Lisbon, by the early- to mid-1800s, was recovering from the devastating earthquake of 1755. The economy was slowly improving and the city was expanding in all directions. At the same time its new industrial center was growing in the Alcântara area between Lisbon and Belém.
It was in 1846 that a thread and fabrics Company called “Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense”, one of the most important manufacturing facilities in Lisbon’s history, moved their factory to Alcântara.
This 23,000 m2 (5.7 acre) industrial site was eventually occupied by several related companies. However, the golden age of industry came and went, and the production of cloth decreased. Other companies moved in, but by the 1990s the site was abandoned, falling into disrepair.
Disregarded and ignored, the old industrial complex was out-of-sight and out-of-mind to the point that a main approach to the iconic “25th April Bridge” flies high overhead. The buildings stood unrestored and deteriorating with their industrial bones and old parts still in place.
The complex was destined to be demolished around 2005 to make way for new development. However, due to the economic crisis, plans were shelved and an investment group proposed a temporary occupation of the complex. From these unexciting beginnings arose LX Factory (with a nod to Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1960’s NYC).
Today these old factory buildings now house art galleries, ad agencies, small trendy restaurants, hipster shops, and visual and performing arts, music, and fashion; they are a hub of bold design, artwork, and imagination in the otherwise quiet neighborhood of Alcântara.
On Sundays, LX holds a large flea market, brimming with vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, housewares, rare records and locally created artwork. Like most flea markets, there is a fair amount of junk, but you might come across something wonderful.
Rio Maravilha is a very trendy rooftop bar with outstanding views of the river Tagus and The 25th April Bridge. Getting up the six floors to the bar requires climbing the stairs or taking the small, vintage, creaky lift that slowly makes it way to the top. The popular bar’s massive terrace also has a large female statue that mirrors Christ the Redeemer on the opposite side of the river.
If shopping or drinking isn’t a priority, LX Factory is also remarkable for its reputation as one of the best collection of urban art in Lisbon. Quirky, hip, and colorful, the “street art” both greets and assaults the eye at every turn, yet it all fits beautifully together with the dystopian-like rawness of the place.