Porto has a surprisingly intense nightlife that may be a bit confusing to visitors, especially after you’ve had one too many Super Bocks. Here’s the low down on where to find the best late-night parties in town and what to expect when you go out in Porto.
Where to go
Generally speaking, people might start Happy Hour at a local snack bar in Ribeira or Clérigos, where you can get cheap drinks and something to fill your stomach. It’s not uncommon to see these places brimming with people after quitting time every day, especially on the weekend. Popular places like Espaco 77, where you can get 50 cent beers, and Casa Guedes, which is better known for its pork sandwiches than its beer, might be hopelessly packed if you come at the wrong time.
But the locals of Porto aren’t about getting wasted quickly and petering out early. Instead, they’ll go to places where they can refuel on snacks and drink coffee to keep their energy up, even as late as midnight. Restaurants that usually close at 10 or 11 pm on a weekday may have extended hours as late as 1 am on weekends so you can have a full meal before even starting your night.
You’ll find a huge concentration of bars and night clubs in the area near Clérigos Tower, known as Galerias for short. They’re a series of streets that are nightlife end to end, the main ones being Galeria de Paris and Rua de Candido dos Reis. The streets look like Mardi Gras on your average Saturday night until 5 and 6 am when people stream out from all the clubs after last call. Here you’ll find dance clubs as well as more laid back dive bars. Many people grab a drink and just walk around enjoying it on the streets, where you can hear music coming from all the places around.
If a place doesn’t look good right away, take a lap and come back. You might arrive somewhere at 12 am or 1 am and think that it’s dead because the night is winding down, but it may actually be too early. Some places open at midnight and don’t close until 6 am, making 2-3 am prime time for going out (I know, kill me). Despite being way past a normal adult bedtime, when you’re jamming to indie rock at Era uma vez em Paris (Once upon a time in Paris), you may not even notice how late it is.
If you’re looking for something that’s less of a shitshow, you can head to chill bars like Maus Habitos, which despite looking like a cafeteria, is a great place to chat and have a glass (or a bottle) of wine. Base is another cool hangout spot right beneath Clerigos Tower featuring an outdoor bar and plenty of turf to enjoy a drunken picnic day or night. If you want to do the tourist thing and enjoy the view of the river, skip the overpriced waterfront spots and go to Guindalense, which is a chill dive with a terrace that overlooks the Dom Luis Bridge.
What’s up with the entrance cards?
You’ll notice as you arrive at many of the clubs in the Galerias area that the bouncer in the front will hand you a card with a lot of blank slots on it. This card will be how you track your consumption. So anytime you order something at the bar, the bartender marks it on your card and you only pay for everything once you’re ready to settle up and head out. I’m not sure why this system isn’t in place in more nightclubs because it really streamlines the going out process.
The clubs sometimes have a small cover or a minimum spending limit that acts as a cover if you don’t drink enough, both of which are incorporated into your tab and are paid the same way you pay for drinks. In some places you pay the bartender and then just give your paid card to the bouncer on the way out. Some clubs, like Tendinha, have a cashier by the door that you can pay directly on your way out. As you can imagine, when it’s last call, the line to exit can be a real bitch. But honesty if you’re at a club at 6 am trying to close out your tab, you obviously don’t have anywhere to be for the next several hours.
Other Porto nightlife tips and things to know
Smoking is allowed inside everywhere. So it’s likely that if you’re in the basement of any club in Galerias dancing until past your bedtime, you’ll have to burn all your clothes when you get home because they’ll reek like hell.
Despite the rowdy look of the streets until late, people don’t generally get sloppy or end up throwing up or passing out. So don’t be that guy or girl. There’s a reason why the locals eat a lot when they’re going out. And the reason is to not embarrass themselves on the street at 7 am.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Porto guides on GPSmyCity here.