LX Factory, Lisbon

LX Factory – An industrial complex turned arts center.

Lisbon streets are bursting with color. It has art integrated into the overpasses, the sidewalks, the buildings and now – in old industrial complexes.

As someone who recently left work in manufacturing, I loved this place. It mixed the old with the new in way that revitalized the area.  To me it felt familiar and new at the same time. It was like a breath of fresh air and an experiment in making the industrial world a thing of beauty. I have always thought there was something somewhat magical about old industrial sites and the LX Factory manages to balance industrial and art in a way that’s interesting and still respects the history of the area.

A scooter and graffiti next to an industrial cart.

LX Factory used to be a manufacturing complex outside the city center in an area called Alcantara. It’s a short tram ride from the city center or, for me a long walk (don’t walk, it’s far!).  It was one of my favorite places I went while in Portugal and is surprisingly uncrowded for being such an interesting hipster and arts center. Although one of the things that was starting to weigh on me about Portland was the edge of hipster pretentiousness that I encountered, I realized here that in a lot of ways, I missed that element of Portland. One thing that always seems to accompany hipster neighborhoods is good food, drinks and art – all of which make a city a nice place to be.

LX Factory mainstreet

Ler Davagar Bookstore

Ler Davagar Bookstore
Printing press turned display piece/coffee stand

One of the focal points was an old print press located in a warehouse which has now, somewhat romantically, been transformed into the Ler Davagar Bookstore. A unique place in which the printing press now frames the espresso stand.  I loved how the original press was kept inside the building.  It gave the bookstore character and a sense of history. The bookshop has masses of new and used books in English and Portuguese that line the old warehouse walls. The patrons sit quietly below and sip coffee while pursuing classics.

There are chocolate shops, restaurants, a hostel and stores lining the traffic-less narrow road. Creative expression can’t be missed and was maximized on any blank space. Every available wall for art had been decorated with imaginative designs that put traditional graffiti to shame. Walking down the road and realizing that this area used to have a completely different face, I was impressed with what a colorful attraction it had turned into. It was like a hipster itself, covered in art and vintage finds but still somewhat charming and interesting.

I went twice, both during the day and at night. Don’t go too early, it’s the type of place you go for a late lunch and a latte. During the day young artists, designers and shoppers seemed to populate the streets. At night everyone migrates to the bars. One particularly memorable bar had projections on both the tables and the walls that went along with the club music playing inside. The rooftops are utilized for stargazing with drinks or indie films during good weather.  The cocktails are inventive and, of course, most have good beer lists. However, this being Portugal I’d suggest the wine.

Despite this being a great stop for art, food and culture, I kept asking myself,

“Why hasn’t this place been overrun with tourists?”

Yet, it seemed to be mainly popular with locals. That also could have something to do with being there on a Tuesday in December. But I still think it’s managing to fly under the radar. Someday, some hipster in Lisbon will say, “I used to hang out there before it was cool.”

Don’t miss the LX Factory if you are planning a trip to Lisbon. It’s best for lunch and some window shopping unless you happen to have a weekend night free. In that case, it’s a great place to get some cocktails and meet interesting people and enjoy the transformation from factory to arts haven.

Street art