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Bairro Alto is a bohemian neighborhood on the other side of Lisbon city center, opposite of the São Jorge Castle in the old town Alfama. Bairro Alto means the high neighborhood and that it really is with all its steep hills and cobblestone streets and the wonderful yellow funiculars taking people up the hills. Bairro Alto is neighborhood that divides opinions, but I personally like this part of the city a lot and I walk the streets of the Alto quite often, because it happens to be close to my current home.
Bairro Alto is nowadays a very popular place to go for the nightlife, but its history goes all the way to the 16th Century. Bairro Alto was the first planned neighborhood outside the medieval city walls and it was very popular among the aristocrats and the merchants. Also the artists and the writers became very fond of the neighborhood and in the 19th Century also the big newspaper houses came to the area. The story also tells, that because the journalists were always working late and they wanted to enjoy a relaxing time after work, the brothels started to arrive in the Bairro Alto area. Still to this current day Bairro Alto remains a popular and lively place for a good night out and instead of brothels it has many different types of interesting small bars with lively and versatile range of music where you can enjoy a delicious cocktail or a cold beer, whatever you prefer. Bairro Alto has something for everyone from Caribbean style bars to Irish pubs and it’s all in this wonderful old town neighborhood.
The vibes of the Alto has already charmed me once or twice as well and my favorite places and my best recommendations are for sure the small and wonderful Caribbean style bars with their tasty and fresh cocktails and reggaeton music. During these times of the Covid-19 it is very important to acknowledge the current restrictions and recommendations for example about the opening hours and the amount of customers for the restaurants and bars. These restrictions and recommendations are updated every week in Lisbon now, so be sure to find out the current situation to avoid any unfortunate surprises while travelling and going out.
HISTORIC AND ICONIC FUNICULARS AND COLOURFUL STREET ART
Although Bairro Alto is an amazing place for the nightlife, it is also so much more than just that. When the party people are still sleeping after a night out, you can head out to the streets to see the colourful buildings and the interesting street art, that has also found its place on the sides of the yellow iconic funiculars.
Because of the hight differences and many steep hills of the Alto neighborhood, it is possible to take the Elevador da Gloria funicular from the Restauradores Square in the city center to get up the hill to Bairro Alto. The Elevador da Gloria funicular was built in 1885 and it will bring you right next to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint, which is one of the most wonderful viewpoints in the city.
I walk past the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara and the Gloria funicular every time I want to go to the Chiado area for a dinner or catch the next train to Cascais for a beach day from the Cais do Sodre Train Station, or if I just want to go and explore the city and the Alto area a bit more. This viewpoint was also the very first viewpoint where I took my first photos of the Lisbon city rooftops.
In addition to the wonderful Elevador da Gloria, there is also another funicular to the high quarter. Elevador da Bica is the most photographed and the most famous of the funiculars and you have possibly seen many photos of this already. You can find the Bica a bit lower than the Gloria and it is located in an idyllic narrow and steep street with colourful buildings around. The Bica was built in 1892 and it was made for bringing people from the Tejo riverside up towards the Bairro Alto.
Usually the Bica is very popular and has many tourists and photographers around it, but now during Covid I had the great chance to enjoy watching the funiculars of Bica pass each other with no other people next to me. The Elevador da Bica has two funiculars, one is always down and one is up and they always pass each other at the same time in the middle of the hill. No need to say – I was very excited when I heard the bells of the carriages ring and they started to come towards each other, passing just in front of me. Yay, my tourist moment was perfect!
OTHER SIGHTS TO SEE
Bairro Alto is not really bathing in the ocean of amazing sights to see, but it does have a few. The decorative baroque style São Roque Church and the beautiful church of Santa Catarina are definitely worth the visit and they are popular places among the locals and the tourists.
CHARMING CHIADO AND THE COLOURFUL PINK STREET
While spending time in the amazing Alto, you should also for sure visit the charming area of Chiado below the Alto. Chiado has also great restaurants and cafes, boutiques and local gems. Most of the Chiado was destroyed in the big fire of 1988, but has been rebuilt and reborn since back to its glory. After Bairro Alto and Chiado remember to pop onto the Pink Street below Chiado, close to the Cais do Sodre Train Station. It is literally a street painted in pink and it has many bars and restaurants around it. Now during the Pride, it also has rainbow-coloured umbrellas decorating the street wonderfully.
Experience the best neighborhoods in Lisbon all the way from Bairro Alto to the old town Alfama and everything in the middle with the local buses, metro and the iconic yellow trams with the Lisboa Card*, easily and all combined in one card.
REMEMBER TO ALSO CHECK OUT THE OTHER ACTIVITIES AROUND BAIRRO ALTO AND LISBON:
Check my previous article about the lovely old town Alfama and other posts about Lisbon also:
- Alfama – The charming old town of Lisbon
- New country, new way of life – First thoughts about Portugal
HAVE YOU ALREADY VISITED THE BAIRRO ALTO? IS IT A YAY OR NAY FOR YOU? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna