The touristic appeal of territories combines both the built and immaterial historic heritage with the most creative and innovative interventions. As far as tourists are concerned, they are more open to exploring new experiences and discovering different aspects of places, which enrich their journey and make it unforgettable.

The Contemporary Portugal Guide highlights 4 areas related to contemporaneity and innovation: Contemporary Architecture and Art, Design and Events.

Here you will find a very careful and justified selection of over 150 resources and events throughout the entire country.

In the Architecture selection, the Portuguese Architects Association invited Pedro Campos Costa to elect 40 places that are proof of the vitality and quality of Portuguese architecture today – public and private spaces, used for different purposes but which can be deeply experienced.

In the Contemporary Art, the Portuguese Section of the International Association of Art Critics gave Rui Mário Gonçalves the responsibility for selecting some of the main spaces (museums, galleries, art centres) which enable the individuality, cosmopolitanism, lyricism and subtlety of the Portuguese art to be discovered.

The selection for the area on Design has been handled by Bárbara Coutinho, the director of MUDE, the Museum of Design and Fashion, who focuses on the interiors of various types of spaces that are and always will be symbols of contemporaneity and unique enjoyment.

With regards to Events, we have selected some which regularly bring to the regions the national and international trends in Cinema, Dance, Photography, Music, Theatre and in the various Crossover Arts. An events calendar which is an excellent complement to any tourist visit, resulting from a significant investment in compiling a varied and appealing programme.

We have produced this Guide dedicated to contemporaneity, aiming to provide new proposals to (re) discover Portugal, which make it easier to compile tourist programmes, content and services that can attract new and greater audiences.

The tips for visits suggested in the Guide resulting from the justified choices of our partners, are not exhaustive within the universe of existing contemporary expressions, but rather serve as a primary purpose for travelling.

Turismo de Portugal

João Belo Rodeia, Rita Palma (Portuguese Architects Association); Pedro Campos Costa.
Delfim Sardo, Leonor Nazaré, Rui Mário Gonçalves (Portuguese Section of the International Association of Art Critics).
Bárbara Coutinho (MUDE, Design and Fashion Museum); Frederico Duarte, Luís Royal and Rui Afonso Santos.

NB: The layout of the images is aimed at their being adaptable to the available web devices and is the exclusive responsibility of Turismo de Portugal


Have a Good Journey.

by João Belo Rodeia
President of the Portuguese Architects Association

In Portuguese, the first synonym for the word tourism is enjoying travelling1. In some way, we associate tourism with the pleasure in or desire to travel, as used to be the case with the Grand Tour. Pleasure in or desire to travel, which were inseparable in movement from seeking adventure, encountering something different and contemplating the wonders.

Then, once itineraries had been established, desire and pleasure had to be combined with obligation. Scientific knowledge, education through experience, flight from civilisation or civilisation in flight were added. Journeys became stays and the movement of a few became the movement of many, being reinvented in established itineraries, appropriate climates, seasonal routines, pleasurable comforts and cyclical and foreseeable destinations.

Moreover, the world in movement then became a movement without a world, which is trans-boundary, swift and global. The democratisation of tourism gave it a mass-market of possibilities and offers, mostly standardised. Pleasure and desire turned into obligation, in identical and permanent routines. The journey was replaced by recreation, the excursion by incursion and the desire and pleasure by excitement. For better or for worse, tourism became separated from enjoying travelling and became the most important worldwide industry.

Architecture, once a primary reason for travelling, conditioned the mass reinvention of tourism. On all scales, in all territories and landscapes and for all purposes. Programmes were systematised, operations optimised, procedures rationalised, participants became specialised and mass construction took place like never before. With the best and worst results, the best and worst architects and sometimes without any architect at all.

Paradoxically (or perhaps not), in the last few decades, the trend towards standardised tourism has been replaced by differentiated tourism through heritage, culture, creativity and nature, in the name of the competitive game and (its) survival. A seasonal nomadic lifestyle is even being recovered and swift movement is replaced with new regimes of idleness, inseparable from desire, pleasure and aesthetic contemplation. Architecture is readapting itself again, reinventing itself as a support for this new tourism or recovering its reunion with travel for its own enjoyment.

The guide to architecture by Pedro Campos Costa2 talks about this reunion in Portugal. Architecture reappears through enjoying travelling, taking in the Voyages en Italie of the 18th century or the Baedekers of the 19th century. With established destinations, but without itineraries or set times. Have a Good Journey.

  1. Translation from Portuguese in Dicionário Universal da Língua Portuguesa, Lisbon: Texto Editora, 1995: 1420
  2. Delegate of the Portuguese Architects Association for the project – Contemporary Portugal Guide.

Travels in my Homeland1

by Pedro Campos Costa

Suggestions for creating a guide to architecture for the oldest cultural industry 2 or 40 excuses for travelling, not to get to know Portuguese architecture, but for the sheer pleasure3

Nowadays, tourism is conceived and understood to be a cultural product clearly opposing industrial production. The natural wonders, urban heritage, the cities with their cathedrals, palaces and museums, the parks and the ceremonies are the tourist product transformed into scenery and experience. Contrary to industrial production, which is based on transforming nature, tourism as a cultural industry depends on enjoying aesthetics, on contemplating instead of exploring4. The tourist product is the land itself.

Travelling as a criterion

These choices were imagined as a journey, because that is what defines the tourist; in Webster's dictionary5 it is described as – A tourist is one who travels from one place to another, for pleasure or culture. Tourism is a spare time activity linked to mobility, very different from the “villeggiatura”, which is associated with the idea of refuge, rest, treatment in spas or in specific health places6. This journey was conceived as a guide without itineraries or set times, as a scattered narrative, a series of seemingly unrelated dots on the land, which, apart from covering a more or less wide and equal geographical distance, is totally insufficient for creating a clear image of the identity of Portuguese architecture. It does not intend to do so, nor do I know how such a novel could be written.

These suggestions for visits are one possible narrative of the land and its geography of architectural icons, images and references in the built-up landscape of Portugal.

To build this idea, I used three criteria for guidance, which analytically helped my decision. Experience, geography and programme.

Experience: architecture doesn't exist in its means of representation, drawing, models, photography, video... it's three-dimensional, physical and sensorial and it's that experience that thrills us and enriches us when in contact with it. Experience is the possibility of participating, touching, feeling, the opportunity of finding it and probably the excuse for going. “To experience architecture in a concrete way means to touch, to see, hear, and smell it”7. Not only the internal spatial experience of the building is considered, but its relationship with the exterior, the moment of arrival and the harmonisation with the landscape8. I have endeavoured to propose the greatest variety of architectural types and experiences, in keeping with the following two criteria.

Geography: I tried to “spread” the choice of works across the land. This network of dots is not proportional to the number of inhabitants or the quantity of eligible works; as previously stated, the choice has been guided by experience and the place as an opportunity to travel. Consequently, there is a positive discrimination, making the urban areas of Oporto and Lisbon examples that are not proportional to the quantity and quality of eligible architectural production.

Programme: buildings of a touristic nature, such as hotels, resorts, pousadas or guest houses were not chosen, but rather publicly-funded works. With the exception of the wineries and olive mills, which although not public facilities, are nevertheless an inevitable presence in the tourist world of our imagination and are extremely strong in terms of their architectural nature and the experience they provide. I tried to vary the choice of public works – swimming pools, libraries, infrastructures, sports centres, markets – although obviously there is a greater number of museums and interpretation centres. The exceptions are two urban areas (Expo 98 and Campus Universitário de Aveiro), the choice being justified by their intensity and the quantity of works of reference as well as by the experience of looking around these two areas.

These three criteria cannot be separated and are inter-related, because part of the experience is associated to the geography and the programme; the invitation is the journey that makes this tournée possible. The journey is the criterion. Have a Good Journey.

May anyone who is close to the Alps, in Winter, in Turin, travel around his bedroom, which is almost as cold as St Petersburg, you see. But with this climate, with this air that God has given us, where the orange tree grows in the vegetable garden and the bush is of myrtle, Xavier de Maistre himself, if he wrote here, would at least go into the backyard. Travels in My Homeland, Almeida Garrett, 1846

mapa dos locais de arquitectura

  1. Title of the book by Almeida Garrett (1846)
  2. The oldest cultural industry; chapter of the book The age of access, Rifkin 2001
  3. Phrase from the book Rome, Naples and Florence, Stendhal (1865) – “For, in the end, I’m travelling not to get to know Italy, but for my own pleasure.”
  4. Tourism does not directly exploit natural resources but does so indirectly, through consumption. The question of exploiting natural resources through consumption is inherent to the current social and economic model.
  5. Webster Third New International Dictionary, Vol.III, S to Z ed. 1971
  6. Urbain, Jean-Didier (2003) – L´idiota in viaggio, storia e difesa del Turista, translation Chiara Barbarossa. Aporie 1st ed. 1991
  7. Zumthor, Peter (2005) – Thinking Architecture. Birkhauser
  8. Távora, Fernando (1962) – Da organização do espaço. Edições FAUP, 2004


Portuguese Contemporary Art

by Rui-Mário Gonçalves
Art critic

An extremely individualised artistic practice, where cosmopolitan information can be recognised, permeated with lyricism and subtlety.

Year after year, the Portuguese Section of the International Association of Art Critics – AICA – has methodically indicated to the general public the more prominent artists, designating them for important awards. From the extensive list that could be organised from that, only those who were still active in 2012 have been quoted, and they may therefore be visited in their places of work. The group is significant. Within it, a wide variety of avant-garde manifestations can be seen, from the renewed ways of catching the visible world to the most extreme abstractionism, and from the careful handling of the artistic object to the most radical conceptualism.

In the list below, to each name, the date of birth and one or two words indicating the type of art produced by the artist have been added. Obviously, the process is too schematic, as many artists go through various phases during their career, leaning towards one trend, then to another and also even presenting the summary or confrontation of various techniques and conceptions in the same work, in a hybrid manner, decidedly making any labelling a challenge. However, the scheme may be useful as a provisional first reference.

NADIR AFONSO (1920, geometric abstractionism); JÚLIO POMAR (1926, figurative painting); ARTUR ROSA (1926, geometric objects); CARLOS CALVET (1928, “metaphysical” pop); LURDES CASTRO (1930, objectified silhouettes); NIKIAS SKAPINAKIS (1931, figurative painting); JORGE PINHEIRO (1931, shaped canvas); ANTÓNIO COSTA PINHEIRO (1932, new figuration); EURICO GONÇALVES (1932, gestual sign); HELENA ALMEIDA (1934, video-art); RICARDO CRUZ FILIPE (1934, photo-painting); PAULA FIGUEIROA REGO (1935, illustration); JOSÉ RODRIGUES (1936, sculpture); MANUEL BAPTISTA (1936, abstract collage-painting); ALBERTO CARNEIRO (1937, land art); JOÃO CUTILEIRO (1937, figurative sculpture); EDUARDO NERY (1938, Op); JOSÉ DE GUIMARÃES (1939, three-dimensional painting); ANA VIEIRA (1940, installation); JORGE MARTINS (1940, neo-figurative painting); ANTÓNIO SENA (1941, informal sign); LUIS NORONHA DA COSTA (1942, screen painting); JOSÉ BARRIAS (1944, conceptualism); JORGE MOLDER (1947, photography); PEDRO CALAPEZ (1953, abstract painting); RUI SANCHES (1954, sculpture); PAULO NOZOLINO (1955, photography); PEDRO CABRITA REIS (1956, installation); JOSÉ PEDRO CROFT (1957, sculpture).

These artists, who were generally not well accepted at the beginning of their careers due to the lack of an informed public, could only organise their promotional strategy in associations run by artists, such as the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes in Lisbon and Cooperativa Árvore, in Oporto, institutions which, however, lost their support whenever their programmes concentrated on avant-garde art. In summary: it takes decades to change the taste of the general public.

But the current art-public relationship has improved considerably.

Since the 1980s, the contemporary art public in Portugal has been benefitting from the activity of museums and commercial galleries. The main impulse is owed to the creation of CAM, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's Modern Art Centre in Lisbon, created in 1983. It wasn't long before other influential cultural institutions joined CAM in this publicising activity: the Serralves Foundation (1989), with its National Museum of Modern Art (1999), in Oporto; Centro Cultural de Belém (1993), in Lisbon, which has been showing the Berardo Collection since 2007, a remarkable set of modern works by great international artists, including some Portuguese ones; and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, in Lisbon, created in 1911, initially devoted to Portuguese romantic and naturalist art, scarcely followed the modern proposals until it updated its programme in 1994.

