An Architecture And Design Lover’s Guide To Lisbon

Capela Jesus Mestre | Courtesy of Site Specific Architecture
Capela Jesus Mestre | Courtesy of Site Specific Architecture
Photo of India Doyle
31 October 2016

Cited by savvy travelers as a must-visit destination in Europe this summer, 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for Lisbon. The city showcases a vibrant mix of forward-thinking design, rich cultural history and affordable prices. With an aesthetic that is guaranteed to seduce design buffs, The Culture Trip has pulled together an architecture lover’s guide to weekend getaways in Lisbon in partnership with Hostelworld.

Must-See Contemporary Buildings and Museums in Lisbon


Lisbon’s Museum of Design is an obvious but noteworthy starting point. Home to the Francisco Capelo Collection, it houses unique objects from Portugal and the rest of the world. Highlights include António Sena da Silva’s stackable chairs and Joe Colombo’s Minikitchen from 1963.

Capela Jesus Mestre

If you are looking for a quirkier destination, then visit the new minimalist chapel just outside of the city, created by Site Specific Arquitectura. Formerly a warehouse within a Lisbon monastery, the architects worked with natural light to transform the site into a bright, expansive area of worship. While visitors cannot go inside, the public can investigate via garden access.

Capela Jesus Mestre | Courtesy of Site Specific Architecture

Portuguese National Pavilion

In central Lisbon, leave some time to admire Álvaro Siza Vieira’s pristine 1998 Portuguese Pavilion, located on the waterfront at Alameda dos Oceanos. From here, you can walk over to Miguel Arruda’s Habitable Sculpture and spend time ruminating on Lisbon’s eclectic architecture scene within its cork interiors.

The Gulbenkian Museum

Home to the collection of British businessman Calouste Gulbenkian, the museum houses a unique mixture of over 10,500 pieces of Eastern and Western art, displayed on rotation. Designed by architects Ruy Jervis d’Athouguia, Pedro Cid and Alberto Pessoa, the building itself embodies a low-slung modernism that juxtaposes a formal concrete exterior with rich and luscious natural surroundings.

Museu | © JoséManuelCostaAlves8

Francisco de Arruda School

José Neves’ Francisco de Arruda School sees form follow function to great effect, with each section of the building meticulously designed with its purpose in mind. Stark, modern columns on the outside belie an interior that manages to be soft even while minimal and linear – not least thanks to the emphasis on natural light and the building’s acute response to its surrounding environment.

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Design tends to be synonymous with high prices, but it needn’t be. After a day soaking up the best contemporary architecture in Lisbon, continue the experience through the evening. Places to stay in Lisbon that are affordable and architecturally ace are on offer in abundance.

The Independente Hostel & Suites

This Art Deco hostel marries the majestic interiors of its past with forward-thinking minimalist design that caters to modern travelers. A short walk from Rossio train station, The Independente was created by four brothers to celebrate the cultural vibrancy of the city and is a fantastic place to meet like-minded souls while enjoying the views of St. George’s Castle.

Triple bunks at The Independente Hostel & Suites | Courtesy of Hostelworld

Home Lisbon Hostel

Decadent travelers will savor a stay at the mahogany-laden Home Lisbon Hostel. This residency boasts a 200-year-old history with furniture to match. Each room has signature furnishings and Art Deco fans will love the ornate decoration along the walls.

Lisbon Calling Hostel

Located on Rua de Sao Paulo, the interior brings together a range of influences from Art Nouveau to Organic Design. Travelers can either hang out together in communal rooms or opt for a private double room on another side of the building. You’ll find that visual inspiration will have you bonding with fellow guests the moment you arrive – and that’s before you’ve shared a Pastel de Nata in the rustic kitchen.

A private room at Lisbon Calling Hostel | Courtesy of Hostelworld

Hub New Lisbon

Situated in the trendy area of Principe Real, the New Hub Lisbon Hostel is housed in an 18th-century building. Guests who book a private double room will be treated to wooden floors and idiosyncratic details like pink enamel sinks. Communal rooms are also available, decorated with traditional tiled motifs and furnished with vintage pieces. Best of all, the breakfast served for guests each morning is free.

You are What You Eat: Breakfast and Brunch in Lisbon

Decadente Restaurant

Continue your immersive design weekend by enjoying an expertly curated breakfast in one of Lisbon’s hottest spots. While there are many to choose from, those staying in The Independente Collective won’t have to stray far. The in-house Decadente Restaurant enjoys a reputation as one of the best brunch spots in Lisbon. Inside, azulejo tiles decorate the walls, while minimalist wooden furnishings and low hanging lamps provide the perfect accompaniment to a decadent brunch, made with fresh seasonal ingredients.


For a sweet start to the day, enjoy a perfect Pastel de Nata at the buzzing Manteigaria on Rua do Loreto. Behind the Art Nouveau façade, visitors can watch the tarts being made in an open-plan kitchen. Pair with an espresso, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself making a return trip.

Manteigaria Cafe, Lisbon | Courtesy of Manteigaria Cafe

Classical Afternoons

Belém Tower

Europe’s second-oldest capital (after Athens) has enough classical architecture to keep you entertained for weeks. If you are short of time, a must-see is the Belém Tower, created in 1515 by architect Francisco de Arruda. This is a great example of the Late Gothic Manueline style, with intricate stonework that ripples in the light.

Belém Tower | © Alexander Savin/Flickr

Jerónimos Monastery

Other monuments to visit in Lisbon include the 16th-century Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located close to the river in the Belém neighborhood. Combining characteristics that span Flamboyant Gothic, Moorish, Baroque and early Renaissance, the monastery is a fascinating emblem of the Portuguese spirit of discovery and contains a wealth of history.

Casa dos Bicos

A quirkier example of 16th-century architecture, Casa dos Bicos is unique not only because it was one a few buildings to survive the earthquake but also for its stone diamond façade. Asymmetric window frames in stone are juxtaposed with small square frames on the ground floor, creating a fascinating interplay between formal and organic aesthetics.

Casa dos Bicos | © Lrocha/WikiCommons

Santa Justa Lift

Created by Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard (an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame) the Neo-Gothic Santa Justa Lift was originally powered by steam and served to connect the residents of Lisbon to the lowest and highest points of the city. Today the lift – accessed by climbing a spiral staircase – offers visitors phenomenal views of the surrounding area, from Rossio Square to St. George’s Castle.

The Art of Saying Goodbye: Lisbon’s Best Cocktail Bar

Cinco Lounge

There’s no better way to celebrate a trip well spent than with one of Lisbon’s signature cocktails. Cinco Lounge holds the title for the best cocktail bar in Lisbon, and with over 55 (and counting) cocktails to choose from, we’re not surprised. Each drink is expertly mixed and presented with a modern twist. We recommend asking owner and mixologist Dave Palethorpe for an Adam & Eve – you won’t be disappointed.

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