Bohemian at heart, Bairro Alto is the epicentre of Lisbon’s cultural scene. The picturesque working class quarter dates back to the 16th century and has long been a haunt for the city’s artists, writers, poets and philosophers. By day, it’s easy to fall under the illusion that Bairro Alto is one of Lisbon’s sleepier neighbourhoods. However, after dark the district transforms into the city’s premier nightlife quarter.
Thanks to legalised street drinking, the action spills out onto Bairro Alto’s narrow cobblestone lanes. There’s something for every palate, from chic wine bars and traditional Fado Houses to raucous student bars and LGBT nightclubs. Drinking isn’t Bairro Alto’s only talent, though. The district is also home to two of Lisbon’s most beautiful churches. The magnificent São Roque is a fantastic example of Baroque style, while the Gothic architecture of Carmo Church is intrinsically romantic.
Bairro Alto is anchored by three main commercial streets, Rua do Norte, Rua da Atalaia, and Rua do Diario de Noticias. The district is easy to reach from central Lisbon, with both the metro and tram stopping nearby. From downtown, both Bairro Alto and the neighbouring Chiado district are an easy walk.
While today Bairro Alto is a destination in its own right, it wasn’t always so coveted. It was founded in the 16th century when Lisbon underwent an urban expansion in a bid to house its growing population. Today, the district’s medieval architecture is one of the city’s biggest draw, and only adds to Bairro Alto’s after dark ambience.