Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Lisbon was a place that I had never given much thought to despite being only a couple of hours away from London by plane, and as it turns out, it is a complete delight.
When set against the big name European cities of Barcelona, Berlin, and Rome, Lisbon doesn’t seem so exciting. Before visiting the city, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you one building in the city, one site to visit, or one notable *thing* about the place. But actually, Lisbon’s lack of grandeur is part of its appeal. It doesn’t have the famous buildings, monuments or galleries, but it does present a way of life that I find very appealing – it’s friendly, relaxed, and wait for it, crammed full of The Gays.
It was a slightly embarrassing hole in my knowledge of *gay stuff* but when I arrived in Lisbon, I had no idea that gay marriage in Portugal had been made legal in June 2010. My local Portuguese guide beamed with pride about this fact and proceeded to tell me about all the amazing nights out she has had on the Lisbon gay scene. When offered a tour of the gay neighbourhoods (yes, there is more than one in this city), I immediately started clapping like a camp seal. I was expecting a few bars, but in Lisbon there is a fully fledged scene catering to many kinds of homos.
Gays! On the streets! In Lisbon!
If you want to explore Lisbon’s gay scenes, head to the central areas of Bairro Alto and Princepe Real – they’re next to each other, simple. I’m kinda glad that I had a guide as the roads all looked the same to me, especially with all the homos sprawled out on the street – so take a map, or at least try not to be quite as directionally challenged as I am. Once you are there, take your pick from one of the many gay bars selling cheap-ass caipirinhas and take your position outside with the mass of revellers enjoying the very cool Lisbon nightlife. And this is what I loved about Gay Lisbon the most – it really doesn’t matter which bar you pick because everyone ends up drinking outside together anyway. There is something egalitarian about that and I find it incredibly appealing – no queues or door snobbery in this town.
Outside Clube De Esquina.
The back of my head. What a treat for my readers.
The juxtaposition of day-life against nightlife in Lisbon is also very striking. Having explored much of the city on foot in the day-time, and enjoying the fairly empty streets, I was pleasantly surprised at how bustling the streets are at night, all of the handsome Portuguese homosexuals creeping out of the woodwork to enjoy time with their friends.
Oh and yeh, we were drinking outside in DECEMBER. There is a beautiful winter climate in Lisbon, which speaks right to the heart of a cold-hater like me.
A few bars I particularly liked:
- Clube De Esquina. Rua da Barroca 30
- Portas Largas. Rua da Atalaia 105
- Bar 106. Rua São Marçal 106
Get yourself there (or else).