Madonna's Lisbon - The Places that Inspired the Madame X Album

Madonna moved to Lisbon in 2017 when her son David, who wants to become a professional soccer player, joined the Sport Lisboa e Benfica academy. She had also considered academies in Barcelona and Turin, but Portuguese model Kevin Sampaio, who she kisses on the “Bitch, I’m Madonna” video, convinced her that Benfica was the best choice. As she told NBC’s Harry Smith in an interview for the Today show, she had no intention of making a new album in Lisbon, but felt “compelled” after being introduced to different musical styles in the city. In the same interview she says that she was already familiar with Portugal’s fado music, since her sister lived in Portugal for years and was always sending her fado music, but according to a Billboard article, it was the city’s influences from around the world that inspired the songs on the new album, which she named Madame X. Her life in Lisbon was shared on her social media accounts, and Portuguese photographer Ricardo Gomes has documented the world of Madame X, from the release of the album to the concert tour. The tour’s promotional poster recreates a typical Lisbon fado club scene -- Madonna in a black dress (fado singers usually perform dressed in black), against a wall covered with the typical Portuguese blue-and-white tiles, holding a bottle of wine and with a Portuguese guitar in the background. Lisbon was one of just three European cities where she performed (the others were London and Paris), and it was where she recorded the concert to be featured in the Madame X documentary, released on October 8, 2021. Over 15,000 of her fans saw the show in the Portuguese capital, and many others have visited the city just to experience what Madonna did. If you’d like to do the same, here are the places where you can trace the footsteps of Madame X.

Pestana Palace

Pestana Palace, Lisbon

Madonna had been in Lisbon before -- for the Re-Invention World Tour in 2004, the MTV European Music Awards in 2005, and the Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008 -- and she stayed at the Pestana Palace Hotel. The hotel was even featured in her "I’m Going to Tell You a Secret" documentary, with her children Lourdes and Rocco seen running around the garden. The same hotel was also her first home in 2017, as she house-hunted. She shared her life in this hotel on social media, like when she sang Britney Spears' "Toxic" in her room on World AIDS Day.
If you’d like to book your room at this hotel, check prices and availability here: Pestana Palace

Rua do Sacramento à Lapa

Rua do Sacramento à Lapa, Lisbon

As Madonna looked for a permanent home, she photographed herself at different properties, like at a mansion on this street lined with embassies and ambassadors’ homes. At number 24 is a romantic building from the late 1800s, with the façade decorated with tiles and ceramics. Tiles (mostly with geometric patterns) cover many of Lisbon’s buildings, and they were used in projections in the Madame X show, during the “Welcome to My Fado Club” act.

Palácio Ramalhete

Palácio Ramalhete, Lisbon

Madonna ended up settling in a mansion from the 1700s that was mentioned in one of the classics of Portuguese literature ("The Maias" by Eça de Queirós). From outside, it’s very nondescript, but inside it maintains the features of the time when it was the residence of dukes and counts. It’s divided into 12 rooms and suites, with stucco ceilings and 18th-century tile panels, and there’s a courtyard with a small swimming pool. Madonna shared videos and photos in the tiled rooms several times -- once posing by a window , another time singing “We Are the Champions” to the sound of the piano played by her son David, another time in her room, yet another of David singing and playing guitar, and of her twin daughters wearing a Portugal soccer jersey.
The mansion is located steps from the Ancient Art Museum, and is currently open as a hotel. If you want to sleep in Madonna’s bed, check prices and availability here: Palácio Ramalhete (book the suite)


Comporta, Portugal

When she was not living as a soccer mom and being introduced to new musical genres, Madonna rode horses in Comporta. Often called Lisbon’s Hamptons, this is where the upper classes go for a day by the sea, and it has recently also attracted international personalities -- designer Christian Louboutin spends much of the year here and reportedly actor George Clooney has also bought a house. For Madonna, this is Heaven ​, or so she said on Instagram. It was also where her children could play freely at the beach.
Comporta is about one hour and twenty minutes to the south of Lisbon, and is part of one of the world’s longest uninterrupted stretches of sand. This coast is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) long and is home to a community of dolphins, which is often seen to the north by the beaches of Troia.


