December 7, 2017 by Ellis Dixon
Buying Local in Lisboa
There’s always a market or two going on in Lisbon throughout the year, but these can be sporadic at best — and sometimes you just want to head to a brick-and-mortar to pick up that special wedding, Christmas, or birthday gift…or just something fun for yourself. Instead of traipsing to a mall to tick off your shopping list, why not support some mom-and-pop shops around town instead?
Depending on your budget, there’s likely a hidden gem right around the corner from you, if you know where to look. We’re here to help you find them.
Souvenirs: Lisbon Shop
Portugal is famous for its filigree, fringed fado scarves, six-layer skirts, crows, swallows, poets, sidewalks, light, bitoques, the recent Euro Cup victory, and more. If you want to gift something that attempts to echo the artistic fortitude and versatility of the country, then why on earth would you bring home a ridiculous wooden rooster or Chinese-made Ronaldo t-shirt? Instead, pop into this shop, admittedly located in one of the most touristic areas in town, to look at quality goodies made and/or designed locally. They carry cobblestone coasters, excellent photography books about Portugal, ceramic andorinhas (swallows), tile-printed wearable items, stuff skillfully crafted out of locally-harvested cork, selections by Portuguese poets, and more. You shouldn’t settle for less. Seriously. Put the cock down.
Women’s Mid-range Clothing: Truz Boutique
Tired of chain stores like H&M, Pull&Bear, and Zara? So are we. That’s why it’s always a pleasure to stop inside the Truz boutique, which features women’s clothing and accessories that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s hard to imagine there is so much to investigate on only two small floors, but trust me, if you’re not aversed to trying things on, you’ll be in there for at least an hour. Their racks are stocked with interesting items to satiate every aesthetic: from pretty princess to delicate debutante and from understated hippie to fierce bohemian. The prices are low (at times you can find discounted items for 10€) especially when there’s a sale, which is frequent. This boutique is cash only, so if you’re planning to overhaul your wardrobe, remember the nearest Multibanco is about forty paces out the door and across the street. If you’re on a budget, try the rack in the back left corner that has lots of reduced-price goodies.
Haute Couture: Storytailors
This haute-couture spot has defied the economic crash and the fashion industry at large by succeeding at dancing to the beat of their own drummer. João Branco and Luís Sanchez joined forces back in 2001 to turn tradition on its ear and tell a story with their tailoring, hence, the name. Each collection illustrates its own chapter of the creators’ tale, not the dialogue on this year’s red carpet. Not only do they design costumes for the D. Maria II and the S. João National Theaters, but they also create the stage costumes for The Gift, Amália Hoje, and others. Who knows? If you pop in for a peek you might just spy Madonna in the fitting room. They’re used to browsers, so don’t feel obligated to go bananas on your bank account.
Ceramics: Loiça ao Kilo
Pick your poison and pay by the kilo! The hand-crafted pitchers, plates, bowls, cups, and more are all made right here in Portugal — and you can get them for a fraction of the price. This shop is full of rejected items from well-known potters across the country, but don’t let that stop you from shopping. Usually, the flaws are minor, and unless you have a magnifying glass, chances are you won’t even notice them: a bubble in the glaze, a chip in the finish, a smeared stamp on the bottom, you get the idea. Just remember to do a quick scan for unfixable cracks if you plan to use the item to hold liquid. If you’re using it for decorative purposes only, then who cares! This ceramics haven is a fantastic alternative to the high-priced ceramic shops in the design district and a good way to diversify your kitchen cabinets, bookcases, or veranda.
