Lisbon’s Hidden Graffiti


By Vincent Morgan |  Published on Wednesday, October 1, 2014.

Discover the hidden streets of Lisbon and its graffiti. From the small stencil to the huge mural, Lisbon is definitely a colourful city to visit.

Article by James Pocock for FatCap

Were you to go looking for street art in Lisbon, it wouldn’t take you long to discover the huge murals that dominate the abandoned buildings surrounding Picoas metro station. A collaboration between Os Gêmeos, Blu and SAM3, these murals are awe inspiring in their sheer magnitude and, consequently, have been well documented (see on FatCap Live!).

But what happens when you move away from this first port of call as a street art tourist ? Granted, there are few pieces similar in terms of scale but Lisbon’s urban art, regardless of size and proximity to main thoroughfares, is constant in its ability to delight and surprise. There is always an undiscovered stencil or detail that will materialise around the next corner of the warren-like streets, whether it be one that has been created recently or has been around for years but hitherto unnoticed. This article hopes to scrape the surface of some of the lesser known and lesser (or maybe never) documented pieces that are strewn across the capital.

Calçada da Glória offers smaller-scale pieces than those of Picoas, but these permanent billboard-style walls offer a legal space for graffiti artists to display their work on one of the most touristic streets in Lisbon. For the somewhat elevated price of €3.50, you can take a funicular up this relentless hill which, in reality, is only a five minute, albeit steep, climb.  The advantages of tackling this hill on foot are abundant since you can stop to admire the ever changing pieces on display, accessible by purpose-built scaffolding.

Calcada da Glória

Heading uphill towards Chapitô, a bar-cum-clown-college, halfway between the shopping district of Baixa and Catelo São Jorge, you may be lucky enough to stumble upon this relatively new mural which must have appeared sometime in early 2012.

Difficult to capture in one photograph as it winds its way around houses, it captures many aspects of Portuguese culture from its history as a seafaring nation to the music genre of Fado which is specific to the country.

It is easy to forget that Portugal was still under a dictatorship until 1974, when it underwent a bloodless revolution. There are still reminders on the streets of the old regime.

This tiny detail reads ‘The three “F's”. It was the father that taught me.’ The three “F's” being Fado (the melancholy music literally meaning ‘fate’), football and fatima (faith). These were the believed to be the three cornerstones of the oppressive regime ; three ways in which Salazar could suppress a nation.

This crying soldier may be a homage to Portugal’s bloody colonial past.

While the mural below located in the heart of Bairro Alto (the party quarter) harks back to the left-wing military coup of '74.

A shouting man with blood on his face could also be a reference to Portugal’s violent past in the colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea from 1961-74.

From a problematic past to a troubled present, Portugal’s economic crisis has also found its way onto the streets.

Dalaiama is a prolific stenciler with hundreds of tags all over the city and its outskirts usually consisting of a pacman-like figure and an ominous crow. Yet he has also introduces the symbol for the Euro with the words ‘game over’, perhaps a prediction for the future of Portugal’s currency.

This artist (below) is a bit more up front about his (or her) feelings towards the current state of affairs.

However, there is often a more light-hearted approach. One cannot help but grin at a psychadelic wall ordering you to shop.

Or at Shakespeare philosophising about capitalism.

Despite the battered economy and allusions to a troubled past, there is an overwhelming sense of playfulness and goodwill in many of the works. We are all familiar with a protester propelling a bouquet, but maybe not as familiar with a flame thrower of love hearts with the simple description ‘Love War’.

Instead of our minds being controlled by the puppeteers of the media and capitalism as we saw earlier, they are, in fact, capable of being filled with nothing but love.

And our minds have the potential to soar.

No matter what you’re looking for in a piece of street art, if you look hard enough then you're bound to find something to your liking in this city. Whether it's a colossal mural...

…or sticker bombing. has rich variety. As long as you keep your eyes open and keep looking ; in the words of this man : don't expect that it falls from the sky.

Photos © James Pocock

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