If you’re like me, then to truly experience a new city, you’ll want to find the underground, the hidden gems that the locals know about, but the tourists seldom see.
If you ask any tourist or new inhabitant of Lisbon about the local music scene, you may well be told that there isn’t really one to speak of but that isn’t true; you just have to know where to look.
While there are a few big venues that catch the odd big name as they tour Europe, that isn’t what I’m here to talk about. I’m going to introduce you to a few of the hidden venues with regular music, the kind of places that you wouldn’t find unless you were told where they were.
O Bom O Mau e O Vilão
Let’s start with the easiest one to find, translating as The Good The Bad and The Ugly, it is found in the heart of Bairro Alto, but is an easy one to walk past.
A trip down the steps and into this venue on a Thursday will introduce you to a plethora of upbeat live bands, while the weekend tends to be dedicated to DJs spinning records of various genres. If you’re after a dance, this is one of the best places to choose, although space can fill up quickly.
Most of these venues will be in the Anjos area, which is a part of Lisbon perfect for those looking for more of a local experience than a tourist one.
Long hair and facial jewellery are to be found everywhere here, and while there are many upbeat options, acoustic fans should head to Pharmacia Musical. It’s a bit of a walk from the nearest Metro, but unplugged gigs on a regular basis create a beautifully intimate atmosphere.
Gigs are suggested donation, but are always worth the spend. Be sure to get here early as the venue is small and tends to fill up quickly. There’s also a friendly neighbourhood cat who will often come and curl up on your lap to enjoy the music.
This will not be the only list you find this venue on. Anjos 70 offers something for everybody, and there is often live music or DJs here.
The highlight of the week is the jam session which takes place every Wednesday. Turn up early to catch the house band (and miss the queues, which have been known to go around the block) and stay for the next few hours to see a myriad of talented musicians jamming together, or get involved yourself.
The walk to Anjos 70 may seem concerning, as it is down a pretty dark alley, but I’ve never had any issues, and I’ve been a lot!
It’s members only, but a couple of euros gets you membership for a full year.
Titanic Sur Mer
Seconds away from Cais do Sodre station, it’s surprising how many people are unaware of this charming venue.
Spacious, but often packed on gig nights, there’s music here most nights, and you may well see some cult names in Portuguese and Latin American music.
Titanic also has its own jam night every Thursday, which works similarly to that at Anjos 70. Be aware it doesn’t really kick off until midnight, so take the next morning off work!
Back to Anjos for this one, Crew Hassan is about as trendy as places get. You’ll often have to knock on the door to get in, and the first room you walk into will ask you to be quiet after around 11pm, but everything changes when you go downstairs.
Warning, this one can get pretty smoky, but if you can handle that, it’s worth a visit for the underground vibe you get.
DJs will create a night of fun and dancing most nights, but there’s range too, I once saw a two hour gig by an African xylophone player here that was one of my very favourite nights in Lisbon.
Camones Cine Bar
Close to numbers 2, 3, and 5 on this list if you fancy a crawl, Camones Cine Bar is a charming little venue that is lovely enough to just sit and have a beer or a coffee in.
However, at weekends the place really wakes up, and you can often find gypsy jazz or something else dance friendly on a Sunday night.
If you’re a music lover, try the Lisbon Gig Buddies Network on Facebook for news on upcoming gigs around the city, and feel free to get in touch if you fancy a drink at one of the above, or any other music venue across the city.