The commercial galleries are also progressing in quantity and quality. They are scattered throughout the capital and other places. But in Oporto, the merchants decided to concentrate in a single block. All together, there are over twenty contemporary art galleries in Rua Miguel Bombarda, Rua do Rosário and Rua D. Manuel II, where the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis can also be found. This museum, mainly dedicated to decorative art produced since the sixteenth century, also displays late-naturalist sculptures and paintings of the nineteenth century and some modern works from the beginning of the twentieth century.

The confrontation of the more recent art with that of the past, is proof of the Portuguese people's current heightened interest in the more advanced conceptions and techniques that have appeared in the major cultural centres like Paris, Munich, London and New York, places not only of production but where information about the entire world converges, increasingly including Asia, Africa and South America.

The will to achieve a universal level of communication fuels the best modern research. It would therefore seem pointless to search for any Portuguese characteristics in avant-garde expression. However, just like in a language, there are regional accents.

As such, the works of the current Portuguese artists often still have some characteristics which, among others, may go unnoticed. We are talking firstly about lyricism and subtlety. They do not appear as much at the start of an artist's career as when they reach maturity.

Allusion of Nature or of some urban corners is a moment for listening to them, allowing the reminiscence of some lost paradise to emerge. There are places in Portugal that were represented from memory by painters living far from their homeland. In such listening, others perfect a sensitivity that can create a type of archetype landscaping, which forgoes undesirable details. Some, in the midst of Abstraction, nevertheless suggest pure spaces, freely inter-connecting the linear, chromatic and atmospheric perspectives. Others invent installations, building false ruins, perhaps subconsciously drawing again on a romantic tradition and presenting scenes of debris; or intervening in Nature, such as in Land Art and other conceptualist trends. Others transfigure photographs or confront them with words.

Many modern Portuguese artists emigrate or take extremely long journeys to update their knowledge in the major cultural centres, which are more cosmopolitan than French, German, British or American. In these centres, there are more signs of time than of space. Modern artists, with the eyes of their time, then find value in Portuguese traditions which are not better understood by those who have not travelled. They also then find the sensorial values of non-European arts. Their senses are awakened by the vigour of the plastic forms of other civilisations. This results in hybrid art which has already reached artistic peaks in Portugal's past: the Manueline and Baroque styles. Hybridism and ornamentalism are therefore two other characteristics which currently subsist, defying any forecasts of the most common critical theories.

The Portuguese artist does not get lost in someone else's wisdom. He reinvents himself and is intuitively enlightened about what he really is, by realising what he misses. Two poets endeavoured to explain this paradoxical fact, defending it and setting it with small original sayings. The visionary Teixeira de Pascoaes (1877-1935) wrote: “The soul is made up of what we miss.” Whilst the ironic Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) warned: “The Portuguese who is only Portuguese is not Portuguese”

Lisbon, 2012


Interior Design

by Bárbara Coutinho
Director of MUDE – Museum of Design and Fashion, Francisco Capelo Collection

Getting to know Portugal through the atmosphere of its cafés and pastry shops, book stores, hotels and shops, night clubs and cultural spaces is a discovery that immerses us in the different times in which they were designed and built. Many of these spaces have undergone profound changes over time. Some have disappeared, others have become copies of other models, many have become completely out of character both with regard to their aesthetics and their use, often through deceptive modernisation. At the root of this selection of 44 public interiors is the will to unveil the greatest variety of types, from glove shops to betting shops and tobacconists, from theatres to maritime stations or from restaurants to pousadas... On the other hand, we have endeavoured to make it nationally representative, by pointing out some places in the North and Centre of the country. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the Lisbon capital predominates, as a result of the architectural, socio-cultural and urban development that took place there during the 19th and 20th centuries. The selection is also the result of searching for spaces that have managed to reach us whilst maintaining their identity intact, showing themselves to be alive and contemporary. Many others have been left out. Some, for not being known; others, as a result of our own experiences. But if this selection can awaken the curiosity of each reader to get to know more, then we have achieved the proposed objective. Visiting some of these environments will enable the languages and styles used over time and some of the best architects and artists in Portugal to be understood. In addition, each choice enables us to understand the notion of “interior” as a multi-disciplinary project, for which a very wide range of areas of expression contribute, in a functional and aesthetic liaison. For example, we are talking about the harmony necessary between architecture and design, ornamental tiles and carved stone, woodwork and decorative painting... The quality as a whole must depend on the unity between furniture and lighting, decorative objects, glass, ceramics and textiles, but also on the right choice of materials, colour and light.

