lx factory lisbon portugal

Lisbon is changing fast. All the charm of its past still stands – hills studded with pastel houses, butter yellow trams chugging up cobbled streets, timeworn Ginjinha bars and art deco cinemas – but what’s changing is the city’s pace, and as usual it’s the younger generation that’s moving things forward.

The economic recession forced many of Lisbon’s population out of work, but it’s often a crisis that spawns new beginnings. Now, the city’s young creatives are reimagining the city, building on what is already there and rejoicing in its charming patchwork of opulent and dilapidated architecture. They’re taking over disused palaces and grand, uninhabited houses and turning them into stylish concept stores, third-wave coffee shops, independent art spaces and cutting edge restaurants.

Nowhere is this more evident than at LX Factory. Stretching out beneath the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge, this industrial strip once housed Lisbon’s most prosperous fabric factories. Lisbon’s golden age of industry came and went, and the area was abandoned. That is, until some wily folk decided to reinvent it in 2008. These days, it is an absurdly hip mecca of cafés, bars, art spaces, vintage shops, tattoo studios, yoga studios and music venues. The factory buildings remain relatively untouched, with lashings of street art colouring their bricks. When the sun comes out (which is pretty much every day in Portugal) LX Factory fills with locals sipping beer and – as we don’t speak Portuguese we imagine – discussing the delights of living in Europe’s coolest city. Here are the spots to visit if you decide to join them.

Eat at

LXeesecake

A café dedicated to cheesecake, run by a woman called Madame Cheeselova. You probably don’t need to hear any more, but just know that the slices are homemade, colossal and delicious.

Cantina

The interiors of this sprawling bar and restaurant pay tribute to its industrial past. It looks a bit like an air hanger, with high tin ceilings, antique curiosities, stone floors and a mishmash of metal tables and colourful chairs. If you bag a seat up on the raised platform, you can look down over the open bar and kitchen where light, classic Portuguese food is prepared using a small wood-fired oven.

A Mesa

If Sweeney Todd came back to life, moved to Lisbon and decided to open a pizzeria, it would probably look a lot like A Mesa. An old leather barber’s chair greets you at the entrance, the walls are wood-panelled and the floor is stony. Happily, the comparison stops there. A Mesa is all about communal tables and great pizza. Their signatures slices are piled with locally sourced, punchy toppings like shrimp, Portuguese sausage and sesame seeds.

Coffee at

Wish Slow Coffee

Lisbon has just started to find its feet when it comes to good coffee. While jet-black, bitter espresso can be found on every corner, a really good cup of coffee can be hard to come by. Nordic vibes abound in this bright, simple coffee shop. Bed down with a pot of French press or Chemex (those slinky glass jars that seem to have taken over the shelves in London) and sample some of Wish’s high quality coffees with their simple, locally sourced lunch dishes and tapas.

Drink at

Para Sempre

By day, this spacious, graffitied space offers the best in casual lunches. Their tostas (sandwiches) salads and crêpes are named after the world’s most beloved musicians. According to this menu, Jimi Hendrix prefers guacamole, bacon and cheddar, while Jim Morrison likes a bit of whiskey-marinated pork and onion. By night, the room is cleared for loud live music and strong drinks.

Café na Fabrica

Perch yourself at one of the communal tables underneath the bridge for beers or cocktails at this local hangout. The building itself is charmingly incongruous – a little white standalone cottage selling small brunches, pastries and Portuguese tapas.

Shop at

MoreThanWine

Fill your boots with Portuguese produce at this little shop and bar. As well as selling carefully selected fine wines, oils, salts, tubes of rich chocolate paste and iconic canned fish, More Than Wine also offers artisanal beer and gourmet snacks to be enjoyed at one of the tiny tables. Enjoy salty sardines and a glass of gutsy red wine, served with a plate of nectarines drizzled with honey and cinnamon.

Retroshop

The name is a dead giveaway. If you happen to have room in your luggage for a 1970s Danish desk chair or a neon gas station sign, this is your place.

LX Market

On Sundays, head to LX’s very own flea market. The fair is replete with vintage clothes, handmade jewellery, homewares, rare records and artwork by local creatives. As with most markets, this one has a fair amount of junk. But sift through the rails and you might come across something wonderful – Lisbon is only just coming round to the idea of second-hand clothing, so there are still a lot of gems floating around.

Pura Cal

Our visit to this homeware shop was untimely. We had just decorated our flat, and it made us want to take an axe to it and start again. The room is full of handcrafted textiles, streamlined furniture, mirrors, lamps, laundry baskets and everything in between.

Ler Devagar

If you’ve ever scrolled through those articles dedicated to beautiful libraries of the world, you’ll probably be familiar with Ler Devagar’s giant wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, which stretch along the walls of a giant former factory. The library stocks an impressive selection of poetry, fiction, art and photography and travel books, set on two floors along with a bar, café and event space.

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