The Cool Lisbon Neighbourhood Perfect for Art Lovers

Sunset views of Lisbon
Sunset views of Lisbon | Courtesy of Martinhal

Editorial Manager

Lisbon boasts colourful streets, hearty Iberian cuisine and famous landmarks many travellers are already familiar with. The historic centre of the Portuguese capital is a must-see, but it can get very busy, so we checked out a hotel – and neighbourhood – known for modern art in a colourfully practical location.

From Porto to Lisbon, via the Douro river and some of Portugal’s prettiest towns, take Culture Trip’s ultimate Portuguese getaway by rail.

The art capital of Lisbon… and Portugal

When the World Expo rolls into town, tourists and inquisitive travellers tend to follow. When the global event arrived in Lisbon in 1998, many locals wondered what would happen when the show eventually left. Organisers in the Portuguese capital had picked a part of the city a little distance from the centre, and one that didn’t have the best reputation.

Sculpture by Jorge Vieira inspired by the sun and man – Homem-Sol – and set in the Park of the Nations, Lisbon. Portugal. Europe

Colloquially known as Oriente – thanks to decades of maritime trade with Asia – factories and disused warehouses were all you could find here. The smell of sardines emanated from canneries and thick smoke billowed into the air offering convenient cover for nefarious types on the ground to conduct their ‘business’. Further decline followed into the 1980s and as businesses shut and moved to other parts of the country, so a derelict wasteland emerged.

It was this febrile atmosphere that birthed Expo’ 98, which was a typically self-contained affair. Commandeering a stretch along the banks of the Tagus for exhibitions and events, it was an apparent success at the time, but a long term plan was in place to change the otherwise forgotten neighbourhood forever.

The Park of Nations is a popular outdoor space in Lisbon

The area is now known as Park of Nations (Parque das Nações) and is a hub of art, shopping, business and residential properties. Connections to the centre of Lisbon are excellent with metro trips taking no more than 15 minutes. The main airport is even closer, so if you want to stay somewhere and eliminate the need for unnecessary travel, this is the spot to use.

The park itself is home to the Oceanario de Lisboa, a large aquarium popular with families, and many attractions that have been crafted to cater for visitors looking to explore the outdoor spaces here. Joggers and cyclists enjoy coming here and there’s a long line of restaurants too, perfect for al fresco dining in the summer.

Park of Nations

You don’t need to go looking for the art, its everywhere. From large sculptures made from recycled rubbish to walls covered in graffiti commissioned from the best artists in the world. Take a walking tour with one of the local guides here and you’ll get a fascinating insight into the history of the neighbourhood, which itself is connected to the history of Portugal, and a closer look at the best work on public display. There are immersive pieces suitable for children, water features perfect for cooling off in the summer and ornate details only an expert can showcase in detail.

Where to stay in Lisbon

In a neighbourhood like this you want to be immersed in art but still have all the comforts that come with a property away from the centre of town. All the hotels here have a modern veneer to them, but the one that most combines luxury with artsy character is the Martinhal Lisbon Oriente. A short walk from the major attractions associated with Parque das Nações, the hotel has both hotel rooms and residence-style accommodation for permanent guests. The combination is seamless and results in a place that is ideal for families, solo travellers and couples looking to explore Lisbon from a different perspective.

Martinhal Lisbon Oriente and Martinhal Residences

I was a big fan of the rooms which have a distinctive, homely feel. The heated indoor pool is open throughout the year whilst the outdoor setting also has a pool for warmer months. The gardens have a unique green wall of plants and even the exterior of the hotel manages to invoke the spirit of vertical flora spaces that have increased in popularity in recent years.

Martinhal Residences Living space

Designed for a new era of travel, set to meet the demands of savvy guests – whether it’s a family or bleisure travellers looking for the flexibility of self-catering options – he new hotel also champions and spotlights local contemporary Portuguese artists from Kruella D’Enfer, Graca Paz and famed street artist Bordalo II. You can enjoy all their work across the property. You’ll recognise some of the work as being from the same artist responsible for the recycled waste installations in the park.

Martinal Lisbon Oriente

Winter is a great time to visit Lisbon if you want to comfortably walk around but spring and summer do bring the city to life. Either way, this hotel is ideal as you can easy reach the centre of town bit still have a respite in the artistic neighbourhood locals tend to head to for shopping, culture and relaxing time outdoors. There is a second Martinhal property in Lisbon which is in the old town, and it too continues the brand ethos of comfortable family living while away from home. Located in a lovingly restored 19th century building right in the heart of the city’s chic, historic neighborhood, Chiado – Martinhal Chiado, has 37 luxurious serviced hotel apartments. Choose to stay in a studio, 1 or 2 bedroom apartment fully outfitted with their own kitchens, washer/dryers and light-filled living rooms.

Martinhal Chiado

Martinhal Lisbon Oriente brings new energy to a part of Lisbon that continues to thrive. It serves as a great base for first time visitors and showcases a part of town that those already familiar with the city might have otherwise missed.

As an art lover, frequent traveller and curious historian, this is the perfect place for me.

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