Old Lisbon market cooks up food-to-media concept to go global

Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:17am EDT
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By Andrei Khalip

LISBON (Reuters) - In the past year, Lisbon's 19th-century riverside market has soared from dilapidated oblivion to a top attraction on a zesty blend of fine food, drinks, arts and hip shopping - a concept its owners now plan to replicate in London and New York.

Aside from serving as a gigantic window display for downtown renovation and the Portuguese capital's tourism boom, the two-storey Mercado da Ribeira also gives a physical dimension to the mostly-digital Time Out magazine, which owns the expanding project.

The Lisbon unit of the London-based global media brand, which provides tips to dozens of cities worldwide, had assigned its journalists and critics to handpick their favorite chefs, bars and shops for the market.

"This is a magazine, with various of its sections, brought to life," said Joao Cepeda, director of Time Out Lisbon and now the chief of international operations of the new Time Out Markets unit that will expand the project overseas.

The venue sells Time Out-brand tours, invites musicians and houses an urban art project called Underdogs, which is a gallery and a public art program for local and foreign artists. Portuguese street artist VHILS is one notable co-founder of Underdogs.

Cepeda said the project was meant to "use our know-how to save the local edition".

During Portugal's 2010-2014 economic crisis, revenues from advertising and website views fell. So when city hall offered a 20-year concession to renovate and run the market in 2011, the magazine seized the opportunity.

With 60,000 visits on a good week, the commercial success has exceeded initial expectations almost two-fold, he said.   Continued...

Joao Cepeda (C), director of Time Out Lisbon poses for a picture at Ribeira Market in Lisbon, Portugal,  July 15, 2015. REUTERS/Hugo Correia