Traditional Portuguese Products: A Vida Portuguesa
If you really want a traditional item to bring home, try this beautifully curated shop that was established to preserve and promote antique articles like soaps, blankets, vintage toys, baskets, ceramics, and yes, even toothpaste. Pick up a swallow in flight, a high-quality cork messenger bag, or a scarf woven from Portuguese sheep’s wool, each made lovingly from the hands that have passed their craft down through the generations. It will certainly cost you a bit more than the knock-offs you can find in the Chinese minimarkets, but it will be worth the price. It’s a treat just to wander from room to room as if you are inside some sort of product museum. If you hadn’t understood the “Portuguese Life” before, you’ll certainly get it by the time you leave regardless of what you’ve splurged on.
Sweets: Chocolataria Equador
Don’t let the name fool you, this brand of handmade chocolates was originally founded in Porto. Their cocoa is imported from Brazil, Cuba, and of course, Ecuador, and crafted right here in Portugal. It’s not just the beautiful ’40s and ’50s-style packaging or the quirky São Tomé cacao warehouse interior that made us fall in love with them, it’s their top-notch bonbons, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bits, and their smorgasbord of shavings. They’ve got all the best stuff behind glass and guarded by knowledgable chocolatiers to protect the goods from the likes of that grabby chocoholic, but there are some pre-made gift boxes ripe for the fondling adjacent to the counter. These sweets knock store-brand bars out of the park, with fantastic combinations of salty and sweet, fruits and nuts, and more. While it’s difficult to choose between the mouth-watering options, we recommend the passion fruit truffles and the Port wine-infused bonbons.
A Smattering of Everything: Embaixada
This former Moorish-style palace has been turned into a shopping Mecca. Inside you’ll find clothing and accessories, home decor, sustainable goods (we recommend Fair Bazaar’s pop-up shop this season), fantastic steaks, and a gin bar, and even a place to purchase some pretty rad art pieces. Most of the products sold here are locally-crafted, so if you’re looking for something special, you’ve got two dozen stores all in one place to peruse. Halfway through, take a cup of coffee overlooking the botanic gardens in the back at Le Jardin, grab a bite at Atalho Real under an umbrella, or pick up a hand-painted tile backsplash at Artes & Etc. See what locally produced outdoor gear you didn’t know you needed at Urze, buy a bike accessory or a pair of shoes for that hipster in your life at Linkstore, or, you know, just walk around in a palace and take a selfie on the stairs. Your call.
Jewelry and Accessories: 21pr Concept Store
Do you like concepts? We’re not sure if we do, but we like this store for its wide range of unique and carefully chosen products, including exquisite ready-to-wear clothing for men, women, and kids, super nice scented candles that don’t make you want to puke in a trashcan, handmade high-quality jewelry from artisans inspired by traditional filigree and Portuguese motifs, giftable accessories like Serra da Estrela wool scarves and slippers, and a smattering of décor for the house. It’s a one-stop shop, especially during the holidays, if you’re not on too tight of a budget. Bora!
Kids, Ladies, and Home: Mini by Luna
Mini by Luna was founded back in 2012 and it has continued to bring together brands from all over, with a modern, classic, and shabby-chic aesthetic ever since. Of course, it’s not all splurge-worthy in there — avoid slapping down 65€ for a plain white teeshirt if you can restrain yourself. Instead, opt for that one statement piece that is just as classic but with a little pizzaz, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny if you’re buying in-season. There are always items from the previous season at a deep discount, so if you want a high-quality piece at half the price, walk to the back and start your search there.
Books: Bookshop Bivar
Aside from being the best, it’s really the only all-English secondhand bookstore left in the city. It’s got a penchant for Penguin editions (so do we!), and even though its titles lean toward science fiction and romance, it’s got a pretty impressive selection of classics and contemporary literature. This kind of stock is otherwise very hard to find in English in this town, though you can find new editions of the odd Saramago or even Foster-Wallace at FNAC or Bertrand Books if you’re lucky. The owner, Leena Marjola, is actively building an anglophile community of book-lovers by hosting readings, exhibits, and cozy concerts inside the shop, so keep your eyes peeled for flyers about town and on their website. Do your inner bookworm a favor and browse their bookshelves. You never know what you’ll find.