This way, we suggest places that allow us to feel different atmospheres. We did not focus our attention only on contemporaneity (in the strict chronological sense). Looking at our present, we have highlighted spaces which, despite being from another era, are still up-to-date and good examples of our knowledge and technique. Among many others, a few examples are highlighted:

The neo-Manueline atmosphere (with the Palace Hotel do Bussaco, 1888-1907), designed by the stage designer Luigi Manini, during a period of architectural eclecticism and historicist revivalisms. Inspired by the Torre de Belém and the cloister of the Santa Maria de Belém Monastery, a wide panel of architects, painters and sculptors contributed towards this work;

The Art Nouveau expression and its adoration of line and organic forms covering the surfaces, the value given to artisan works for decoration and the adoption of new materials (iron, glass) evident in the Dairy A Camponeza, but also at Livraria Lello e Irmão, and Padaria de São Roque or Café Majestic;

Closer to us, some of the places chosen also show the revolution in urban habits that the country experienced during the 1960/70s. The new cafes and snack bars are an example of this, such as Galeto, where a strong sense of plasticity is visible, namely on its counter and on the integral design of the equipment. Also from the 60s, a mention must go to the Reitoria da Universidade de Lisboa, the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal and various spaces in Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, designed by Daciano da Costa, one of the key figures in design in Portugal. From the 80s, worth mentioning are the Loja of the pioneering Ana Salazar, the restaurant Casanostra and the emblematic Pap’Açorda which has marked the entire life of Bairro Alto, just like Centro Comercial Amoreiras with its post-modern aesthetics. From the following decade, of note is Lux with its regularly renewed atmosphere and a selection of vintage items, and the restaurant Bica do Sapato, two spaces which boost the cosmopolitan night life in Santa Apolónia;

Coming to the present day, there is a marked trend for recuperating and rehabilitating places and objects, where tradition and modernity, old and new go hand in hand. For example, we are talking about the restaurant A Cantina and the book shop Ler Devagar, both in Lx Factory or of The Lisbonaire Apartments, the symbol of a new accommodation concept. But perhaps the strongest presence is the plurality of trends, a plurality contributed by these and many other special places to be discovered.

Selection made by a jury comprised of Frederico Duarte, design critic; Luís Royal, designer; Rui Afonso Santos, art historian and Bárbara Coutinho, Director of MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Coleção Francisco Capelo (Museum of Design and Fashion, Francisco Capelo Collection)


Contemporary Experiences

by Turismo de Portugal

Through recognising the importance of a cultural tourist programme as a distinguishing factor for destinations and through investing in new or renewed cultural facilities, Portugal now has a consistent programme in various contemporary areas, such as Fine Art, Cinema, Dance, Photography, Music, Theatre and in multi-disciplinary areas.

Events are essential for enriching the experience of anyone who visits us and a key factor for increasing the value of our tourist offering, with clear repercussions in boosting the economy in the regions where they take place.

The non-exhaustive selection of events that we have made in cooperation with the seven Regional Tourism Agencies and which is contained within this Guide, contemplates over 30 contemporary artistic events, organised into annual, biennial and triennial events, throughout the various tourist regions in the country.

In the performing arts, section, some of the main international events are present that are promoted by Cultural Centres in the main cities in the country, as well as showcases and festivals that take place in various National and Municipal Theatres, which host very interesting and high quality contemporary proposals.

In the cinema, section, various showcases and festivals that have been gaining international recognition and positioning Portugal on the map of great “seventh art” events also appear in this Guide.

Music festivals, also play quite a leading role. These tend to be concentrated in Summer, although not exclusively. They take place a little throughout the country and there is something for all tastes and musical trends – indie, pop rock, world music and jazz, among others.

We have also mentioned urban entertainment, a very important part of the public space in our cities and which has a varied offering, from music to cinema and public art.

This Events Agenda is not an exhaustive list of the offer available throughout the country over the whole year. To find out about more interesting events and programmes, please refer to the regional tourist websites and to

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