The original, independent guide to Lisbon
Bairro Alto and Chiado are two closely related districts of Lisbon, with one being fashionable and stylish by day while the other is trendy and cool by night. Chiado is the popular shopping and theatre district of Lisbon, which has a selection of historic monuments, tradition shops and interesting cafes and restaurants.
Bairro Alto is not much to see by day but as the sun sets, the numerous small bars open and the partying continues late into the night. This guide will provide an overview of the two districts and detail their best sights and attractions.
Both districts are to the west, and within easy walking distance, of the Baixa district, which tends to be the district with the main tourist focus of Lisbon. The main metro station is “Baixa-Chiado” and is on both the blue and green metro lines (metro guide), just remember to take the exit for “Largo Chiado” to avoid climbing up the steep hill from Baixa into Chiado. Bairro Alto can be easily reached from Chiado and is just north of the Largo de Camões.
Another route into Bairro Alto is to catch the “Elevador da Gloria” funicular from Praça Restauradores up to the Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint. A single ticket costs an overpriced €3.60 but is included in the 24-hour unlimited public transport ticket (€6.40 ticket purchased from any metro station).
Lisbon City hall, the Câmara Municipal
Simply put, yes. Bairro Alto is the nightlife hub of Lisbon with countless small bars, trend intimate venues and restaurants where the haunting sounds of Fado can be heard waft out. During the weekends the revellers spill onto the streets and there is carnival atmosphere along the narrow cobbled streets, filled with people enjoying the night. Nights in Bairro Alto do not discriminate with everyone having a fun time and there is always a happy mix of foreigners, locals, gay, straight, young and old.
The small bars of Bairro Alto spill out onto the streets
Bairro Alto is the place to head to for a fun Lisbon night but is not the area to be based in for quiet nights, as the partying continues late into the night most days during the summer. The appearance of Bairro Alto also reflects that of its numerous partying patrons; fun-loving and loud at night but distinctly worse for wear during the day. Bairro Alto does not look great during the day, the district is sadly blighted with graffiti, and the streets do look shabby when exposed to the bright sunlight of Lisbon.
Elevador da Gloria
The unassuming exterior of the Igreja de Sao Roque provides no indication of the exquisite and ornate interior. The church contains some of the finest examples of Portuguese Baroque religious art and designs, with gold leave covering all surfaces and alters of beautiful carved details. It is said that the Igreja de Sao Roque has one of the most expensive alters ever constructed, which was transported to Rome to be blessed by the Pope, before being returned and rebuilt in Lisbon.
Sao Roque church is stunning
The ruins of the Carmo church are a permanent reminder to the residents of Lisbon of the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 1755. Contained within the skeleton remains of the vaults and arches is the small archaeological museum. To read more please click here.
The ruins of Carmo Church
The Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint provides wonderful views across central Baixa and over to Lisbon castle. The view point is at the end of the Elevador da Gloria funicular route just to the east of Bairro Alto .
The Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint
The two funicular routes of Gloria and Bica transport passengers (mainly tourists!) up the steep hills into Chiado and Bairro Alto . The slow and ponderous funiculars have been in operation since the 1890s and there is no better way to enter the districts.
The Elevador da Bica
The “Cafe a Brasileira” is one of Lisbon’s most iconic cafes, it was here during the 19th century Portugal’s academics and intellectuals could discuss the pressing issues of the day, while struggling artists would sell their paintings. Outside the Cafe a Brasileira is a statue of Fernando Pessoa, who ironically disliked the Cafe A Brasileira but preferred to spend his time in a café near to Praça do Comércio. To read more please click here.
The cafe Brasileira is a popular place for a drink