The Lx Factory

Sunday I decided to go for an afternoon walk at Lx Factory. This is a space of the Portuguese capital, renewed a couple of years ago, and is quite close to the river, in Alcântara. This area is already a bit far from the Lisbon’s downtown, but several bus lines and trains can take us there on a regular basis. Already there, one must carefully look for an iron gate, given that it is a quite discreet entrance.

Lx Factory emanates a good vibe, due to a mishmash of factors. It has an abandoned and decayed appearance, the stores and the offices are super original and irreverent and the people who go there appear to be quite interesting. All this environment is even better on Sundays.

The Lx Market takes places on this day, between 11 am and 8 pm. Some of the streets get jam-packed with stands from Portuguese vendors and some are from abroad. Clothing, jewellery, fruit and vegetables, sodas and alcoholic drinks, natural and décor products, all these are sold. But it’s worth going to this market even if you do not want to buy anything at all.

The old factory

As you walk through streets of Lx Factory you will notice that this area used to be an industrial place. Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense, a textile company, opened its doors here in 1849. It was one of Lisbon’s major factories.

Companhia was inaugurated in 1838 but its factory in Alcântara had the intent to gather all the activity-related buildings in just one spot, since they were scattered. João Pires da Fonte, the Portuguese architect, was the one responsible for the project.

The first manufacturing building inaugurated had 4 floors, an enormous chimney and a steam machine inside, which allowed spinning and weaving. In the following years, 5 more buildings were edified and the whole unit amassed more than 300 looms at one point, made in England. It was the activity’s golden era.

Can you imagine the number of people who worked at the factory? A workers’ village was built right next to the factory by the Companhia, in order to lodge the workers and their families. If you want to see it, go to Rua 1º de Maio. And, by the way, just to spike your curiosity, I must add that there are many other workers’ village in Lisbon, even though the one of Rua 1º de Maio was the first.

After enjoying some prestige, Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense started to face some issues (caused by the establishment of the Portuguese Republic), which eventually led to its closure. The industrial buildings were all sold, first to Companhia Industrial de Portugal e Colónias and then to the typography Anuário Comercial de Portugal e Gráfica de Mirandela.

The industrial activity in Lisbon gradually decreased and the space once occupied by the factory was degraded. And, therefore, this huge area of 23000m2 remained concealed in Lisbon.

How the Lx Factory came about

The project Lx Factory was born in 2008. It is an island that breathes creativity and inspiration. The obsolete factory came back to life and is nowadays a mandatory cultural hallmark for those who visit (or live in) Lisbon.

Phrase written on a wall of Lx Factory
Phrase written on a wall of Lx Factory

The old facilities are now occupied by companies related to architecture, design, restoration, advertising, fashion, plastic arts, music, photography, as well as some restaurants and cafés, among other fields. Seeing what is taking place in the creative minds of the Portuguese is a breath of fresh air.

On Sunday, in addition to all these business activities that I have just mentioned, there is also the Lx Market. There is an immense array of more or less original product stands, and having the chance to check them and perhaps buy something is just great. Maybe some tomatoes or figs of Torres Vedras, a new, unique and original bracelet (handmade), a cute shirt or a typical tile of Lisbon to have a city souvenir and also this afternoon’s walk.