When most people imagine all the things to do in Lisbon, they probably think of the overwhelming history, religious festivals and deliciously creamy Pastels de Nata.
What visitors may not expect, however, is the vibrant streets filled with colorful hand-painted shapes and textured murals that make Lisbon one of the best cities in Europe for street art. We’re not talking about graffiti or on-the-whim splashes of spray paint; the streets of Lisbon are lined with some of the most truly spectacular artworks in the world.
For many international tourists, the Lisbon street art scene has been kept largely under wraps. As it turns out though, these ‘hidden gems’ are not so secret after all.
A trip to Lisbon is incomplete without a tour of the city’s street art. But for digital nomads, the capital city of Portugal could also be a great long-term destination. With fast wifi speeds and a booming international community, Lisbon is widely regarded as one of the best places in Europe for remote workers.
Not only that, but the city has plenty of high-quality accommodation options so that travelers don’t have to put a second thought into where they are staying while they explore the art of Lisbon. So whether you’re a digital nomad or simply enjoying your vacation, a street art tour in Lisbon is not to be missed.
The culture in Lisbon is a melting pot of old, traditional Christian religions and new wave musical and pop influences. Lisbon art reflects this, with a mix of vibrant and colorful wall murals alongside classical and technical pieces.
Instead of the graffiti-style art scene in other cities across Europe and the US, Lisbon’s street pieces are considered to be more delicate.
Vhils, one of the most infamous artists initially put Lisbon’s street art on the map with his tile-based composition. Many textured pieces can now be seen all over the city. Alongside street art, Portugal’s capital is home to the museum of art, architecture and technology. Lisbon’s MAAT is currently featuring an exhibition from Vhils, as well as other showcases that comment upon the intricate history of the city.
Through the museum of popular art, Lisbon’s Belem district is able to showcase itself as the more traditional district of the city. Sculptures, ceramics and woodwork are all displayed inside the museum, with each room set to represent a different region of Portugal.
Finally, Saldhana Lisbon street art is the place to begin your journey with street art. Vhils’ Crono project is set here, where he invited a number of other artists to participate in creating street art that protests the presence of oil and gas barons in Portugal.
Lisbon art by district
On any trip, it’s important to get an accurate layout of the city so that visitors can plan their routes in a time-effective way. So here is a map of Lisbon.
When we talk about street art as one of the best things to do in Lisbon Portugal, there are four primary districts in the city that visitors may be interested in:
Cais do Sodre
Barrio Alto / Baixa
Alfama is the oldest district of the city- the “old town” as it’s known locally. In this district, visitors will find plenty of crumbling bricks and ancient architecture and are likely to hear traditional Portuguese ‘fado’ music playing as they walk the streets.
Alfama requires preservation; as the oldest area of the city it is also the most vulnerable to damage. Moreover, the street art in this district must match it’s classic surroundings. Here, bright colors and graffiti would seem garish.
Chances are, those looking up towards the hills in Lisbon will be facing the Graca district. This area is a little bit out of the way, but still well worth a visit for art fans. Hosting two of the most popular miradoures (or look out points), this township’s altitude is a great place to get a view of the city.
Cais do Sodre is unbiasedly the place to stay in Lisbon. This trendy area has a number of amenities in walking distance and is one of the main hubs for nightlife in the city. Compare this district to the Peckham or Clapham of London, or the Williamsburg of New York. Cais do Sodre is home to what feels like an unlimited supply of market and food stalls, so that visitors can soak up the Portuguese culture on the tip of their tongue.
Finally, Barrio Alto and Baixa are two of the more central areas of the city. Lisbon art museums are located in these districts, alongside many of the large businesses. For this reason, there is more of a ‘city centre’ feeling in Barrio Alto and Baixa. With good transport links, and plenty of nightlife, visitors based in these areas of the city will have almost everything they need to enjoy the trip.
A quick walk around Alfama district will have you thinking that this is Vhils’ world, we’re all just living in it.
