In 2008 a team of entrepreneurs wanted to breathe new life into an all-but-forgotten factory complex that once produced textiles and newsprint. They created a multi-platform space for creative businesses, from a printing press to design studios. Originally a temporary project, LX Factory is now a much-loved fixture. This unique space has become known as Lisbon’s ‘creative island’. It’s situated in the Alcântara area, a former industrial district that has become one of the city’s most innovative neighbourhoods.
As LX Factory developed, restaurants and cafés joined the mix along with a growing number of fashion labels and boutiques, making the venue very much more than just a business space. Along with about 150 small companies, it now contains award-winning eateries and hosts of vibrant events. The former factory has become one of the most exciting places in Lisbon, attracting locals and visitors alike.
What makes the space unique is the combination of the people and the projects, says Joana Gomes, who is in charge of bringing new residents to LX Factory and helps them to become part of the scene. ‘It’s a new and different space, unlike anything that existed before. It has a different atmosphere to other parts of the city.’
One of the first establishments to open in LX Factory was Cantina, a restaurant that has become a firm favourite in the area. The LX team renovated the old canteen that had served the factory’s employees as early as 1846, embracing the industrial feel and repurposing parts of the existing manufacturing equipment to create a funky space with a retro atmosphere. The menu offers a mix of international and traditional Portuguese cuisine, including tasty fish dishes and delicious apple pie.
Ler Devagar, which is housed in the former printworks, is often cited as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. The name translates into English as slow reading, and as well as walls lined with intriguing titles, including many rare editions, the space also offers refreshments. Visitors are welcome to browse books (there’s no pressure to buy) while sipping a coffee or even a glass of wine.
New brands keep coming to LX Factory, attracted by its creative spirit and the opportunity to combine office and retail space.
Walk in cork
Rutz, a young label aiming to bring Portuguese cork to a new market, opened its showroom and boutique in LX Factory in 2014. ‘We chose LX Factory because it has the design spirit that we try to capture in our collections of cork shoes,’ explains Raquel Castro, general manager and one of the founders of the label. ‘It’s an alternative place, relaxing and cool.’ Head to the brand’s boutique to browse its fashionable range of men’s and women’s shoes crafted from cork.
Love the skin you’re in
Founded in 2009 by sisters Cátia and Rita Curica, Organii was one of the first brands in Portugal to specialise in organic cosmetics. Its boutique in this former industrial space began as a showroom and developed as the appeal of LX Factory widened. As well as offering organic beauty brands from across the world it has a corner dedicated to eco-friendly, organic clothing and products for babies and mothers.
There is enough variety across the 23,000 square metres of LX Factory to keep visitors entertained almost endlessly. ‘My advice is to make sure you have enough time to visit everything, from the street art to the shops, and to take a coffee and talk with some of the workers,’ says Gomes.
A taste of Portugal
To explore the entire complex might seem a tiring undertaking, so it’s fortunate that the food on offer is as tempting as the shopping. Some of Lisbon’s best restaurants are setting up here, attracted by the open and creative atmosphere. It’s a place where you can think out of the box, says Helena Pereira, sales manager at restaurant and wine bar 1300 Taberna, which gives a modern twist to traditional Portuguese cuisine. Using locally sourced produce, chef Nuno Barros creates innovative dishes that deconstruct old recipes and revive forgotten flavours.
Learn something new
You may be interested in making the food as well as tasting it. Another draw of LX Factory is its range of events and classes. Kiss the Cook, for example, runs informal, friendly cookery classes on everything from pastry to a special Portuguese cooking experience. ‘We chose LX Factory because it is a different and trendy place where new ideas can be created,’ says co-founder Nuno Luis.
As the space continues to develop, LX Factory looks set to become more and more popular. ‘In the beginning our typical customer was a young adult interested in alternative spaces. But now we don’t have a typical customer,’ explains Gomes. These days the LX Factory Sunday market attracts family groups, while in the evenings young couples come to the bars, restaurants and concerts. Gomes can’t be certain what the future holds for LX Factory but she’s very optimistic; with new businesses and visitors arriving all the time, it’s not hard to share her outlook. The future looks bright for this amazing space.