JOURNALTrend Watch: Lisbon’s East-End

As property trends go, a fail-safe trick has traditionally been to follow where the artists go.


Trend Watch: Lisbon’s East-End

As property trends go, a fail-safe trick has traditionally been to follow where the artists go.

As property trends go, a fail-safe trick has traditionally been to follow where the artists go. In Lisbon these days, this means Marvila, Xabregas, Beato and Braço da Prata, otherwise known as Lisbon’s East-End.

Over the past 5 years, leading galleries such as Underdogs and Galeria Francisco Fino have opened in renovated warehouses, while artists and architects have snapped up studios.

In the remaining warehouses, you’ll find creative co-working spaces and craft-breweries set close to the river, where cranes and containers still give this side of Lisbon the feel of working-docklands. It was intimate cocktail den, Capitão Leitão, run by English-man Will Grant and his Portuguese wife Viviane, that won Time-Out’s Best Newcomer bar award in 2017.

Then there’s Ela, a collective of the city’s cutting-edge creatives that host the city’s hippest secret after-hours raves to celebrate the energy of the Lisbon’s emerging East End.

Invites come via a secret facebook group with members vetted in advance. Yet rather than elitist, it’s about bringing people together who have a genuine contribution and interest in seeing this area thrive. It’s here that foreign creatives and entrepreneurs seeking the space they need to craft ambitious projects have set up shop, from French furniture designer Romain Jeantet’s atelier to french-owned Urban farming company Gro-Ho. Come Saturday, the neighbourhood becomes a mecca for vintage furniture lovers, when furniture warehouse Cantinho do Vintage throws open its doors.

It would be easy to class Marvila as Lisbon’s meatpacking-district-in-the-making or the Shoreditch equivalent and have done with it. But the local artists who live and work here aren’t so quick to agree, or better yet, to let that happen.

Renowned Portuguese contemporary artist Tomaz Hipolito, who bought his warehouse studio in Marvila 5 years ago, shares that the neighbourhood is going through an interesting time. While still below the Lisbon average, with prices ranging from €1.634 to €2.865 per square metre, a lot of the potential property for emerging artists to actually live in has already been snapped up by developers planning to build Brooklyn-style lofts and large-scale co-living blocks, probably better suited to the creative nomads already congregating in co-working spaces like Lisbon WorkHub.

For now, construction has yet to begin, and Lisbon’s East-End still feels a bit of a blank canvas, bubbling with creative energy yet lacking a clear identity. Stroll along Marvila’s main street, Rua do Acucar (Sugar Street) and it’s far quieter than you might expect. This in itself can be refreshing in our world of rapid homogenisation, but it means you’ll need to know where to go when it comes to getting under the skin of Lisbon’s East End. According to Tomaz, the last thing the Marvila needs to become is another meat-packing district. “Go to New York’s meat-packing district now and there’s no sign of a butcher, it’s all trendy shops and expensive coffee bars, it’s totally lost the soul that once made it so attractive”. For now, with Lisbon’s creative crew actively watching its evolution, Marvila’s gentrification still feels far in the distance.