Portugal 🇵🇹

Our Guide to Portugal

Portugal's original social scene revolved around snack bars and tabernas, traditional venues to either get a quick snack, a cheap lunch or latterly, a full meal with the family. This could be accompanied by some live music, but in essence, food and drink went hand in hand.

These days, largely the reserve of an older audience, the snack bars with their super cheap offerings hold on almost out of a force of habit, and are well worth exploring to experience their rhythms and rituals, even if you may feel like an outsider initially.

Globalisation means Portugal now has its share of interchangeable cocktail bars and craft venues, which you'll have to pick wisely to experience the best from.

Lisbon is a particular highlight with its inheritance of bars from artist Luis Pinto Coelho which rival any in Europe, accentuated by the Ginjinha shot bars and Fado music, particularly in the smaller Alfama districts.

Porto is a completely mixed bag, struggling to find a clear theme amidst an inundation of tourists in the last decade, but with some authentic old venues, including a couple hiding in plain sight.

During the day, only a handful of brewpubs/craft beer bars and the snack bars will be open. Most of Portuguese nightlife opens at 5pm but doesn't really get going until after 9 or 10, so bear that in mind for your visit.

Distinctive, with a good slice of flair and passion that you'd hope and expect, but let's keep hold of that and not let the country turn into another land of templates and demographic led operations.

Ratings Key:

Name Location Rating
Bonaparte Foz Foz do Douro 7.8
Blandy's Wine Lodge Funchal 7.5
Madeira Rum House Funchal 7.5
Pavilhão Chinês Lisbon 9.6
Procópio Lisbon 8.8
Foxtrot Lisbon 8.7
Loucos e Sonhadores Lisbon 8.6
A Baiuca - Fado Vadio Lisbon 8.6
A Ginjinha Lisbon 8.1
LX Brewery Lisbon 8
Tejo Bar Lisbon 7.8
Casa Independente Lisbon 7.7
Janela da Atalaia Lisbon 7.6
Alfredo Portista Porto 8.5
Galeria de Paris Porto 8
Armazem de Cerveja Porto 7.9
Bonaparte Downtown Porto 7.9
Clube Rugby Porto Porto 7.8
Baobab Porto 7.5

Population: 105,782

Madeira's capital, this island city is spread West to East along the eastern shoreline. Everything from the sea, to the mountains even to the airport runway is dramatic. The bar scene here is relatively diverse to be fair. You will find craft beer bars, rum shacks, old school Pastelerias and late party bars. You will not find a lack of acceptable options, however, very few are deserving of any kind of mention in terms of the high criteria of our site. An exception is the rum specialist Madeira Rum House and Blandy's Wine Lodge, where the Madeira wines, heritage of the building and overall distinctive character so specific to the island separates it from the rest. You may find bar going during the day particularly limited with many bars only opening in the late afternoon onwards.


Population: 504,718

Portugal's Atlantic capital, a characterful, lively and still at some points gritty place. You will not want for things to do with typical central sights and heritage quirks, the monastery and tower at Belem, not to mention its culinary delights - Pastel de nata, sardines and so on. Its bar scene is hugely enlivened by the work of Luis Pinto Coelho who created several bars in the 70s and 80s that can genuinely all be counted among the best in Europe. Aside from that, head to the Alfama for Fado performances which show Lisbon's raw, lovelorn romantic side. As for craft beer, there have been pacy developments in the last 10 years to bring it up to scratch with the European standard, although you will find the majority of these rather cookie cutter and template like, lacking character as a result. Nevertheless, they add a necessary variety. In between all of these there are the snack bars, local spots with tiled walls, aluminium counters and simple lagers which wash down snacks like cod croquettes and Bifanas. These operate almost in a different economy entirely. You can be well fed and watered for the same price as one small beer in a craft beer bar - this is no joke. While Bairro Alto is Lisbon's famous bar district, keep in mind the easy-to-each districts such as Intendente and Saldanha which are up and coming.


Population: 214,349

One of the most distinctive cities in Europe, yet it is only since around 2015 that word really started to spread internationally. Since then, some of the grapevine rumours about its superb prices and authentic flavour have naturally eroded as tourism has moved in, accelerated particularly during Covid times. While that seems unnecessarily negative, it is still worth noting. Now onto the positive - over the Douro on the south bank are the Port warehouses of Vila Nova de Gaia - having a port tasting is almost a compulsory activity and there are many very competent venues to do this in. Over on the north bank, you'll find an eclectic mixture of offerings from old fashioned holdout snack bars serving basic beer/wine/ginjha for pennies, to top-end brewpubs and craft beer bars. Porto more than holds its own for both of those considering its size. In between there a smattering of cocktail bars and characterful pubs complete a set that will keep you occupied, but maybe not hit the heights of Lisbon.