Bairro Alto

April 28, 2021

The Bairro Alto is truly a part of Lisbon’s soul. By day the Bairro (which means neighborhood) is a picturesque working-class quarter of the city with buildings dating back to the 16th century. By night the Bairro is one of Lisbon’s most lively places full of bars and cafes which spill out onto the old cobbled streets.  Traditionally one of the Bohemian parts of town the hang out spot for artists and writers famous for its social life and lively night times.  Today the Bairro Alto still has its Boho arty feeling with many alternative shops, cafe’s and bars. The streets of the Bairro mostly ran perpendicular to the river in a medieval layout with lanes that run parallel to the river cutting through the main streets. The long narrow streets are made up of a mish-mash of three of four-story buildings all a little different in style, unlike the strict architectural style of the Pombaline quarters.

Fashion in Bairro Alto
Here in Bairro Alto you can find the alternative fashion shops and many of Portugal’ s exciting young fashion designers have set up shop in this trendy quarter. Shopping in the Bairro Alto is as much a social event as anything, given that the Bairro is famous for its social life it’s hardly a surprise to find shops that double up as cafe’s or bars and stay open well into the night. One of Portugal’s most well-known designers Fatima Lopes has a shop in the Bairro which also houses a bar and a club.  For shopping in the Bairro Alto check out the Rua da Rosa, Rua da Atalaia & Rua do Norte.

Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara
Here in Bairro Alto you will find one of Lisbon’s seven Miradouro’s or viewpoints.  The city, being built on seven hills, has several raised esplanades or terraces where you can take in spectacular views across the city.  The Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara is a beautiful esplanade with fantastic views across to the Castle São Jorge and over the downtown neighborhoods. In the lower geometric garden, there are several statue depictions of a Greco-Roman Gods such as Minerva and Ulysses, and a map made up of tiles that mark out all the distinctive buildings of the city.  Across the street from the Miradouro is the Solar do Vinho Porto (the port wine institute) where you can try a sample from some of the 300 different Port Wines.  One of the best ways to get to the Miradouro is to hop on the funicular railway the Gloria Elevator.

The Gloria Elevator & The Bica Elevator
Two of Lisbon’s three funicular railways link the uphill Bairro Alto with the downtown areas of the city. The Gloria Elevator which opened in 1885 links the downtown Baixa to Bairro Alto. Starting out on the Avenida da Liberdade, in Restauradores Square and finishing up at the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara. The Bica Elevator opened in 1892 and lifts from near the riverfront at Cais de Sodré up to the entrance of Bairro Alto. The Bica is particularly scenic as it has a great river view at the same time as climbing up through the historic street. Both lifts were classified as national monuments in February 2002. While the journey may be very short it is particularly atmosphere and of course a good deal more relaxing than the hike up the cobbled streets.



The Bairro Alto at night
At night the Bairro Alto transforms itself from a sleepy traditional neighbourhood into one of Lisbon’s most lively and exciting destinations. The antique cobbled streets fill out with tables and chairs and cafe’s and bars pop up everywhere you look. What was previously a small alternative clothes store is now a lively little bar, or the inconspicuous building on the corner is now buzzing with beer drinking natives and tourists alike. In the Bairro Alto you will find everything from Jazz bars, karaoke to stylish modern chic. One of the most distinctive features of the Bairro Alto nightlife is that it spills out onto the streets and continues well into the wee small hours. The Bairro is also home to some of Lisbon’s oldest and most famous Fado houses.

Fado in the Bairro Alto
In the Bairro Alto you can find several Fado restaurants known as ‘casa de Fado’,  restaurants where you can eat traditional Portuguese food while being treated to live performances of Portugal’s famous Fado music. Fado has often been described as Portuguese ‘blues’ a combination of mournful songs about longing, heartache and the neighborhood’s of Lisbon, also a few more upbeat and lighthearted songs also about the neighborhoods or Portuguese culture.  The most well known Fado house in the Bairro Alto is probably the Cafe Luso, founded in 1927 it has built up a reputation of the years as being one of the most renowned and has featured almost all of the major singers and musicians. 

Staying in Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is a great place to book and apartment, particularly for the night owls out there.  The Bairro is lively, picturesque and full of culture.  There are many fantastic restaurants in the Bairro Alto be it traditional Portuguese or international fare. There are also many great bars from wine bars to jazz bars, the Bairro caters for all ages and styles. By day the Bairro is a sleepy neighborhood calm and quiet by comparison to its night time antics.  A great place to wander around the narrow streets and check out the alternative shops. The Bairro Alto is also just a short walking distance to many of the most popular attractions of Lisbon, or hop on the tramcar or Gloria elevator to take down the hill into the city center. If you fancy staying in the Bairro Alto check out or apartments Bairro Alto.

Transport to and from Bairro Alto
The Bairro Alto is within walking distance of Many popular attractions, however, there are many unmissable sights or adventures to be had across the city. The most romantic and enchanting mode of transport to and from the Bairro Alto is the famous tramcar the nº28 that will take you downhill to the Baixa and then back up another hill into Alfama, the Castle and further on to the historic neighborhood of Graça before it makes its way back down again.  Alternatively, you can walk to the Metro at Baixa/Chiado and from there the Metro network covers vast areas of the city.  The Cais do Sodré railway station is also within walking distance for travels out of the city along the coastline to Cascais or Sintra.

Parking in Bairro Alto
As with many other areas of central Lisbon, street parking is very difficult, near impossible. On-street parking spaces are few and far between and strict parking limitations are well enforced. There are however several underground car parks across the city. Some of which easily serve the Bairro Alto.  Here are a few examples of car parks nearby.

Car Park Calçada do Combro
Address: Calçada do Combro 1200 Lisbon- 24 hr Mon-Sun covered parking with 232 spaces. price 1 hr 1.45€, 2 hr 2.90€, 4 hr 6.65€

Car Park Largo de Jesus
Address: Largo de Jesus 1200 Lisbon- 24 hr Mon-Sun underground parking with 115 spaces. Price 15€ per day.

Park Camões
Address:  Praça Luis de Camões 1200 Lisbon – Underground with 341 spaces, 1.70€ for one hour, 40.30€ for 24 hrs.

Largo Vitorino Damásio Car park
Address: Largo Vitorino Damásio 1200 Lisbon. 24 hr Mon-Sun underground parking with 312 spaces. Price 1 hr 1.35€, 24 hrs 22.15€

More detailed information and a map of all the secure car parks in Lisbon can be found here . 

The Bairro Alto is certainly one of the most vibrant and colorful parts of Lisbon.  A real must see by day and by night.

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