Most of us know that Portugal has amazing beaches, sensational pastries, and castles that look like they came straight out of a fairytale. There is one secret, however, that many travellers haven’t quite discovered: the street art in Portugal is probably the best in Europe. I know, that’s quite a claim, but I can back it up.
The Centro region in Portugal is particularly noteworthy when it comes to urban creativity. It’s like a goldmine for art lovers, as more and more murals are added every year. Cities like Covilhã, Viseu, and Figueira da Foz are bursting with murals and you will find explosions of colour on the most unexpected corners. Enough talk (or typing), I will show you what I mean by taking you on route through Centro’s coolest cities. Here is where to find the best street art in Portugal.
Hidden Gems in Creative Covilhã
Most tourists tend to stick to the areas around Lisbon and Porto and completely miss out on the rest of Portugal. I find this somewhat understandable, since you can easily spend a week exploring either district. Still, if you really want to catch a glimpse of Portugal’s full cultural spectrum, you can’t ignore some of the smaller cities. Covilhã is one of those hidden gems that takes you right to heart of Portugal’s creative potential.
WOOL Urban Art Festival in Covilhã
Covilhã is a hilly university town at the foot of the Serra da Estrela, the largest mountain range in Portugal. In June, the WOOL Urban Art Festival returns to the city, resulting in several new murals every year. Practically all of the pieces are outright masterpieces. You can go on a walk through the historic city centre to see the best ones. Make sure you don’t miss the murals near the Santa Maria church. Fun fact: the name ‘WOOL’ (also a pun on ‘wall’), was not randomly chosen, since the city used to be closely connected to the textile industry.
Explosions of Colour in Sunny Figueira da Foz
At first, Figueira da Foz might look like a typical seaside town. People are strolling along with towels in their beach bags and the sandy beaches seem neverending. The city centre is calm and relatively small, but the shoreline connects to an extensive boulevard full of shops and cafes. Sure, that all sounds super nice, which it is, but it wouldn’t be a fair description.
Figueira da Foz is one of the only places in Europe where you can combine your beach holiday with a top-notch street art scene.
Figueira da Foz is one of the only places in Europe where you can combine your beach holiday with a top-notch street art scene. How often can you go swimming and sunbathing while simultaneously appreciating art? As you head to the marina and walk the wooden boardwalks to the beach, you will encounter the coolest pieces.
Viseu: Pilgrims, Wine, and a Splash of Street Art
When you head further inland, towards the interior of Portugal, you will arrive in Viseu. This is the starting point of one of the Portuguese pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostella. Viseu is a cosy town with charming streets and historic squares where you can relax and do some people-watching.
Historic Viseu is the starting point of one of the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostella.
Viseu’s most characteristic feature is its prime position within the traditional Beiras wine region. This theme is strongly connected the the local street art, something you will undoubtedly notice. In order to enjoy some of the best murals in town, you should explore the city centre by foot. Go on a ride on the funicular and have a glass of wine at one of the sidewalk cafes.
Major Masterpieces in Peaceful Estarreja
Estarreja is a bit of a small and sleepy town, but it has managed to snag some major street art masterpieces. This is due to the annual ESTAU festival (Estarreja Arte Urbana), which has transformed Estarreja in a veritable art lover hotspot. The festival takes place in september, which is a great time to visit. Nevertheless, the murals are, of course, permanently on show throughout the year.
Go on a short walk through town and finish your visit with a drink and snack at the Francisco Barbosa Square. Estarreja is a little bit off-route, at least compared to the other towns. Still, for the bigger steet art fans, it could be worth a visit. Once more, I’ll let the murals speak for themselves.
This article was written in collaboration with Turismo de Portugal Centro and TAP Portugal. I was invited on an amazing press trip to see the street art of Centro. Visit CenterofPortugal.com for more useful information about the region!