The Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or Carmo Convent if you want to be a proper native and can do without the mouthful, is a former Catholic convent located in the upmarket district of Chiado in Lisbon. The convent was built in 1389 by Constable D. Nuno Álvares Pereira but largely destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.
The remnants of Carmo Convent are still a major attraction; the shattered and broken pillars and curved arches give an insight into the medieval and Gothic architecture of the time. The convent is now functions as the Carmo Archaeological Museum and a space for events. This museum houses treasure pieces from the entire scope of Portuguese history and includes pieces such as the 4th-century sacrophagi, griffin covered column fragments, 16th-century hand painted tile panels and two 16th-century Peruvian Mummies.
I have to say the this place has truly magical memories for me and my experience here was so incredible as to play a major part in my permanent relocation to Lisbon. I had arrived, fresh off the plane, and had checked into an amazing hotel called The Pessoa run by a charming couple Grace & Henrique. This truly unique hotel was themed on the great Portuguese Poet and writer Fernando Pessoa who once resided at the hotel for some time. This hotel is directly opposite the Convent and Henrique suggested I attend a free event taking place there that evening.
I took my hosts advice and entered Carmo Convent without security checks or fee, and walked straight into Lisbon’s Philharmonic Orchestra playing live under the stars. It was incredible, you could sit down anywhere, take photos, smoke or drink if you wished and listen to Lisbon’s finest play for absolutely nothing. I could never have imagined being able to do something like that in London or New York without booking a year in advance, being frisked at the door, paying a lot of money and being asked to refrain from drinking, smoking and taking pictures. It really sold Lisbon to me for providing an infrastructure that could allow for this to happen. I ended up staying for two months in this hotel and poor Grace and Henrique had to drag me out by my ears!
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