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Cities like Berlin, New York, Sao Paulo and Mexico City spring to mind when thinking of street art. However, Lisbon has some of the world’s finest graffiti. During a recent adventure through Portugal’s capital, I was astounded not just by the sheer quantity but the complexity of the work. One of Lisbon’s charms is the crumbling facades of buildings and these make for the perfect graffiti canvas.
More than any other city, Lisbon is best explored by foot. This will without doubt bring you into contact with much of the street art. There are however some famous pieces which are worth seeking out. Most notably, this is the work along Av. Fontes Pereira de Melo. The huge murals were created in 2010 in a collective project between the well-establish Brazilian twins Os Gêmeos and Spanish/Italian pair Blu. The UK based national newspaper The Guardian has rated the work among the top 10 best street art in the world. “This extraordinary work by Blu and Os Gêmeos, giants of the worldwide street art scene, illustrates how urban art can confront social and political issues in a powerful uncensored way” they wrote. The easiest way to get there is taking the metro to Picoas station (on the green line) and exit from the right entrance which will bring you directly next to the work or you can take the blue line to Parque station which is just a few minutes’ walk away.
Though the streets of Lisbon have been adorned with street art for many years, there were two initiatives which catapulted the city’s art into international recognition. In 2008, city hall led a project called GAU (Urban Art Gallery) which was created to restore and revive the hilly district of Barrio Alto. Much of the work runs up the edges of the very steep Calçada da Glória. To get there, take the metro to Restauradores station where you can either hike or take the old funicular to the top (free with a day pass). You can also enjoy some fabulous views over the city.
The second initiative was the 2010 CRONO Project by Alexandre Farto (aka Vhils) which saw sixteen celebrated street arts descend upon the capital creating myriad works on many of the abandoned buildings. Artists included Lucy McLauchlan, Sam3, Blu, Ericailcane, ARM and the Os Gêmeos twins’ work among others. Though some have now been removed, there is still plenty to marvel at.
For street art, you can’t get better than the Amoreiras Wall where the art form first took roots in Lisbon back in ’95. Although unverified, it is reportedly the largest graffiti wall on the Iberian Peninsula. This open-air gallery runs along Rua Artilharia 1, Rua Marques de Fronteira and Conselheiro Fernando de Sousa and doesn’t disappoint with its increasingly political work (particularly along Conselheiro). To reach the 1 km wall take the metro to Marquês de Pombal station and take the steep slope up Av. Duarte Pacheco.
If you have only a small appreciation for the art form, you’ll see plenty of art without having to go looking, however, if street art if your thing, there really are very few better places. Here’s just a few of the works you’ll see that prove Lisbon really does have some of the world’s finest street art.
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