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The Feng Shui of Lisbon.

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Triumphal arch in Lisbon

Triumphal arch in Lisbon


This travel article is the feng shui analysis of Lisbon.

We visited Lisbon to attend the Festival of St Antonio – the “Matchmaker Saint” and “the Recovery of Lost Items”. Lisbon was decked out for the celebration of St Antonio on 13th June.

I had studied the great Portuguese empire which embraced many territories in the Africa and Asia in the 15 to 17th centuries. Lisbon was one of the great cities of Europe but now, Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is no longer one of the major power cities.

St George’s Castle overlooking Lisbon. This castle is on one the “7” hills surrounding Lisbon

St George’s Castle overlooking Lisbon. This castle is on one the “7” hills surrounding Lisbon

I have always been curious and have always been asking the question why? Perhaps, that led me to a career in forensic science. Then, I noticed that many events were cyclical – empires, cities, prices etc. This has led me to the practise of traditional feng shui which can explain many of my questions that I had been asking.

What is Feng Shui?

Feng Shui is a Chinese system of land management which encompasses the study of time and location. It is the system used by the Chinese Emperor’s Imperial Court for the design of buildings and cities, also, provides information of various activities like when to start planting crops, when to make announcements, winning battles over enemies.

In this modern era, feng shui is used to design buildings and cities or to help property developers sell their buildings faster.

Traditional Feng Shui is about understanding the flows of energy in the environment. When a built environment (building or city) gets energy, the people within the environment prosper. When there is a lack of energy, the people do not prosper. Therefore, traditional feng shui is about identifying the flows of energy and designing a building to get this energy inside and holding it. It is about accumulating the energy for the benefit of the people.

Energy flows with the contours of the land. It flows easily downhill and accumulates in the valleys or troughs. The pattern of the flow is very much like water. Also, energy is also carried with the flow of the river.

This travel article on the feng shui of Lisbon is divided into 3 parts.

  1. Inspira Santa Marta Hotel
  2. Belém – Jerónimos Monastery and Casa Pastéis de Belém
  3. Lisbon City


Inspira Santa Marta Hotel

This boutique hotel was designed with feng shui from the start.

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel

It is located in a “valley” where the energy from 5 roads accumulates. There is only one road (Road 6) for the energy to leave the “valley”. This restricts the energy leaving.

Google Earth image of Inspire Santa Marta hotel and "valley"

Google Earth image of Inspire Santa Marta hotel and “valley”. Roads (numbers 1 to 5) carry energy into the valley. Road 6 – energy flows out of the valley.

The main function of the building is to get the energy from the “valley” inside and distribute it. The incoming energy is distributed inside to the front – restaurants, bar, reception area etc. Important in this case is the spa at the rear of the building, at the very end of the stair case. The designers have made a restriction at the entrance by lowering the ceiling and narrowing the passage way so that the energy can easily reach the target area.

Inspira Santa Marta interiors

The interiors of the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel showing the stair case and the depth of building.

Another feng shui feature is the decoration or furnishings of the bedrooms. They are done according to 5 Chinese elements viz – water, wood, fire, earth, metal which give each room a different feel and mood.

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel - Earth bedroom

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel – bedroom with the decoration incorporation of the Earth Element, (Image courtesy of Inspira Santa Marta Hotel)

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel - water bedroom

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel – bedroom with decoration incorporating the water element. (Image courtesy of Inspira Santa Marta Hotel)

When you first walk into the building, it has a warm and welcoming atmosphere. So much so that most of their business is from returning guests. This is repeat business. The occupancy rate that we understand is over 80% without discounting.  Far more important to the owners is how well the staff work together, as a team to provide guests with a warm, friendly and efficient service.



There are 2 buildings of interest – Jerónimos Monastery and Casa Pastéis de Belém.

Google Earth Image of Belem

Google Earth image of Beém with arrows of energy flow. Big Arrow for river flow and smaller arrow for energy flow on land

Belém is a suburb of Lisbon near the mouth of the River Tagus to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a short and narrow estuary. The water here moves very fast as the river is both straight and narrow. Hence, the energy moves fast and it would be difficult for any business to prosper.

Why then, does Belem have the 2 successful tourists attractions?

Jerónimos Monastery was built in 1501 and is an impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth in the Age of Discovery. It is also to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. The building is a prominent example of Late Gothic Manueline Style of Architecture. This monastery has always been one of the prominent buildings in the history of Lisbon, even more as it withstood the 1755 Lisbon earthquake without much damage. Recently, important ceremonies have been held here – Portugal joining the European Community (1985), Lisbon Treaty on the reform of the European Union (2007). Together with Belem Tower, they are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Lisbon’s top tourist attraction.

Jeronimos Monastery in Belem Lisbon

Jeronimos Monastery in Belem Lisbon. (image taken by Rui Cunha, courtesy of Portugal Tourist Board )

Casa Pastéis de Belém  This is the location where the famous “Portuguese Egg Tart” originated from. Based on a secret recipe from the Jerónimos Monastery, Casa Pastéis de Belém is a thriving business making about 20 thousand Portuguese egg tarts a day and with tea rooms that can take thousands of Belém visitors. So successful is the business that there are always queues outside the building. This business occupies the whole block. My visit to Casa Pastéis de Belém in an earlier post.


Casa Pasteis de Belem - the origins of the famed Portuguese Egg Tart

Casa Pasteis de Belem – the origins of the Lisbon Food Icon – The Portuguese Egg Tart

These 2 prominent buildings in Belem are located quite a distance from the centre of the River. There are parks in front of these buildings which not only add distance but slow the speed of the energy from the river.