Praia do Guincho, Cascais

Another beach visited by Madonna was that of Guincho, in Cascais. This is one of the most famous beaches in Portugal, as it was a backdrop for scenes of a James Bond movie (“On Her Majesty's Secret Service”). Over the decades, it has been the choice of celebrities and distinguished personalities, not just because of its natural beauty but also for the restaurants by the sea. Madonna dined at Fortaleza do Guincho, but before her, this and other restaurants on this beach had welcomed names like Walt Disney, Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt, and even Evita Perón, who Madonna played in the movie “Evita” and for which she earned a Golden Globe.


Madonna in Lisbon

When she arrived in Lisbon, Madonna was spotted on the streets of Chiado and Bairro Alto, two neighborhoods in the city center, known for their restaurants and bars. She was seen dining at Bairro do Avillez and then had drinks in the neighborhood. However, eventually her nights were spent at musicians’ homes instead, for so-called “living room sessions.” She even posted the moment when she sang "Like a Virgin" in one of those homes, and shared how impressed she was by those musicians who got together not for money, but simply for the love of music. She was also seen checking out the local talent at Fábrica Braço da Prata and posted about watching a film at a wine bar in a former water reservoir which has since closed. On most nights, however, she was in small bars with local musicians. Her favorite was Tejo Bar, owned by a Cape Verdean and which introduced her to the music and culture of former Portuguese colonies in Africa. As she said on Instagram, it was there that she was first inspired to make the new album. When she was not there, she was at Mesa de Frades, a tiny, intimate bar in a former chapel that preserves the beautiful tile panels from the 1700s. This is where she met Celeste Rodrigues, sister of the great icon of fado music, Amália Rodrigues, and sang Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Celeste’s grandson Gaspar Varela is also a musician and ended up playing the Portuguese guitar on the Madame X tour.
Both Tejo Bar and Mesa de Frades are in Alfama, Lisbon’s ancient village-like neighborhood. It was on its maze of cobbled streets that Madonna was often photographed -- here on steps leading up to the castle, here on a scooter, and here for Vogue Italia.
Madonna’s Lisbon life was a cover story in Vogue Italia (you can go behind the scenes here: Vogue photo shoot), and here’s a short video of her on the streets of Alfama: Madonna in Lisbon


Pena Palace, Sintra

As she said in the Vogue interview, Madonna found Sintra (a fairytale town just outside Lisbon) to be a “magical forest” with a “mystical energy.” It’s a town of castles and palaces, and it was reported that she was interested in buying one that’s closed to the public, across from the famous Quinta da Regaleira Palace. However, that was either just a rumor or she ended up preferring to rent the mansion in Lisbon instead. She did post a video of her children running in the garden of Seteais Palace in Sintra, which is now a luxury hotel: Tivoli Palácio de Seteais
For tourists, Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon, and its Pena Palace one of Portugal’s (and Europe’s!) most extraordinary sights.

Parque das Nações

Parque das Nações, Lisbon

Eastern Lisbon was the site of the World Fair in 1998 and is now a business, residential and leisure district called Parque das Nações. It’s mostly visited for the Oceanarium, which is one of the world’s biggest aquariums, and Madonna took her twin daughters Stella and Estere there. It’s just a few feet from the Altice Arena, which was where she performed during the Re-Invention World Tour in 2004. She recorded this concert in Lisbon, but it ended up never being released. She returned to this arena in 2005, when she was the opening act of the MTV European Music Awards, performing “Hung Up” from the “Confessions on a Dance Floor” album.

Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon

Madonna also took her children to the Jerónimos Monastery, one of Lisbon’s most iconic buildings. It dates from 1502 and its magnificent stonework and architecture, as well as its historical significance (it dates from the golden age of maritime trade and exploration) have made it a World Heritage Site. She was allowed to visit outside the regular opening hours and posed for a photo.
To know how to visit this monument yourself, look here: Jerónimos Monastery

Ajuda Palace

Ajuda Palace, Lisbon

The Queen of Pop also visited the last residence of the last Portuguese queen (Portugal became a republic in 1910). The former royal palace is now open as a museum, showing the royals’ marvelous art collection and the crown jewels. It also presents temporary exhibitions, and one of them is what took Madonna there -- a collection of works by Spanish artist Joan Miró, which was acquired by the Portuguese state. This collection is now in the Serralves Museum, in the city of Porto.


