), a good option for an evening meal
A great way to start the night in Lisbon is to eat something at the Mercado da Ribeira, more specifically in its Time Out Market space.
The Mercado da Ribeira is the most popular market in the whole city, especially for its great offer in fresh fish. A few years ago, the building was remodeled and, in part, occupied by a large number of food stalls, terraces and cultural events.
The Time Out Market, the name given to this space, is located in one of the trendiest areas of the city, Cais do Sodré, very close to the city center. In its stalls you will be able to find many typical dishes of Portuguese cuisine.
My recommendation is that you should try some of the cod specialties that are served in their stalls and, if possible, accompany the dish with a good Portuguese wine. For dessert you have at your disposal some places where they serve freshly baked Belém cakes.
9. Live the night party in Lisbon
Those who want to enjoy party nights during their stay in Lisbon are in luck. The nightlife in the Portuguese capital is abundant and it is easy to find places for everyone, no matter what kind of atmosphere you like. The areas with the most bars and nightclubs are in Bairro Alto, Chiado and Cais do Sodré.
- Bairro Alto: in its streets you will find a large number of places of all kinds. If you prefer a quiet place you can opt for the terraces of Largo de Camoes or the area of the viewpoint of Sao Pedro de Alcantara. For a more lively and student atmosphere it is better to go to one of the bars with live music or to one of the discos in the neighborhood.
- Cais de Sodré: the atmosphere in this area tends to be somewhat quieter than in Barrio Alto. However, there is no shortage of clubs and discotheques where you can hear everything from rock to African music, an element present in many of Lisbon's nightlife areas.
- Santa Apolónia/Jardim do Tabaco: going down from Alfama you will find an area with several restaurants, as well as some of the most successful nightclubs in the city. Specifically, in Santa Apolónia you can try to enter Lux, a nightclub that usually appears in the first places in the lists of this type of locals throughout Europe.
10. Cultural life in Lisbon
Lisbon's nightlife is also full of cultural events, especially concerts, theatrical performances and dance. If you want to get to know the cultural life of the city you should try to go to one of its theaters or auditoriums.
The Portuguese capital has several theaters. Some of them, such as the Sao Carlos and Dona Maria, are historic buildings with an architecture that is well worth a short visit even if you are not going to go inside to see the plays.
Both theaters offer a good theatrical offer throughout the year. Their performance calendar mixes Portuguese plays with others by international authors. Although the performances are obviously in Portuguese, the experience is really interesting.
If you prefer another artistic genre, perhaps the most recommended in the Portuguese capital is dance. The best place is undoubtedly the Camões Theater, home of the National Dance Company. The venue is located in the so-called Parque das Nações, very close to the Atlantic Pavilion (where many concerts are held) and the Lisbon Casino.
Where to sleep in Lisbon?
When choosing accommodation for a trip, several factors are always taken into account, from the area where you prefer to sleep to the budget. The Portuguese capital has an important hotel offer, as well as many apartments.
A tip to keep in mind is that if you go in summer, high season, you should book your room well in advance. As for the areas, here are some recommendations:
- Alfama: the Alfama neighborhood has become a favorite for many tourists looking for accommodation. In its favor plays the charm of the neighborhood and the large number of apartments on offer. Against it, the transportation problems you may encounter to get to your hotel.
- Plaza de Comercio: in the surroundings of this square you will find several interesting hotels, although the prices are somewhat higher. The communication with the airport and other areas of the city is quite good.
- Near Avenida da Liberdade: in the surroundings of this avenue, between Marques de Pombal square and Rossio, you will also find several interesting places to sleep.
- Baixa: this area stretches from Rossio to Praça do Comércio and is distinguished by a good offer of hostels and hotels. It is also close to most of the city's points of interest.
- Chiado and Bairro Alto: the advantage of these neighborhoods for accommodation is the presence of numerous stores, historic cafes and the best of the city's nightlife. However, the noise in some streets can be annoying.
How to get around the city at night
You will probably do most of your trips on foot or using some of the city's characteristic elevators, but on some occasions you may want to use public transport.
During the day there is no doubt that the streetcar will be the best way to move between the most touristic places, especially the well-known lines 28 and 15. The first runs throughout the historic center and passes through almost all the essential monuments of the city. In addition, it also leaves you just 100 meters from the castle of St. George and then goes to the Chiado area.
Line 15, meanwhile, is the perfect choice if you want to go to the Belém district on your own, as its destination is the west side of the capital.
The main problem with these lines is that you will hardly be able to use them at night. Streetcar 28 stops running around 21:15 on weekdays and at 22:30 on Saturdays and Sundays. The 15, on the other hand, leaves you a little more margin: Monday to Saturday it runs from 05:45 to 01:00 and Sundays and holidays from 06:05 to 01:00.
As for the city buses, it can be said that they are more useful at night, since there are several night lines that start running around 23:45. You will find two types of night bus: the Rede da Madrugada and the Night Buses. The latter are free and only operate on weekends. On the transport company's website you can find all the information about each line.