Orientation & Geography

Europe, Portugal, Lisboa

Bairro Alto (literally Higher District in Portuguese) is an area of central Lisbon, Portugal. The first terrain division occurred around 1500, when the court of D.Manuel I moved from the castle to the royal palace in Terreiro do Paço. The need for housing led the king to force farmers to resign their lands. Nowadays, it functions as a residential, shopping and entertainment district. Bairro Alto is one of the oldest districts in Lisbon. Dozens of fado singing clubs animate the area. All major Portuguese newspapers once had their offices in here. Prostitution was visible and considerable. Since the 1990s, Bairro Alto went through major changes. Lisbon's city council made extensive repairs, and dozens of new restaurants, clubs and trendy shops were opened. Many young people moved into the area. Cars were banned (except for residents and emergency vehicles). Today, Bairro Alto (or just Bairro) is the heart of Lisbon's youth culture and nightlife. Lisbon's punk, gay, heavy metal music, goth, hip hop and reggae scenes all have the Bairro as their home, due to the number of clubs and bars dedicated to each of them. During daytime, the Bairro is a traditional district where older people shop for groceries, and the younger generations visit art galleries like Zé dos Bois, bookshops like Ler Devagar or arty gift shops like Hold Me. Violent crime is not unusual in the area. Despite of PSP’s best efforts to eradicate the drug traffic, illegal drugs are sold in the streets. Homicides and destruction of police property have occurred in the past, and such type of episodes are somewhat recurrent in the night life of the Bairro. This zone struggles with a problem of vandalism, with graffiti destroying historical buildings, such as the place of death of Fernando Pessoa and Almada Negreiros. Since the 1st of November 2008 all the bars in Bairro Alto are forced to close doors at 2:00 AM, due to the noise caused by the large groups of people on the streets. However, as of the 1st of August 2009, bars are allowed to be opened until 3:00 AM., a measure that also includes an increase on the number of police agents in the area. The city approved a 1,2 million EUR project to improve the area appearance and security, and namely to tackle the graffiti problem.