Monsaraz, Portugal

Madonna didn’t just stay in the Lisbon area, she also visited other places in Portugal. One that she seemed to have particularly liked is Monsaraz, a small medieval village in the Alentejo region. It’s home to one of Portugal’s most beautiful castles and, in fact, the entire village is enclosed by its 13th-century walls. To the surprise of the very few residents, she rode horses through the village at night. It was wintertime, and it seems to have been a pleasant alternative to riding the horses at the beach in Comporta.

Monsanto Park

Monsanto Park, Lisbon

Madonna revealed the name and concept of the Madame X album in a short film named “World of Madame X”. It was filmed in an abandoned restaurant at the top of Monsanto Park in Lisbon, which is said to be Europe’s largest urban forest. It has sports and picnic areas, and a view over the city, as she showed on Instagram.

“Medellin” Video's Filming Location

The first single of the Madame X album was “Medellin,” which Madonna collaborated with Colombian singer Maluma. The video was to be filmed at the Gothic ruins of Carmo Convent in the center of Lisbon, but the monument was under renovation, so it was shot in a palace outside Sintra, which is not open to the public (it’s by the royal palace of Queluz, which can be visited). Confirming that Madonna draws controversy everywhere she goes, it was reported that she wanted to take a horse inside the palace, but that wasn’t allowed because it could damage the wooden floor. Apparently police had to be sent to make sure that she obeyed. Her publicist has denied this story. You can watch the video here:

“Dark Ballet” Video’s Filming Locations

“Medellin” wasn’t the only video shot in Portugal. “Dark Ballet” was mostly filmed at the Espichel Cape by Sesimbra, a small town to the south of Lisbon. Its abandoned sanctuary was where they set up a scene of Joan of Arc, played by Mykki Blanco, being burned at the stake. According to a Billboard article, Madonna invited Blanco because, as a trandgender artist, she “could be a modern day analogy for Joan.” The video was also filmed at the Batalha Monastery and at the Castle and Convent of Tomar, both World Heritage Sites located to the north of Lisbon. Watch the video here:

“Batuka” Video’s Filming Locations

A third video of another song from the Madame X album was shot in the Lisbon region. “Batuka,” which features the all-female, all-African Batukadeiras Orchestra, had the same director as “Dark Ballet,” Emmanuel Adjei. It was mostly filmed at the beach of São Julião outside Sintra, but the white house that the Batukadeiras enter at the beginning of the video can be seen by Praia da Aguda, not too far away, by the pretty village of Azenhas do Mar. As Billboard put it, the video “addresses Portugal’s haunting past,” its role in the transatlantic slave trade. Watch it here: ​

Santa Catarina

Miradouro de Santa Catarina, Lisbon

When Madonna started the Madame X tour in September of 2019, her son David stayed in Lisbon, and moved to a house in the neighborhood of Santa Catarina, which is known for its viewpoint, one of the city’s most popular sunset spots. Coincidentally, Madonna almost lived in this neighborhood when she moved to Lisbon, as she was interested in renting the Verride Palace, but it was not possible to have it all for herself, so she chose Palácio Ramalhete instead.

Coliseu de Lisboa

Madame X Tour in Lisbon

Madonna performed six shows in Lisbon during the Madame X tour (two of the scheduled eight shows were cancelled due to a recurring knee injury). The chosen venue was Coliseu de Lisboa (also known by its original name, Coliseu dos Recreios), inaugurated in 1890 as a circus and opera house. Madonna shared a video on Instagram of people lining up outside and stated that it was “so nice to have Madame X back where she belongs.”

The End of Madame X

The Madame X tour was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic (the last two shows in March, in Paris, were cancelled). In April, when the entire world was in lockdown, Madonna posted a video showing a deserted Lisbon, urging people to stay home and saying that she was “missing fado and Lisbon life”.