Covilhã is the city in Portugal where you can enjoy the most beautiful street art in Portugal. This town is located in central Portugal, kind of in the middle between the famous cities of Lisbon and Porto. I went to the central part of Portugal for a few days at the invitation of the Portuguese traffic agency to immerse myself completely in everything that has to do with street art. And I discovered this special region, amaze me with great street art and enjoyed the tranquility, the small villages, the delicious food and the beautiful surroundings.
I take you to the town of Covilhã, street art in Portugal and the central region of Portugal.
The town of Covilhã
Covilhã lies between rivers and mountains and is a gateway to the highest mountain in Portugal: Serra da Estrela. Funny detail, in this city is also the sexiest bridge in Europe! The city is known for weaving wool and was once the textile center of Portugal. But after the disappearance of the wool and textile industry, the town was left to its own devices and went to sleep.
The wool museum in Covilhã gives you a good idea of how much the textile industry has meant for this region. There are various looms and the films give a historic look at the wool industry.
The city currently has a large number of empty factories that have been shut down years ago. Now these factories are used as spaces where the creative young generation can do their thing with workshops, exhibitions and other forms of creativity.
The city is a bit higher and because of this it is colder and that is why the houses do not have the typical Portuguese tiles on the walls. This makes the town look different from most Portuguese cities. In the town there’s the Wool Valley Hotel & Spa which is a great hotel to stay at, in the old “wool” theme of the city.
This sleepy town has been completely revived by street art and how they have done this, I explain later in this blog!
What is street art?
Before I tell you more about the street art in Covilhã, it is important to know what street art is exactly. Artistic or legally applied art forms in public spaces are all street art. Street art occurs in the form of stickers, templates, posters and of course murals.
Street art is a form of art, but is often confused with graffiti. The big difference between graffiti and street art is that graffiti often involves the decorative name tags and therefore also the makers. In street art, however, it is all about the images and the message behind them.
Few people go to art exhibitions. The power of street art is that it goes to people’s daily life to be seen.
Street art in Covilhã, Portugal
Covilhã is one large open air museum for street art in Portugal! If you walk through this town, your eyes will fall short. Street art has brought this sleepy town back to life!
The streets in the old part of Covilhã are narrow and steep. The houses all look a bit run down, but have beautiful doors. There are cheerful and colorful plants on the small balconies. The laundry just hangs outside to dry. A walk through this town is great. When you walk around a random corner, you are suddenly surprised by a beautiful work of art. You do not expect it, but it all fits exactly in the picture. The walls, the artists, the murals and the colors have all been carefully chosen. This is an ultimate example of how street art is completely integrated in the streets.
Another special feature is the interaction with all inhabitants, from young to old, in this town. The residents kindly show you the way to the most beautiful street art and they explain the meaning to you. You notice that all residents have been carefully taken into account in the total process of street art. Art is therefore left alone and appreciated. An old woman even says that she is less lonely, because when she wakes up she opens the curtains and looks out from the window at a mural of a lady.
Particular to realize is that street art is much more for Covilhã (and also other sleepy towns in Portugal) than bringing the city back to life and attracting tourists. Street art also has a huge social factor. The many workshops on the street art for young and old in Covilhã also result in the self-confidence of the people being stimulated. It is a social activity and it connects people of all ages and makes the gap between the generations smaller.
Street art is such a pure art form. It is so demographic. Art by anyone for anyone. It offers so much, but asks for so little.
Take a look at my pictures of some beautiful artworks of street art in Covilhã, Portugal!
The artist Bordalo II
I have seen several works by various street artists, but for me there is one artist who stands out, head and shoulders. Bordalo II is my favorite street artist! I find his works exceptionally beautiful and very special. This arttist is the grandson of a well-known Portuguese painter Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro and was born in 1987 in Lisbon. He makes the most beautiful works of art classified as “waste”. The principle: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. His goal is to create ecological and social awareness, in contrast to materialistic and greedy mentality.
Street art makes something that is not attractive beautiful.
Below are my two favorite works by Bardalo: The Owl and the Kingfisher.
The owl is made from all kinds of waste products and symbolizes the wisdom of the older generation. Experts agree that this is one of the most beautiful works of street art in the whole world. You can find this artwork in the town of Covilhã.
The Kingfisher is a work of art from Bordalo and you can find it in the town of Estarreja. It is mainly made of car parts and other waste products. This bird is a bird that is very common in the region and is a symbol of the region.
Other cool street art in Portugal
Besides the town of Covilhã there are many more locations in this region where you can marvel at the most fantastic street art in Portugal. These are my favorite places:
Estarreja: This town is about 30 minutes from Porto and 2.5 hours from Lisbon and here you can watch cool street art. The artist Bordalo II also has a great work of art made here of all kinds of car parts and other waste objects. Go to this town and get a map at the town hall and gaze at street art.
Verride: This is a small and sleepy village where you really go back in time. But here too you will find fantastic colorful street art. Particular to see the old men walking with the trendy street art in the background. This is a strange picture, but in one way or another it fits perfectly here. Here is the photo made at the top of the article.
Figueira da Foz: This is a nice and lively town which has a huge sandy beach. This also has a nice and colorful market where you have to go to. Special works of art have been applied to several places in the city. Especially the artwork on the beach is very beautiful.
The central region of Portugal
Besides street art, this region has much more to offer. The region “Central Portugal” is the area between Lisbon and Coimbra and is located in the middle of Portugal. This region is still a fairly unknown region when it comes to tourism. Unlike, for example, the Algarve, where many tourists go every year. In all, the region is about the same size as Belgium. The region is rich in Portuguese history, culture, quiet and consists of numerous small villages and a few larger cities and you will find numerous monasteries, churches and abbeys here. Nature is characterized by rugged mountains, tall trees, dense forests and green valleys.
My favorite places in central Portugal
The Serra de Estrela (star mountains) is the largest mountain range in Portugal. The region is known for its boulders with slopes in strange formations. The stacked boulders seem shaky, but they have been lying like that for years. This area is characterized by winding mountain roads, steep cliffs, rocks, ravines and is great for nature lovers. The highest point of the star mountains is 1993 meters.
Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal, is well worth a visit during your trip in this region. This town is very cozy and is full of terraces and bars. In the canals gondolas sail around where you can also make a trip. It is only 8 km from the sea! It is wonderful to rent a bike and explore the area in this way. There are beautiful Art Nouveau houses and the town is bustling with conviviality. A nice hotel to stay at is Hotel Moliceiro.
Viseu is a nice and authentic Portuguese city. The street art festival was the reason I came to this city and this is a typical Portuguese city with a number of shopping streets. The cathedral in this city is beautiful. In this town there is an old hospital which has been converted into a Pousada where you can stay overnight.
Castelo Nova is an old and small village where in total only 90 people live within the old city walls. There is no supermarket and the average age of the residents is far above average. The streets consist of granite stones and the village has a difference in height. Around this town are many cherry orchards and this characterizes the landscape. In June it’s the cherry season and there are various festivals around the cherry harvest.
The region has no major cities, but Porto is located to the north of the region and Lisbon to the south. It is very nice to, for example, book a flight to Porto and rent a car from there. While driving you discover the beautiful central Portugal and then fly back from Lisbon.
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