Casa dos Bicos – Lisbon, Portugal - Atlas Obscura

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Casa dos Bicos

This unique architectural wonder is also tied to one of the 20th-century's most renowned writers. 


Casa dos Bicos, also referred to as the House of Beaks, is known for its unique exterior of small jutting pyramids, curiously shaped and placed windows, and manifold uses over the years. 

Located at the foot of the Alfama neighborhood’s steep slopes, construction on the building began around the 16th-century by the son of the former governor of Portuguese India, Afonso de Albuquerque. Barely resembling typical Renaissance architecture, its exterior lattice of diamond-like stubs and collection of windows and doors harken back to the Portuguese Gothic style. It is said that some people believed the three-dimensional points contained actual diamonds, which may explain why some of them at ground level are mere misshapen stubs. Despite this and several restorations since the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the original charm of the building’s facade remains. Over the years, the building has been used as a residence, warehouse, gallery space, and even a fish market. In fact, archeological evidence shows that an ancient Roman fish sauce factory also existed on the site.

The upper floors of Casa dos Bicos are occupied by the José Saramago Foundation, an organization dedicated to the life and work of the famed writer. Funny enough, Saramago called the building “a poor cousin” of the Palazzo dei Diamanti in his sprawling travelogue Journey to Portugal. All the same, an immersive permanent exhibit entitled The Seeds and the Fruits explores the Nobel Prize winner’s literary output through manuscripts, videos, personal effects, first editions of his novels, and more. 

Know Before You Go

Several feet in front of Casa dos Bicos stands a solitary olive tree under which the ashes of Saramago, a great lover of Lisbon, are buried.

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