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A new breed of boutique hotels has emerged over the last years offering new ways of experiencing contemporary art and hospitality. This is the second story in our edit of hotels that highlight those special aspects.

It´s easy to get lost in Lisbon´s laid-back charm, sunny climate with nearby beaches. Cool, fun, and affordable, the city has been booming in recent years with its energy drawing a new creative class from all over the world. 

Esqina is one of Lisbon´s jewels, a hospitality project created by a group of Portuguese friends, that includes the laidback Esqina Urban Lodge and the boutique hotel Esqina Cosmopolitan Lodge. Art, music, and a genuine approach to life are at the core of Esqina´s identity and the essence of the experience the owners want to give. We had a chat with one of the founders about the drive behind the project and how it all started.

Can you tell us about the concept behind the two hotels and the difference between them?

We opened Esqina Urban Lodge in 2017, a contemporary guest house in the heart of central Lisbon, the Baixa neighborhood, which in Portuguese translates to downtown. The idea was to create a place for those who only want a room to crash in after a long day walking the hills of Lisbon. It´s a simple hospitality model with minimal services and no common areas. It´s a place where the restless go to rest. Then in late 2019, we opened Esqina Cosmopolitan Lodge, a 35 room boutique hotel, between Baixa and Castelo de São Jorge at the edge of downtown,  next to up-and-coming neighborhoods Martim Moniz and Zé. We thought of a place for people that had already visited Lisbon before and want to stay in a nice cool place where things are happening, socializing with locals in our restaurant or having a drink on the terrace. The hotel also has a cultural space in the basement where we host events and exhibitions. A place where the worldly come to stay.

The hotel has an artistic focus, was that something that happened organically or was it planned from the start?

From the beginning when we opened the guesthouse, we always had in mind that wanted to be part of the cultural scene in Lisbon and because we didn´t have any common areas, we created a Cultural Agenda (#aroundthecorner) of things happening in Lisbon, which highlighted things happening in the city each month. We also wanted to support emerging artists and we felt we were a great platform for them to show their work. We chose seven artists to exhibit their work in the rooms of the Urban Lodge, and every six months we would choose six new artists to exhibit, and this way show as many artists as possible, with all the work, was for sale. When we opened the Cosmopolitan Lodge Hotel, we started our cultural agenda, since we had the spaces for it in the new hotel(#insidethecorner). We created an artist residency in a special room and we hosted several exhibitions and had one artist in residence since the opening.  We also held several concerts and DJ sets and as well as other cultural events, and we can´t wait to get back to it as soon as we can.

What is the focus of your exhibition space?

We have no central focus but we support everything that feels genuine and that promotes the artists and their work. We advocate for innovative approaches in our selection and often include mixed-media events that incorporate art and music together, group exhibitions, and then of course the residencies.

"We have strong relationships with all the people we partner with. Many are our friends and from the beginning, they understood what we wanted."

For those that appreciate details and design, Esqina might be the right place. What can you tell us about the design team and their ideas for the design concept?

We have strong relationships with all the people we partner with. Many are our friends, and from the beginning, they understood what we wanted. We wanted to be creative and show the people that hotels can be minimal and beautiful as we believe our hotel is. The furniture in the rooms was designed by Manuel Amaral Neto, one-half of UTIL, which is a Portuguese design brand. The bar, restaurant, and the design concept of the whole hotel were in the hands of Ines Moura, a Lisbon-based architect, and interior designer.

The Cosmopolitan Lodge offers an artist residency. How does the program work and what is the aim of the residency project?

We had the first residency in late 2019, we had planned to do three per year and hopefully, we will get back to it next year. The idea was to get a Portuguese artist to invite an international artist from anywhere in the world and they would collaborate on a project and exhibit their work together in our space. We were curious to see the result of having two artists working together in a short amount of time and what would come from that experience. As well as inviting someone to come to Lisbon, having a place to stay and to create, feeling the rhythm of our beautiful city. We had in mind that after a couple of years of the program, we would already have several artists applying to the residency and that they could also do an exhibition with one of the galleries we collaborate with in the city. But for now, everything is on hold due to the pandemic.

Lisbon is probably at the top of our favourite places to visit on the Iberian Peninsula. Can you share some secret spots in the city?

If I tell you the secret spots, they stop being secret! Stay with us and we will show you all the spots we love the most. But on a more serious note, we have the best restaurant and bar here in our own corner Queimado and Static, which are both run by creative and passionate people at the forefront of the scene in Lisbon. Around the corner, you can go to Ordinario, a cool spot in Cais do Sodre. For food head simply to O Velho Eurico! Check the amazing exhibitions and artists at Galeria Foco, or go to Mono, an amazing place with different types of artistic interventions.

See more of the hotel on Instagram.

words ingunn eyþórsdóttir & sara  torcato
photos esqina