Friday, 8 November 2013

Gay Guide Lisbon – discovering the gay scene

Arrive in Lisbon during daylight and the city is discrete, there’s very little to suggest it is gay welcoming, but there’s nothing to say that there will be a problem for gay travellers. In fact I felt incredibly welcome wherever I went and look closely – people watch – and you will begin to see quite a large gay population.

Lisbon actually has an incredibly vibrant gay scene and there’s plenty of places to visit, just don’t attempt – like I did – to try to do it during the day. There’s nothing to see and you will find it hard pushed to find the gay venues listed. I walked both the Rato and Bairro Alto, gay map in hand, and struggled to find the bars and nightclubs for the following nights’ escapades. Yet, by night, the shutters were flung open, the lights on full glare and the music popping onto the streets.

By night, the city comes alive. Bairro Alto is full of party atmosphere and it is now hard to distinguish revellers from the gay and straight bars. You shouldn’t think of going out before 9pm, but 10.30pm is a better start to your evening. Grab some food around 8.30pm and you can casually enter the nights’ events.

All the gay bars were recognisable in the Rato area. And simply follow the lads from joint to joint. My itinerary for the weekend nights is below. The great thing about Lisbon is the cost – it is so cheap for beer and cocktails. The atmosphere is electric, and welcoming. The people are friendly and chatty with nearly all of them speaking English. It is also an international city, so you are likely to meet Europeans from England, France, Spain, Italy, as well a Americans visiting on cruise ship.

Book flights and accommodation at least four weeks in advance and it can work out to be a cheap break:

Flights, EasyJet (my favourite airline): London – Lisbon; £110 return
AirParks car park: £26.99
Uneasy Hostel (2 nights): £60
Travelcard: €15, enough for 4 days
Meals: €12 – 20 for a good two-course dinner, 1 x beer, 2 x wine, 1 x coffee

Make the most of your time there, especially if you want to party by hiring an apartment:

Chapito, 30 Anos: multi-use bar, club, social meeting spot.
A circus shop will make this place stand out. Go through the shop, down the stairs to the large courtyard – if you’re not in the middle of a circus training session hang around for some beers. Otherwise, head to the loft house restaurant. Now this has to be seen. We hung here all afternoon supping on Green Wine, a Portuguese delicacy J

From the restaurant you can over look the city and watch the sun set. It’s a spectacular scene and the colours of the fading evening Lisbon sun fill the sky with purples, oranges, greens, reds, and pinks, framed by a city with 200-year architecture (following the great Earth Quake in the 18th Century).

Bairro Alto
-       This is the place to start. It’s where the city comes together by night and especially at the weekend.
-       Wonder the streets, beer in hand and soak up the atmosphere, the music and the people watching

Les Marais
Rua de Santa Catarina 28, 1200 Lisboa
Open: M-Th 5.30pm-2am F/S 4am, Sun 1 – 11pm

We started in this sudo-French bar, the gay venue was recently purchased by new owners and had decided to maintain the name. Which with the gay market is the best idea, since we all follow maps that could be years out of date. I found this through Spartacus, after chatting to the owners who promote the bar on Scruff (great technique).

Shirtless Tuesdays – gives patrons the chance to receive free shots for taking off their shirt….not a bad deal!

The barmen were real lovely, and created a fun atmosphere. There really was no dull moment, even though when we arrived there were only about 8 people in the bar. An hour later, around 11.30pm, the bar had about 20 people. This is no bad thing, it’s well decorated, the drinks are good too. It’s brilliant if you’re in a couple and want to take it a bit easy, or in a group and all want a seat. I can imagine that on some days this places has a fantastic party.

From here we walked up to Bairro Alto past

Rua de Bica de Duarte Belo 51-A, 1200-054 Lisboa
Open: M-F 1pm-2am, Sat 4pm-2am Sun Closed

We walked up through the streets to stop in

Portas Largas
Rua de Atalaia 105, 1200-038 Lisboa
Open S-Th 7pm-2am F/S 7pm-3am

This is a mixed crowd, I didn’t know what was straight and what was gay – the live music was infectious, the bar was packed – solid! People were all across the street at this crossroads. It was a great place to soak in Bairro Alto. Only recommendation, leave before 1am – it get a bit messy by 2am!

From here, sharp 10 – 15 minute walk to Rato. Aim was Bar 106 but by the time we got here it was closed, so I went onwards to clubbing

NOTE: Unfortunately on the night I was in Rato I was attacked by a group of lads who were trying to mug me. Fortunately, two guys who run the gay bar on the corner of the street, disturbed them and saved me from harm or loss. (I’ve been told that this activity is NOT common, but just don’t walk alone if possible) Please visit their bar:

Ursus Bar
Praça das Flores, 41-43 - Lisboa, 1200-192 Lisboa

A new bar, only recently opened. It’s got a lot of style to it. While it may seem small it packs a punch in the ‘cool’ stakes. The hosts are really friendly too.

Rua da Imprensa Nacional 104-B, 1250-127 Lisboa
Open: F/S 11.45pm – 6an
10€ including 2 drinks

The big gay club in Lisbon. One room uber-pop music, the other more Dance-Pop. The audience is young, think 20’s. The bar staff are sexy. The music in the dance-pop room was excellent, especially with a live violinist onstage adding his flavour to the tracks. The people were really friendly and welcoming too.


I stopped by Bar Cru (Rua de Sao Marcal 170), but it didn’t appeal to me. Entry charge at 12 midnight was not what I wanted and it felt too early for any of that. So next stop further down the road

Bar 106
Rua de Sao Marcal 106, 1200-44 Lisboa
9pm – 2am

This place is pretty smart. People are smoking outside and inside. Shots are being knocked back and there’s a lot of introductions. Something tells me this is the meeting place – prior to the clubs. It’s a good starting point.

Rua de Palmeira 44B, 1200 Lisboa
10pm – 4am

Now this seemed more sort of thing, I had stopped by on the way to Trump the night before, but at 3am it was pretty dead. So arriving at 1pm was a good chance to check out the lads. The barman (later to be the sexy dancer in Construction) handed out free entry tickets to the club.

It’s a bear bar, and it has many bears! And cubs! And otters! And admirers! Of course!

Tr3s/ Tres/ 3
Rua Ruben Antonio Leitao 2A, 1200 Lisboa
4pm – 2am

Sports themed bar and most people were outside, but it was well themed and would make an enjoyable indoor experience too. Everyone was hanging around waiting for the clubs to get busy, this was the atmosphere, it was apprehensive, sat in expectation, impatient, yet chatty and friendly.

Rua Cecilio de Sousa 84, 1200 Lisboa
11.30pm – 6am

This is the end of the night, it’s one large two-leveled dance club with a darkroom on the third floor. The more mature crew hangout here, so generally 30yr+ and there were quite a few women. It was a fun cruisey atmosphere with excellent music!

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