The artist, who’s real name is Alexandre Farto, has used varying textural mediums to create stunning street artworks in Alfama that easily blend in with the ancient-feeling environment. Of course, the Lisbon grafitti found in other parts of the city would seem vulgar and gaudy in this classical district. That’s why the face he’s carved into Lisbon Cathedral was a smart move.
In particular, the cobblestone tribute to Amalia Rodriguez plays homage to the ‘Queen of Fado’, a musical genius from the 20th Century. Vhils’ use of explosives on plaster chips to create this treasure means that it blends in with the long-standing materials and architecture already seen in Alfama.
Other artists work can also be seen in this area of the city. ‘Lisa’ by Tami Hopf is a stunning portrait of a woman in black, white and rusted red shades. Painted during an art festival in 2016, it explores the relationship between human beings and nature. This is a theme that many visitors will spot over and over again during a free walking tour Lisbon.
Finally, the Alma de Alfama is an orde to the elderly residents of Alfama. Translating to the ‘soul of Alfama’, this permanent piece serves as a reminder of the traditions and cultures of the city of Lisbon, and those who call it home.
Some of the best Lisbon street art can be found in Graca. Compared to Alfama, this is definitely more of a colorful distrcit with plenty of bright hues seen among the street artists here.
Another of Lisbon’s legendary street artists is Shepard Fairey, who is originally from the USA. Founder of OBEY clothing, there is a collection of murals by the same name in this area of Lisbon. One depicts a women wearing a beret and holding a gun, in the same way that revolutionists used to.
Shepard Fairey is most famous for his 2008 work ‘Hope’, a poster which eventually made it into Barack Obama’s presedential campaign. Another of his artworks can be found in Graca in collaboration with Vhils, a half-half piece where each artist decided to create 50% of a woman’s face.
For Grafitti fans and those who like to perform street art photography, Lisbon might feel like heaven. ‘Tropical Fado in RBG tones’ was created in 2021 by OzeArv, and is a tribute to the local Fado music that is so loved in this city. Visitors agree that this is certainly one of the most eye-catching pieces in the entire city.
Finally, for something a bit different, tourists might like ‘Sophia gazes across the city’, a stencil design by Daniel Eime. With Portuguese poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen as his muse, much of Daniel’s work explores the human facial expressions.
Cais do Sodre
For those who’ve seen the famous Lisbon metro art all over the trams on the internet; this is the place to see it with your own eyes.
Some of Bordallo II’s ‘trash art’ collection can be found in Cais do Sodre and depict various animals, such the fox, created from paint and discarded materials that the artist found in the garbage. This project amplifies the voice of those speaking out on environmental damage through waste, and how we can recycle materials effectively. Many of Bordallo II’s animal choices are also endangered species, adding another element to the conversation.
Moreover, a Lisbon free walking tour would be incomplete without seeing Mario Belem’s mural about the abolition of the death penalty in Portugal. Created on the 150th year anniversary, the urban artwork sits at a historic site for capital punishment in Lisbon.
Located near Santa Justa elevator, tourists could combine the two Lisbon attractions into one day out to form a Portuguese itinerary and make the most of their visit to the Cais do Sodre district.
Barrio Alto/ Baixa
Similar to the Lisbon metro art seen in Cais do Sodre, the acensor de Gloria tram is covered in graffiti-style street art. That serves as a great introduction to the area, which is typically more flashy than some of the other parts of Lisbon (and it’s art reflects that).
As a form of Lisbon wall art, the Sumo Doubledevil piece hosts bright cartoon-style art. Created in 2014 on the same day as his Montana exhibition opening, the artist was intially stopped by the police for vandalism. It was not until local people stood up for him that the police let it go and he was able to finish spray painting.
On a street art Lisbon tour, explorers can’t miss the Maoist designs in collaboration by Antonio Alves and RIGO. Formed in 2009, the mural emulates traditional leftist propaganda, similar to that found in world war two in the UK and USA. Finding the street art in Barrio Alto and Baixa are a great way to see the central distrcts of Lisbon through fresh eyes.
