Lisbon Street Art: A Vibrant City Attraction

Lisbon is a city that does street art well. I knew that before I arrived in Lisbon for my 15-hour layover while on the way to Cape Verde, and so I walked around with my camera, snapping shots of every compelling image I saw that had repurposed public space for canvas. I liked Lisbon so much that I came back for an extra four days at the end of my trip.

Terracotta rooftops and cobblestone streets are angled sharply in the town of Lisbon, a place that can’t help but remind travelers of San Francisco, and some of the best art in Lisbon can be found between those cobblestone streets and terracotta roofs. Also situated atop seven hills alongside a bay, utilizing cable street cars for public transportation, triumphing despite a history with severe earthquakes, pouring glasses of phenomenal local wine and boasting brightly colored buildings, the 25 de Abril Bridge cements (or should I say bridges?) the comparison between the two cities – as it should since the same company behind Lisbon’s famous bridge built the Golden Gate Bridge. But the fact that both cities exude remarkable street art is a commonality that secures my appreciation for Lisbon as a parallel universe of San Francisco.

%Gallery-194249%Art, in the broad sense, has a way of amplifying all other elements of a place. Street art, unlike any other form, does this especially well since it transforms a place from the outside and exposes those who aren’t necessarily searching for art to art. Street art provides for us a glimpse into local social commentary, regional values and cultural movements. The messages are relayed instantaneously while the transient art form draws an onlooker to the present to take in that which might not remain tomorrow.

Lisbon’s street art has not only helped to shine light on the vibrant arts community within the city, but the art itself has also been attracting tourists. The city of Lisbon has clearly embraced the role street artists play in the larger scheme of things, at least to some degree. While staying in The Corinthia Hotel, I couldn’t help but notice the murals of animals beneath the nearby overpass, painted in an effort to bring attention to the nearby Lisbon Zoo. Meandering through the slanted city streets offered me views of the varying city recycling bins – many of which are individually painted in a street art style, but clearly the result of a concerted and collaborative effort orchestrated by Galeria De Arte Urbana. Even stencil-type art on plywood surrounding construction is beautiful in Lisbon.

I went out walking in Lisbon one day and didn’t stop until my feet couldn’t physically bear the brunt of another step. My perseverance was mostly at the hand of my inability to quell my quest for views of street art. I purposefully lost myself in the city, taking spontaneous turns and not referring to a map. At one point in time, I happened upon an alley full of street art and a street artist hard at work on one particularly impressive piece. I didn’t dare interrupt him, certain that what he needed to say that day would be said on the wall before him once he was finished.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Barrio Alto in Lisbon