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Food & Dining in Portugal


If you have only one night in Lisbon, spend it at a fado club. The nostalgic sounds of fado, Portuguese "songs of sorrow," are at their best in Lisbon – the capital attracts the greatest fadistas (fado singers) in the world. Fado is high art in Portugal, so don't plan to carry on a private conversation during a show – it's bad form. Most of the authentic fado clubs cluster in the Bairro Alto and in the Alfama, between St. George's Castle and the docks. You can "fado hop" between the two quarters. If you're visiting the Alfama, have the taxi driver let you off at Largo do Chafariz, a small plaza a block from the harbour; in the Bairro Alto, get off at Largo de São Roque. Going to a fado doesn't necessarily mean dinner; you can just have a drink. However, you often have to pay a minimum consumption charge. The music begins between 9 and 10pm, but it's better to arrive after 11pm. Many clubs stay open until 3am; others stay open until dawn.

Fado outshines all other nighttime entertainment in Lisbon. For a change of pace and more information about nighttime attractions, go to the tourist office which maintains a list of events. Another helpful source is the Agência de Bilhetes para Espectáculos Públicos in Praça dos Restauradores (tel: 21-346-1189). It's open daily from 9am to 9:30pm; go in person instead of trying to call. The agency sells tickets to most theatres and cinemas.

Also consult a copy of What's On in Lisbon or Your Companion in Portugal, available at most newsstands. You might also consult Sete, a weekly magazine with entertainment listings, or the free monthly guides Agenda Cultural and LISBOaem.

By the standards of the United States and Canada, "the party" in Lisbon begins late. Many bars don't even open until 10 or 11pm, and very few savvy young Portuguese would set foot in a club before 1am. The Bairro Alto, with some 150 restaurants and bars, is the most happening place after dark.

Along the row of buildings east of Ponte 25 de Abril, you can take your pick of the competing bars, including the popular Celtas Iberos Irish Bar, Doca de Santo Amaro. Finding a place in Bairro Alto is a bit more complicated – the best thing to do is to walk uphill from the Praça Luís de Camões, just to the west of the Chiado metro station. Clube da Esquina, Rua da Barroca 30, is a trendy, minimalist bar that is popular with the local cool crowd. Rua da Atalaia is one of the more lively streets and the welcoming Portas Largas, Rua da Atalaia 105, is a good place to start. Di Vino, Rua da Atalaia 160, is a haven for wine lovers, with occasional live music. Arroz Doce, Rua de Sao Pedro 117-119, is a traditional canteen-style bar and a good place to order a pontapé na cona.

Solar do Vinho do Porto (tel: 21-347-5707) is devoted exclusively to the drinking and enjoyment of port in all its glory and varieties. A quasi-governmental arm of the Port Wine Institute established the bar a few years after World War II as a low-key merchandizing tool. In a 300-year-old setting near the Glória funicular and the fado clubs of the Bairro Alto, it exudes Iberian atmosphere. The lista de vinhos includes more than 200 types of port wine in an amazing variety of sweet, dry, red, and white. A glass of wine costs 1€ to 25€ (US$ 1.25-$31). Open Monday through Saturday from 2pm to midnight, it's located at Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara 45.

There are a number of clubs around Doca de Alcântara. Queens, Doca de Alcântara, attracts boys and girls of all persuasions. Kremlin, Rua Escadinhas da Praia 5, and nearby Kapital, Avenida 24 de Julho 68, are both popular – the former plays techno in Egyptian-style surroundings, while the latter has three floors, each with a different style. The city’s hottest spot is still the ultra stylish Lux, Rua Gustavo Matos Sequeira 42, with John Malkovich said to be among those behind the funky mega-club.

Hot Clube de Portugal, Praça de Alegria 38-39, is a favourite for jazz sessions. For African and Brazilian music, try Lontra, Rua de São Bento 157, in Bairro Alto, and Pê Sujo, Rua Madalena 102-8, near the cathedral in the Alfama district. Large concerts can be seen at the Pavilhão Atlântico, Rossio dos Olivais (tel: 21-891-8409)

Casino Estoril, Praça Jose Teodoro dos Santos, Estoril (tel: 21-466-7700), is one of the largest and best-known casinos in Europe. There is a charge for the gaming rooms (excluding slot machines) and visitors must be over 18 years, wear smart-casual attire and provide ID.

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