With cobbled streets steep enough to tone even the weakest of calves, a day spent exploring Portugal’s up-and-down capital will leave you with a thirst in need of quenching.
Modern Traveller slipped its hip flask into a satchel and headed off for a December drinks break to A Cidade das Sete Colinas, to distill the tastiest spots for a tipple in lovely Lisbon.
When in Lisbon, MT loves nothing more than to sip a cocktail (or several) atop the less-than-picturesque car park that’s home to Park – with it’s oh-so-stunning panoramic vista, and equally delicious beverages.
You’ll find no signage as you clamber up the graffiti-clad stairwell of the multi-story that is Park’s abode; your only clue that there’s more to this block of concrete than meets the eye are the high-heeled locals tottering up the stairs ahead.
When you finally emerge into the open air, you’ll find a couple of bouncers ready to pat you down before you enter the unassuming structure sitting on stilts, which turns out to be a bar-meets-garden with some of the best views of southwest Lisbon going.
The cocktails won’t break the bank, and regular live DJs mean there’s plenty to dance about. If you’re there for the view, you’ll need to plan your seat-grabbing strategy – but the wait is worth it.
2. Chafariz do Vinho | Enoteca
Once you’ve become accustomed to the unrelenting smell of damp, well, everything, this nifty wine bar – tucked under the arches of Lisbon’s old water supply – is a seriously swanky place to sit and sip.
With several levels of seating – the platforms are suspended on beams inserted into the stonework – this isn’t one for vertigo sufferers, but offers architecture to astound whilst you wait to order (which can take a while, if the waiter has been at the wine).
Whether you drop in for dinner or just some pre-supper refreshment, Chafariz do Vinho has a truly titillating wine list, as well as a tasty array of treats for the tummy. Wines from the world over occupy the menu, as well as a host of Portuguese offerings, including local Port.
What’s more, with a small stock that’s regularly turned over, returning visitors will always find something new to quench their thirst.
3. Pavilhão Chinês
Take a ride up on the Elevator de Glôria (pictured), from the Praça de Restauradores; dismount at the top of the hill, take a right and walk for 5 minutes. When you come across an ancient red door set in a building of peeling blue paint, you’ve arrived at Lisbon’s capital of quirky, the “Chinese Pavilion” – or Pavilhão Chinês.
Offering room after room of kitsch, tchotchke and knick knacks, stepping into this old grocery store-made-bar is like stepping back into a time you can’t quite identify.
Attended by red-vested waiters, you’ll be encouraged to take a pew upon peculiarly patterned seats, whilst your mind abandons any attempt to cogitate the cornucopia of oddities greeting your eyes.
Opened in 1986, Pavilhão Chinês’ drinks menu is appropriately odd for a place packed to the rafters with all things collectable: from a Coldstream Guard’s uniform to masses of miniature figurines, toy trains to pots and pans, if you’re into the absurd you’ll feel right at home here.
4. Sol e Pesca
Tackle and rod jokes aside, there’s something satisfyingly fishy about Sol e Pesca’s sea-themed watering hole.
A former fishing supplies store – the walls of which are adorned with paraphernalia ranging from rods and flies to tins and tackles – food is served from a tin (and tastes fantastic), as you sit in the street looking up at the arches beneath Rua do Alacrim.
As for liquid sustenance, wine comes to the table in glass beakers (based on the recommendations of the ever-happy-to-help bar staff), whilst the reasonably priced beer flows all too freely as you take in urban Lisbon at its finest.
Early in the evening, Pesca offers quiet place to start; later in the night, you’ll struggle to get onto the street, let alone near a seat.
5. Noobai Café
If you’re after a quieter place to kick the evening off before heading into Lisbon’s central suburbs, MT recommends Noobai Cafe. Perched just off Rua da Santa Catarina, this open-air bar has two levels from which to take in the lights of the docks and Ponte 25 de Abril flooding over the tiled rooftops.
There’s a full compliment of wines and beers, but, if you’re really looking to live Lisbon’s night life to the fullest, it’s best to sample one of Noobai’s punchy cocktails. All the old classics are there and, though the servings may be slender, the measures certainly aren’t – just a couple saw MT tottering with Continental warmth.
In the winter months things can get a little breezy – such are the sacrifices made for a stunning view – but blankets are provided, and the ever-attendant staff are always on hand to keep the liquid jacket snug as you soak in a calmer side of Lisbon.
6. Ginjinha da Sé
If daytime drinking isn’t your bag, wait until you sample Lisbon’s (in)famous Ginjinha. Not a shot – despite the size of the serving and its container – this sticky-sweet sour cherry liqueur is best enjoyed in the street outside a hole-in-the-wall, of which Ginjinha da Sé is one of many.
Tucked away in Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district and a rabbit warren of winding streets and narrow arches, Ginjinha da Sé is a small but perfectly formed place to enjoy local variants of this Portuguese poison.
Aside from the deliciously moreish Ginja, da Sé also enjoys an authentic Alfama ambience courtesy of outside seating and effortlessly friendly owners, who are happy to rustle up some delightful Portuguese dishes on demand.
7. Bairro Alto
Recommending Bairro Alto for a drink is a bit like saying go to Bangkok for some erotic entertainment: it’s hardly revelatory, and even less specific. The thing is, though, that the magic of Lisbon’s most intoxicating suburb lies in finding a favourite for yourself.
With every other doorway hiding a claustrophobic, sticky basement bar, each shipping drinks in inflationary quantities (‘XXXL’ can be found on most menus as a cup size; it’s roughly the same as a large cup in the UK), there’s no shortage of debauched dens from which to source your poison.
Some are backpacker havens, others local joints – the only way to tell? Step inside and experience Lisbon like you’re supposed to: at 1am, halfway up a hill, in search of something sweet from a shot glass.
WORDS & IMAGES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS
Content correct at time of publication. A changing world is one of the joys of travelling!