Top Arthouse Cinemas in Lisbon


Typically in Europe arthouse cinemas are complexes that screen independent or small budget art films from local or international filmmakers.

Unfortunately, Portugal has a long history of dictatorship and oppression behind it, having only found democracy in the 70s. This saw many years during which freedom of expression was censored, which takes a direct impact on a countries filmmaking and screening industries.

by Myke Simon – Unsplash

So arthouse cinemas in Lisbon are few and far between. This is still an emerging trend, if you will, as are screenings of non-mainstream films in the country. Here are a few spots where you can go that are considered more “alternative” than major movie theaters.

Cinemateca in Lisbon

In an attempt to bring cinema history into Lisbon, the Museum of Cinema was founded in the north of the city shortly after Portugal found its democracy.

It’s a great collection of filmmaking equipment and American & European films from around the world. It’s a small museum, and one can walk the entirety of it in under an hour before visiting their onsite retro cinema room.

The Cinemateca is the closest thing Lisbon has to a full fledged arthouse cinema. For just €3 you’ll gain access to a screening of the throwback film of the day. There are always subtitles for foreigners if necessary.

Cinemateca in Lisbon – by 69joehawkins – Wikimedia Commons

Next to the cinema there is a great bookstore with an equally as impressive collection of cinematic books and magazines.

Note: You’ll only have to pay entrance if you want to watch a film. Entrance into the museum is absolutely free to all.

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday – Various Times
ADDRESS: R. Barata Salgueiro 39, 1250-165 Lisboa, Portugal
Metro STATION: Avenida

Cinema São Jorge in Lisbon

North of the Alfama, Chiado and Bairro Alto really is the part of Lisbon in which cinema came to thrive .

Just a few blocks away from the Museum of Cinema is another arthouse catering to the Lisbon pubic. The Cinema São Jorge is the one place that the people of Lisbon have been able to access indie cinema since the 1950s, when the space was built.

It is the most traditional of arthouse cinemas in the city center, and also one of the biggest, boasting three different screening rooms.

Cinema São Jorge in Lisbon – by Miguel Teixeira – Wikimedia Commons

The space is used for film screening as well as poetry readings, documentary productions, seminars and even musical events.

There is a great lobby and bar on site where one can enjoy a beer or glass of wine before or after a screening. There is also a balcony where they serve pizza throughout the day. It’s a real 1960s inspired space that makes cinema an full day outing rather than just a scheduled time-slot.

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday – Various Times
ADDRESS: Av. da Liberdade 175, 1250-144 Lisboa, Portugal
Metro STATION: Avenida

Cinema Nimas in Lisbon

In the same northern part of the city, the Cinema Nimas screens works seven days a week.

Now it is not an arthouse cinema per say, but the establishment does make an effort to alternate between mainstream, new works of film as well as independent small budget films from around Europe.

They divide their screening times between the two genres, making this one of the best places in Lisbon to watch arthouse films. There are two screening rooms on site, one is used for the classic films and the other for the newer ones.

Cinema Nimas in Lisbon – by Cinema Nimas – Uploaded by them

A ticket at Cinema Nimas will set you back €6 regardless of which cinema you are heading into. There is a snack bar and a kiosk where one can be media publications and DVDs of the screenings.

This is also one of the only cinemas in Lisbon that has 3D screening abilities. You’ll find this in the modern theatre, of course.

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday – Various Times
ADDRESS: Avenida 5 de Outubro 42, 1050-083 Lisboa, Portugal
Metro STATION: Saldanha

Cinema City in Lisbon

When you take a free guided walking tour through Lisbon’s center, you become accustomed to one very distinct kind of architecture that reigns supreme through the space. So visiting Cinema City, north of Santa Cruz, becomes an eye opening experience of Arabic architecture in the heart of Lisbon!

This is an exquisite building that was constructed in the 19th century. It is the Campo Pequeno bullring; a space where the infamous bull fighting event takes place in Lisbon.

Cinema City in Lisbon – by Cinema City – Uploaded by them

In the basement of the building is a grand cinema complex that is usually reserved for mainstream, new release movies from the west.

Few people know that the cinema reserves screening rooms for independent, European films as well — most of them with some ties to Portugal.

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday – Various Times
ADDRESS: Av. de Roma 100, 1700-035 Lisboa, Portugal
Metro STATION: Alvalade

That’s about all Lisbon has to offer in terms of arthouse cinemas within the city center. There are a handful of other movie houses around the city, but these are solely mainstream complexes where the latest blockbusters are screened.

In the summer I know there is a lot of hyper around Topo Chiado, who apparently host an open air cinema in the warmer months. Screenings can include classic films as well as contemporary works — you will need to follow their social media to see what is on offer.

Make an effort to support arthouse films while in Lisbon! This is the surest way to ensure that this industry continues to grow in the Portuguese capital.

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