Over 50 years ago, one of Portugal’s most esteemed poets, Mário Cesariny, was arrested for “gross indecency” in Paris. During his subsequent two-month prison term, he wrote one of his most famous works, A Cidade Queimada (The Burnt City). More than half a century later, Cesariny’s fellow queer Portuguese artists João Pedro Vale and Nuno Alexandre Ferreira (during their own Paris residency) were inspired to explore the legacies of Cesariny and the surrealistic movement, especially as they relate to queer activism, persecution, and sexual liberation. Their resulting exhibition, Loving as the Road Begins, opened in October 2019 at the splashy new MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Av. Brasília, Central Tejo, Belém. Tel: +351 210 028 130. www.maat.pt/en) on Lisbon’s waterfront. The bold art duo’s first-ever museum show, which runs through April 2020, is a fitting symbol of Lisbon’s ongoing transformation into one of Europe’s hottest and most LGBTQ-friendly destinations, and a city that’s also now fully embracing its once-shadowy queer heritage.
Another exciting example of this progressive trend is Fado Bicha (www.facebook.com/fadobicha), a subversively queer take on the quintessentially Portuguese music genre of fado. Founded in 2017 by young Lisbon performers Tiago Lila and João Caçador, Fado Bicha brings a queer sensibility to traditional fado; a natural fit for a musical style that’s always revolved around marginalized folks and melancholia. Though they’ve faced no small degree of indignation from traditional fado enthusiasts, the pair is rapidly gaining local traction, and is prepping an album for release in 2020.
Meanwhile, Lisbon’s underground queer club scene is absolutely booming, with a number of exciting collectives like mina (www.minasuspension.com) and Circa A.D. (www.facebook.com/circaafterdeath) coming together for the city’s inaugural two-day Ano 0 festival this past September. Revered global underground culture mag Dazed recently reported that these Lisbon queer collectives are “creating more room and support for marginalized people, both on and off the dance floor.”
For visitors who might not be venturing deep into the city’s coolest clubs, there’s still much to get excited about these days. The white-hot local culinary scene just keeps getting better, with exciting recent additions like Rossio Gastropub (Rua 1º Dezembro 120, Baixa. Tel: +351 210 440 018. www.altishotels.com), where Michelin-starred chef João Rodrigues now serves delectable delights against the backdrop of incredible views from the seventh floor of the ’40s glam Altis Avenida Hotel.
Two-Michelin-starred Belcanto (Rua Serpa Pinto 10 A, Chiado. Tel: +351 213 420 607. www.belcanto.pt), arguably the city’s top restaurant, continues to move up the list of the World’s Best Restaurants with its daring takes on traditional Portuguese cuisine. If you can’t get in at Belcanto, its same superstar Lisbon chef, José Avillez, has a pair of restaurants (and a cabaret too) all under one roof just a few blocks away at the trendy Bairro do Avillez (Rua Nova da Trindade 18, Chiado. Tel: +351 210 998 320 (Taberna and Mercearia); +351 215 830 290 (Páteo). www.bairrodoavillez.pt). An even newer addition to the José Avillez family, the Portuguese- Asian fusion Casa dos Prazeres (Rua Nova da Trindade 13, Chiado. +351 211 342 160. www.casadosprazeres.pt), opened just across the street last March.