Lisbon is one of Europe’s oldest cities, which throughout its history has weathered earthquakes, fires, coups and revolutions. Its position on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula has shaped the course of the city and the country, making it a base for Portugal’s ventures into Africa, South America and East Asia. The 20th century saw Lisbon influenced by immigration and rapid growth.
Lisbon has acquired the reputation for being the place in Europe to work as a freelance artist or creative entrepreneur, according to the World Cities Culture Forum. In fact, Lisbon was designated a European City of Culture in 1994 and 1998 when it hosted the World’s Fair. The Urban Art Gallery Project has filled the city with striking large-scale street art, and the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology has created a big impact on the city’s waterfront. Urban Art Gallery is a citywide project promoting graffiti and street art in Lisbon. Organized by the Department of Cultural Heritage of Lisbon City Hall, it began in the city’s Bairro Alto neighborhood following a drive to clean graffiti from buildings.
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Street artist, Artur Bordalo, also known creatively as Bordalo II, is widely recognized across Lisbon for his original street art installations made entirely of trash and plastic. For years Bordalo II has been enriching Lisbon’s streets with his reclaimed trash art sculptures. With his latest exhibition “Evilution” he showcases a collection of large scale animal sculptures that he’s created from urban waste such as scrap metal, garbage containers, plastic toys and hoses which will grace Lisbon’s new Edu Hub in the Park of Nations, a neighborhood already gaining notoriety for its contemporary art. Known for her long-standing passion for art and commitment to supporting Portuguese artists, Chitra Stern, founder of Martinhal Resorts, is proud to sponsor this exhibition. The exhibition is open to the public through December 2022.
When MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) opened in Lisbon in 2016, this marked an important moment when international eyes were on Europe’s coolest new capital for an emerging art and cultural scene. The futuristic building, located on the River Tagus, was designed by British architect Amanda Levete and is unlike anything you’ll find in Portugal. The permanent collection and the rotating exhibitions attract art aficionados from all over the world to see its unique pop art, ceramic and wood sculpture exhibits.
To more fully understand the origins of Lisbon’s artistic expression, head to the Museum Nacional do Azulejo. Here visitors can learn about the history and design of ceramic tiles Azulejos, which have long played a role in the country’s cultural fabric. This specialty museum, located in a magnificent old convent from 1509, houses a splendid collection of decorative tiles dating from the 15th century to the present.
For the first time since its construction over three centuries ago, The Palacio do Grilo has opened its doors. Unlike any other dining destination, this is a restaurant in a living theater, where diners are invited to feast among artists, intellectuals and performers who take center stage. It occupies an 18th-century palace in the Beato district which is one of Lisbon’s most creative neighborhoods.
Among Lisbon’s most innovative new restaurants is Encanto, an entirely plant-based restaurant by one of Portugal’s most famous chefs, the two Michelin star chef José Avillez. Encanto’s tasting menus have a focus on celebrating the seasonal produce by local Portuguese farmers, bringing to your plate the beauty, flavor and texture of foraged legumes, seeds, leaves, algae, mushrooms, flowers, fruit, eggs and cheeses.
A Lisbon insider’s favorite (and a small business, pandemic success story), the best kept dining secret in town is by local husband and wife team, Chefs Marta Caldeirão and André Coelho, who are at the helm of one of the city’s most sought-after spots. Âmago, launched in June 2020 and is known for its one-table with just ten seats and tantalizing tasting wine-pairing menus, with an emphasis on delicious fresh seafood.
Can’t choose? The Time Out Market Lisbon, located in the Mercado da Ribeira, is a majestic food hall and home to the best of Lisbon under one roof: the best chefs, restaurants, cultural events and cooking workshops.
A stay in Chiado puts art and culture lovers at the epicenter of Lisbon. This neighborhood became the meeting place for Lisbon’s cultural elite after the city’s opera house, Teatro Nacional São Carlos, opened in 1792 and today it’s the city’s most popular location for boutique shopping, fine dining, browsing independent bookshops, coffee shops and intimate art galleries.
Located in a lovingly restored 19th century building right in the heart of the city’s chic, historic neighborhood – Chiado – Martinhal Chiado houses 37 luxurious serviced hotel apartments. Choose to stay in a studio, one or two-bedroom apartment fully outfitted with their own kitchens, washer/dryers and light-filled living rooms. Walls are adorned with local artwork from local Lisbon artist Kruella and decorative Portuguese rugs, plus quirky cork coffee tables and pops of color throughout the stylish accommodations. Spring 2022 saw the addition of the hotel launching its own Gin Bar where guests can curate their own G&Ts before checking out the nighttime sites of the city. Parents will absolutely love the “Baby Concierge” and the access to its own Kids Club and baby creche, set in a stunningly lit arched cavern with exposed brick ceilings and sensory toys for their youngest guests.
Memmo Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal
For a taste of old world Lisbon, stay in the Alfama neighborhood known for its historic architecture, steep winding streets and charming homes. Music lovers will also love its traditional Fado clubs, playing Portugal’s soulful folk music. Located among the old winding streets of the Alfama neighborhood, guests can find Memmo Alfama. Once a shoe polish factory, the boutique design hotel has 42 rooms designed in a contemporary style, a swimming pool and stunning terrace overlooking the city and the Tagus River. It is just a five-minute walk from the panoramic São Jorge Castle.