Heart on my sleeve

Graffiti near Se Velha in Coimbra
Dense graffiti in the Restauradores metro station in Lisbon

We’d noticed spectacular graffiti in Lisbon. Portugal has been through a painful period of economic contraction for about 5 years, and has just started recovering in the last year or so. The unemployment rate was about 16% in 2013, and is even now unable to drop to 10%. Could the profusion of street art in Lisbon be related to this?

Graffiti in Praca San Tiago in Coimbracoimbra-sa4

Could this also be the explanation of the street art we saw in Coimbra? The Family and I talked about this as we walked around the little town. We were entranced by the two lovely pieces of graffiti you can see in the photos above. They were on two walls of a single building in Praça San Tiago in the baixa. These shared many characteristics with the street art of Lisbon. The clean lines and the comic-book colouring make these lovely works leap out at you. At the same time, they bear a clear relationship to the work we saw in the metro in Lisbon.

As we climbed up from the baixa, the density of street art did not change, but its style seemed to transform. The example in the featured image is quite different in style. The lines and the colour scheme are not something that you will come across in a street underpass or near train lines. They are altogether more cerebral.


Then, as we walked around the university, the difference was stark. The style was hurried, and the subject matter was too academic. We had a laugh at the sheep which you can see alongside. I can easily imagine this on the cover of any of the classic rock albums of the late sixties. But the one which was clearly the work of an university student is this. Fado could be one medium which the students of Coimbra use, but this kind of graffiti binds them more clearly to students across the world. This kind of graffiti is no longer a work of visual art, but a very short essay. I can identify with this when I recall my days as a student, but I love the work of the baixa more.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. I enjoy street art like this. To me it’s lovely and expressive of the people in the area and what they are going through at the time. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into a world I may never see.


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