ROMEO Travel – Gay Guide to Lisbon
Gay Friendly Lisbon is a very vibrant city and it’s small enough that you can do just about everything in a weekend. In one quick city trip, you can enjoy Portuguese culture at the National Tile (Azulejo) Museum, eat local food like Bacalhau, hop on a yellow tram, and take a dip in the Atlantic ocean at a nudist beach. This is our guide to help you enjoy the very best of gay nightlife in this European enclave on the edge of the EU.
National Tile (Azulejo) Museum
Many of the buildings in Lisbon and across the entire country of Portugal, are adorned in beautiful tile work. This tradition has lasted for centuries and adds a real sense of class and glamour to the cityscape. The history of the ceramic tile work of Portugal is housed in their National Azulejo Museum.
The museum building itself is worth a visit. It opened as a convent in 1509, and since then has seen many refurbishments and evolutions before finally becoming the beautiful museum it is today. The interiors include tiled cloisters, a wooden panel church that looks like something straight out of a Madonna music video (circa 1985), or something you’d find in the Vatican, (same, same). The splendor and grandeur of Catholicism are super evident in this decadent tile museum. Also, the café and garden terrace is gorgeous. The pond has a family turtles and the Goldfish are just swimming around and living their best self. The café serves local cuisine and tasty cakes.
Tourism has sprung up here perhaps a little faster than the restaurant culture has been able to handle, so food is very much hit and miss. Mauro, an Italian now living and working in Lisbon tells me, “The dirtier and darker a restaurant is, the better the food will taste. If they only have one electric light or no light and only candles, eat there.” I’m not sure how safe that tip was so I ended up eating in places that looked clean. Most of the time, the food was OK. Perhaps I should have listened to Mauro’s advice? Regardless of where you eat it, when in Lisbon you must try the famous Pastel De Nata and their much celebrated Bacalhau.
Pastel De Nata
This is a tasty treat made mostly from egg and pastry, lightly dusted with cinnamon. You will find Pastel De Nata in every bakery or patisserie dotted around Lisbon. Balcao Do Marques on Avenida Duque de Loulé, will box up six of the tasty treats for you at the low price of €5,50. You can also pick them up at the airport on your way home for about €8,50. While they do taste good, you probably won’t manage six on your own, they are quite the mouthful.
Everyone will tell you a ‘must-try’ is the salted cod aka Bacalhau. It’s battered and it’s salty. For British tourists, it is very very similar to fish and chips so it might not send your taste buds soaring. For everyone else, it’s a salty treat. Enjoy it with tasty local wine. Again you can get Bacalhau everywhere and for a reasonable enough price of about €7 – €10 depending on how fancy the place is.
Gay Friendly Lisbon
Miguel, a local fashionista advises me that his favorite place to eat good Portuguese food is Largo ao Tacho, “Good food, really nice staff, and the owners are a lesbian couple, it’s the most gay-friendly place I know.” In fact, everyone I speak to, tells me Lisbon is very gay-friendly, and no restaurant will care if you kiss, hold hands or are affectionate with your boyfriend. I spoke to a lot of gay men and they all agree, they feel very safe in gay friendly Lisbon.
Male Grooming on Vacation
Hipster barber culture can be found in Lisbon at Figaros Barbershop. The place alone is a sight to behold, with animal heads mounted on paneled walls, wooden Jameson crates, and a hunting lodge vibe. The sexy barbers are very eye catching, with fabulous beards, mustaches, tattoos and mafia-style fashion (leather shoes, swishy trousers, and Miami vice shirts). It’s a visual spectacle, and the haircuts are excellent. For €25 you can get a classic haircut and a beer. Tell Diogo I said, “Hey girl.”
Trombeta Bath (Sauna)
This gay sauna, Trombeta Bath, is terrific. It has a jacuzzi that can accommodate six men. It also has, a Hamman, a Finnish sauna, a cruisey cabin area, a dark labyrinth, and a porn cinema. The dance floor looks like a school classroom with desks and tablets, but it has porn on the wall and banging tunes. As saunas go it is a little dirty, but there is a cleaner continually working, it’s just so busy that it can be hard to keep up. Saturday’s are fun, but Sunday is by far the best day to visit this Trombeta.
Plus points: Busy, full of horny guys up for fun, lots of areas to explore friendly staff.
Minus points: Dirty and the club music is thumping, so if you are not in the mood for loud tunes, tough tits sister.
Gay bars and clubs
Lisbon is home to one of the oldest gay bars in Europe and possibly the world, Finalmente is 42 years old. Famous for being tiny, the bar can get a bit crowded around 3am. Finalmente is home to the finest drag show in town. This is and has been a safe haven for gay people for over 4 decades and continues to be a trendy spot for us to have fun. Currently, it is also gaining popularity with straight people, and this has sometimes led to overcrowding, (the price of success). The show doesn’t usually start until 3 am, so get there for 2ish and claim your spot.
Espaço 41 really cute, but tiny gay bar in the heart of Lisboa, the bar staff are friendly, the clientele mixed from 20s to 50s. Pop in for a quick and very cheap beer (€1,50). Then wander the streets to enjoy the beautiful straight bars with live music and a dreamlike festival vibe. Also, this place is a stone’s throw from the gay sauna.
Bar Tr3s Lisboa
Tr3s is a bear bar (The Three Bears), and it’s quite big compared to the standard gay bars of Lisbon. There’s a sign on the bar that free bear hugs are available. I took advantage of this by scoring 2 wonderful and strong bear hugs from the handsome barman, David. He tells me the bar has a little dark corner with a urinal and porn on the tv. The bar itself is decorated with cuddly teddy bears and has a dance floor area. Saturday it usually starts to fill up from midnight onwards. I was there on a Sunday, and I got a free slice of cake.
Construction is a cruisey men only venue that runs till 8am. It plays techno and attracts guys from 25 and up. It’s a sex pleasure land with cabins and dark areas, and you can find the man or men of your dreams for a naughty good time.
Nudist Beach AKA Beach 19
You can take a cab here for about 30 euro or book a tour for €29 return. You can also try to get here by public transport (2 hours) or even rent a car. I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can. The naked beach is for everyone, but it is dominated by gay men, and they are a cruisey variety of gay man for sure. There are bushes for privacy and the Atlantic ocean to take a nice post-sex dip.
Visit gay friendly Lisbon as soon as possible, the tourism industry here is really taking off. In the next couple of years, it could change from an authentic Portuguese city to a tourist trap filled with neon signs and inflated prices. Right now it’s still pretty genuine and super cheap. A decent meal with dessert and a few drinks is about €20-€25, the locals are friendly, helpful, and very good looking, No one is jaded by tourism yet, so get there while we are still more than welcome. Also, it is not uncommon to see gay couples holding hands in the street, and that is a really magical sight to see.
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