Lisbon City

Lisbon is probably the oldest city in Western Europe, predating London, Paris or Rome. It came to prominence in the Golden Age of Discovery which was initiated by Prince Henry the Navigator during the 15 to 17th centuries. This led to Lisbon being the European hub of commerce between Africa, Brazil, India and the Far East.

By the 18th Century, it was one of the largest cities in Europe with new buildings financed with gold from Brazil. Lisbon had a population of about quarter million with many ornate and exuberant buildings. However, the devastating earthquake of 1755 destroyed about 85% of the city structures and killed about one fifth the population.

The city centre was rebuilt according to the plans of the Prime Minister, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, in accordance with the principles of modern urban design. A large rectangular Square (Praça do Comércio) with buildings on the 3 sides and open to the river. Behind it is a grid system of roads. This layout is still present to this day.

So what has the consequence for the city and the country?

Of course, there was a heavy focus on the rebuilding of the city but after that, Portugal faded as a world economic and political power. Lisbon languished in the sidelines with 3 revolutions in the 20th Century. Since Portugal joined the European Community there has been considerable investment in the infrastructure – roads, railways, bridges etc. Lisbon has also been host to many international political and cultural events.

Lisbon is affected by 3 different flows of energy.

  1. The energy coming down the hills.
  2. The energy coming from the River Tagus
  3. The energy that is drawn away by the River Tagus.

Before the 1755 earthquake.

  1. The energy flowing down the hills.

The roads in the city would be unplanned and haphazard. Like other old cities, the roads follow the contours of the land. It can turn sharply left or right and go up and down hills. Very much like the narrow roads in the older part districts like Alfama where the Cathedral is located. The energy is held in these valleys and the road corners impede the flow of the energy.

In summary – the energy in the city is held or accumulates.

  1. The energy coming from the River Tagus
Google Earth image of the River Tagus and Lisbon.

Google Earth image of the River Tagus and Lisbon.The big arrows shows the flow of the energy on the river. The smaller arrow shows the direction of the energy flowing into the City.

Almost all major cities of the world are beside a river. Lisbon is besides the River Tagus. It is unique as directly in front of the city, the river narrows down to a “normal” channel. The water flow converges to a point directly in front of the city. The energy moves directly towards the city.

  1. The energy moving away, pulled by the River Tagus.

From the point of convergence, the river is a straight channel to the Atlantic Ocean. The river flow is affected by the tides of the Atlantic Ocean. With the twice daily low tides, there will be an increase in the flow of the river away from the city towards the Ocean. This consequently, pulls energy from the city area. Because of the random nature of the roadways, the energy is retained in the city. Of course, there will be some leakage of energy because of this strong pull.


Lisbon City is surrounded on three sides with hills and is open to the river on the forth side. In feng shui terms, this is the best possible configuration – the Armchair. Lisbon is unique from the landform of the river. The direction of the river flow goes directly to the city thus allowing the energy to flow up into the city. The city holds or retains the energy that it receives.

Lisbon is possibly Western Europe’s oldest city. It is a successful living area as shown by its history of a few thousand years.  It was also the capital of Portugal in the glorious Age of Discovery in the 15th to the 17th centuries.  But Portugal held its place until the 1755, the date of the earthquake and the start of Lisbon’s re-development with a modern urban design.


The re-development of Lisbon.

Lisbon City and the energy flows

Re-developed Lisbon City and the energy flows towards the RIver Tagus. The grid system of roads and the 2 arterial roads leading to the City. The red arrows show the flow of the energy downhill to the city. Alfama is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon. This image shows the haphazard nature of the roads.


The grid system of straight roads (modern urban design) allows the energy to flow down the streets unimpeded. The river pulls this energy down even more when the ocean is at low tide. In other words, Lisbon is unable to retain the energy it receives.

You might point out that there are other prosperous cities with a “modern grid system” of roads. Yes – examples being New York and Chicago. The land is flat so the energy does not flow away because of the hills.  Then, Seattle is built on a hill and it has a “grid road system”. Seattle is by Elliott Bay, part of Puget Sound which is an inland sea. There are no tides and there is no focussed flow of water like a river. Therefore, in Seattle, the energy coming down the hills remain at the lower and prosperous downtown areas of the City.

The re-development after the 1755 earthquake has caused this major change in the pattern of energy flow. Lisbon was the centre of an Empire but after the 1755 earthquake, it became a shadow of its illustrious past. Now it is an important city within the Europe Union. I see Lisbon becoming a city of Culture, Tourism and Entertainment in the coming decades.


Lisbon is a city that has grown on me. I have visited many cities in my travels -some, I would only want to visit only once, some I have got bored after a day. But Lisbon has grown on me. It grew even stronger as I write this travel blog and so much so, Helen is preparing for the next visit to glorious Lisbon.

Lisbon, here we come again!



Inspira Santa Marta Hotel

Portugal Tourist Board

More information can be obtained from Tourism of Lisbon.

TAP Portugal has daily flights from Manchester, London Heathrow & Gatwick to Lisbon; prices start at £121 return including all taxes and surcharges. For further information on the web or call 0345 601 0932.



About Dr Michael Oon:

Michael was brought up in Singapore and came to the UK for schooling. He was a forensic scientist at the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory (New Scotland Yard, London) for 20 years. He is now a consultant practicing traditional feng shui and works with property developers. He specialises in helping to sell property faster. He has travelled extensively around the world as part of his work and together with his wife Helen.


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  • Liu | Feb 29, 2016 at 9:28 pm

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    • Michael Oon | Mar 8, 2016 at 7:19 am

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