How to get around Lisbon
Getting around Lisbon is probably more simple than you think.
It’s not necessarily a ‘walkable city’, largely due to it’s sheer size and uphill terrain. Known as the city of seven hills, you’d better bring your walking boots if you’re not planning on taking public transport in Lisbon.
Having said that, a Lisbon walking tour is available to showcase the best that the capital of Portugal has to offer. Booking a walking tour with Selina means visitors simply have to roll out of bed to reach the start of the tour.
Otherwise, the most famous way to traverse the city of Lisbon is probably by tram. As the ‘San Francisco of Europe’, trams are a comfortable way to get around Portugal’s capital, cross bridges over the river and make it up the huge hills without breaking a sweat.
Finally, taxi’s and shuttles are also a good option to get from A to B. With access to rideshare apps like Uber, a familiar mode of transport might be the preferred way to to get around an unfamiliar city. If you’re hailing a normal taxi, ensure you negotiate the rate with the driver before setting off, or that you can see the meter to avoid being scammed.
Where to stay in Lisbon
When booking your stay, we recommend you focus the search on Cais do Sodre. It’s easily the best neighborhood to stay in for those with a keen interest in arts and culture. Moreover, it’s one of the most central districts which makes Cais do Sodre the perfect place to start a walking tour. Lisbon has other livable areas, of course, but with Selina located in Cais do Sodre, there is an accomodation option to match everyon’s travel style.
Just a nine minute drive to the Lisbon art museum, art lovers can rejoice at the proximity of great sights without wasting hours of their day travelling to the locations. It’s a win-win.
Explore Lisbon’s Street Art
When searching for Lisbon things to do, look no further than a street art tour. There are long-standing pieces that have helped give Lisbon it’s name as one of the best cities for street art in Europe, as well as hidden murals weaved into the streets.
After arriving in the city, head straight for Selina Secret Garden for insider knowledge from our local members of staff. As a sociable place to stay, Selina guests also receive discounts on tours and local attractions as well as the best tips in the city.
Lisbon Street Art FAQs
Is there a Banksy in Lisbon?
The short answer: no, there are currently no confirmed Banksy’s in Lisbon. However, instead of one primary art district, Lisbon is home to thousands of cool wall murals, tile art and sculptures that make it one of the best places to explore street art in Europe.
Which city has the best street art?
After taking a street art tour, Lisbon cements itself as the place to be for graffiti in Portugal. While some of its other cities are great for beaches and surfing (Ericeira), Lisbon truly takes the cake when it comes to street art.
However, there are a number of nearby European cities that can compete with the street art in Lisbon. Check out Prague and Barcelona for competition to Lisbon’s street art, as well as London. Although each of these cities has different styles to that found in Lisbon, they offer a good volume of pieces that can keep visitors occupied for days. And if you’re looking for a place to stay while you’re in London, Selina Camden just might be the choice for you.
How many days do you need to see Lisbon?
The perfect Lisbon itinerary calls for at least five days in the city (although we’d suggest more). If you’re combining Portugal’s capital with other destinations in the country, you’ll want to take at least two weeks of vacation time to explore.
Seeing the best art galleries in Lisbon will take at least a day or more on their own. Then, there’s the markets, the miradouros and all of the other cultural sights in the city. Don’t forget about a trip down to the river if you want to feel like a true local.
What is the weather like in Lisbon?
Before you can begin exploring Lisbon, it’s useful to know what the weather is going to be like on the trip, and therefore what to pack. Fortunately, the weather here is fairly constant all year-round. With highs of 82F in summer, it’s a hot city that warrants light clothing, with plenty of t-shirts, shorts and dresses.
Fortunately, even during the winter months of December and January, only 10 days of rainfall are expected per month. This means that, fingers crossed, you can book outdoor activities which won’t be ruined by rainfall.