There is no doubt that although it is a city known for it’s hills, Lisbon is for walkers. There are far too many small neighborhoods with winding streets to not go and explore by foot. The architecture is unique, the people watching unprecedented and to top it off, there is phenomenal street art around every corner. Lisbon is a serious triple threat.
The city is a virtual open gallery, but to find a lot of the larger and more famous pieces be prepared to cover a lot of ground. I met a Portuguese guy who was working for a tour company and he offered to give me a private street art tour that many companies are now promoting since the urban art in the area is becoming so popular.
Isn’t Street Art Just Graffiti?
There is a common misconception that street art, or urban art and graffiti are one in the same. As Americans I think it’s harder for us to grasp that street art is a modern form of artwork since a lot of us have a negative connotation with graffiti. In the states, graffiti was traditionally found in areas of a city that aren’t as safe, appearing to vandalize public and private properties. Cities are now commissioning artists to create public works to brighten up all different kinds of urban areas and graffiti has now morphed into a newer art form. This medium has now gone beyond “tagging” a building or throwing up something quickly on a train car with spray paint.
Portugal Street Art Scene
Starting in 2010 there were several projects that began to reshape public art in Lisbon. The Underdogs Project began, which is a cultural project aimed to inspire contemporary artists, educate the public and put Lisbon on the map in the art scene. They have a gallery, tours and a store to keep the public engaged in the urban art world in Lisbon.
Portugal had been hit with a pretty big recession and a lot of buildings started popping up around the city abandoned and in disrepair. The CRONO project was the work of the city, commissioning artists to beautify these buildings that were becoming eye sores and sad reminders of the country’s recession. CRONO took a popular local movement of street art and amplified it to a level where it exploded in the international art community, now Lisbon is known for some of the best street art anywhere.
Is is OK if we call this man a genius? Alexandre Farto, is a Portuguese artist and many of his works are portraits that incorporate some of the exposed brick and materials of the building, creating a pretty mesmerizing, detailed and realistic effect. He slowly chips away at the surface, revealing some epic artwork.
Amoreiras is where there is a large strech of an original wall from street art in the 90’s is found. There are some pretty interesting pieces, a lot with political messages from that time period.
Follow the blue wall. Around the Lisbon Psychiatric Hospital wraps a 1km wall covered in urban art pieces. The “Faces of the Wall” panels each have interesting stories to tell – I walked the whole thing and if you are going to treat it like walking through a gallery or museum it takes a lot longer than you’d expect! I took a ton of photos here, but below I’ve shared some of my more favorite parts of the wall.
You’ll find other smaller works or hidden gems located throughout the city, the best advice is while you are touring around make sure to keep your eyes on the look out. What looks like an unassuming building on one side could have a massive mural on the other.
The Alfama district is known for it’s narrow, winding, easy to get lost streets and there are also countless sections of staircases and alleyways that have smaller works just as intriguing as these larger commissioned pieces.
Here are a couple more of my favorites:
Thanks so much to Lisbon Drive for uncovering all of this phenomenal art!