Shopping in Portugal: Is There an Alternative to Amazon?

Why, yes, yes, there is!

Updated Apr. 2, 2024

Skip to the non-Amazon retailers available in or shipping to Portugal, or to the how-to of avoiding Amazon that’s more general.

Or read the “why” first:

A few years ago, we started putting together a guide to using Amazon in Portugal, because at the time there wasn’t a Portuguese Amazon. 

There isn’t one now either — the retail vampire squid has no warehouses here — it’s just that the Spanish Amazon now has a Portuguese version, but anyone who speaks Portuguese is typically able to read and write in Spanish, and also, unless you’re older than a Boomer, the “translate” function in most internet browsers is pretty obvious, and shipping from Spain turned out to be free as long as you spent enough money, so a lack of Amazon Portugal has never been a problem for anyone in Portugal. 

The problem, for us, was well-meaning friends and relatives wanting to send us a gift from the U.S., often through Amazon.com, the U.S. version, that caused us to deal with both the Portuguese courier delivery services as well as Portuguese customs, alfândegas, working hand in hand to ensure that Christmas was going to be damn expensive and require several trips, sometimes by bus, to various locales receiving DHL, DPD, MRW, and other acronyms that refused to just leave the stupid package inside your building if they couldn’t reach you (if you live in Lisbon and you have a working doorbell, let us know, your building should be considered ultra-luxe). 

But what we learned, after many undelivered packages and subsequent Amazon.es shopping sprees, was that Amazon.es didn’t always have what we needed, or didn’t have it at the price that we wanted, at which point — Eureka! — we found that Amazon.fr and .it and .de (that’s France, Italy, and Germany for you Yanks) often did, and often at prices that justified paying the slightly higher shipping fee. 

For anyone new to the European Union, if you order from outside the union — say, from China, the U.S., and (thanks, Brexit!) the U.K. — you’re likely to get slapped with tariffs, although apparently not always.

Anyway!

Greta came about and reminded us that maybe shipping stuff we’d inevitably throw away isn’t the best way to ensure a viable future, and also, Amazon had a curious effect on independent bookstores,* and as you’ve hopefully observed on this website, we here care about the written word, and also about people being paid for the written word (donations always welcome, and needed), so we decided that maybe getting a book, or a laptop cover case, or that delicious gluten-free Asian dressing wasn’t so cool if it came in that ubiquitous cardboard box with that awful winky smile that seems to say, “I’m J. Bezos and I just spent the fortunes of the next four generations of your family on this cool cowboy hat, and also, I have a rocket! Do you have a rocket?! Because due to all the crap you’re buying and the various gasses the manufacture and shipping of that crap is contributing to whatever you want to call the phenomenon of strange weather, rising temperatures, and disappearing ice and snow on the planet, there’s not going to be much habitable space on this little rock in a few years, so you better get on board with the cosmic colonization, Chiquita! Want to come on my rocket?”

* This realization came about when one Atlas correspondent sat down with another Atlas correspondent and asked her to name independent Memphis bookstores she liked as a child so we could support them during the coronavirus pandemic while shopping for presents for relatives in that fair city. There had been about a dozen (~12) during her short and miserable adolescence there, and of those, maybe two (~2) remained a year ago — we’re afraid to check what happened since then. 

But it gets worse: there was, in the heyday of the Internet in which little people could do cool stuff, a big number of independent used-book resellers whose names we won’t mention here because almost all of them, one by one, have been bought out by Amazon. If in doubt, give your personal data to Google and do a search.

So if you’re not keen on supporting a middle-aged boy’s dream of living on other planets while you and your grandchildren choke on the fumes of your own and other peoples’ farts, we have some pretty difficult but viable solutions for you.

GENERAL

1) Don’t buy stuff. It’s simple: before you click “Pay,” call someone you care about and ask them if you need this thing. Have a chat. Have a drink. Maybe you can live without this new item. Also, making things is cool again, as is fixing them.

2) If you must buy something, buy it used, you can wash it.

3) Or at least buy it from somewhere more local. Your purchase may still be made halfway across the globe but would at least support someone other than Jeff and his wonder company’s shareholders.

4) But do try to buy something made close to where you or your recipients live, yeah? We’re in Europe, they kill plenty of cows and sheer plenty of sheep and even grow some hemp here for you to get your clothes sourced locally. (And ease up on the petrochemicals, they’re not always necessary, no matter your awesome outdoor pursuit.) Also, wood can be sustainable, and ages better, like rugged men and good wine.

It’s not that we have anything against Amazon, by the way, what with their excellent track record of paying publishers fairly, supporting libraries, and treating their employees with respect and care. And we love space travel, so it’s always hard to choose between Elon and Jefferey as our favorite Marvel hero. We just believe in choice, just like they do!

In Portugal, as long as you’re willing to wait, you can get most things you need, and most you don’t, in a few days or, at most, a few weeks, directly from manufacturers and a few resellers that don’t ship stuff in boxes with a typographical wink on them.

PLACES TO SHOP WITHOUT GOOD OLE’ BEZOS

BOOKS, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT ALL STARTED:

For new books, Lisbon’s scene of independent stores is constantly evolving and, in response to the jump in the number of English speakers in the city, the selection of books in their language is growing. Among the newest entrants is Salted Books in Estrela, while one of our favorites for gifts, a few blocks away, is Palavra de Viajante, which specializes in books in Portuguese and other languages dedicated to or inspired by travel, from maps and guidebooks to travelogues, poetry, and coffee table photo books.

Then there’s the chain Bertrand Livreiros, whose store in Chiado is the oldest bookstore in the world. Each branch always has a solid, well-rounded selection of English-language books, and there are almost unlimited options in its more comprehensive online store (which carries French, too). The even bigger chain FNAC also carries English-language editions both in the physical outlets and online (tip: make sure the listing for the book you’re ordering has the words “Edição em Inglês”). Both chains can sometimes take a few weeks to deliver new non-Portuguese-language releases that are smaller, but they’ll get to you, we have ample experience.

For you artsy snobs, both Taschen and Phaidon have EU stores that, considering the price of most of their titles, may very well end up being free to ship too. And to be clear, this isn’t “content research,” this is “I had to find a gift, and did” research.

For used English-language books you can touch and smell and flip through first, you have Bivar right here in Lisbon. Many larger antique stores that have book sections will have a respectable selection of classics in English, and some, if you’re fortunate, will have a Penguin editions shelf with prices rivaling what you’d find in London or New York (our recent discovery is Livraria Sá da Costa in Chiado — a great place also for ancient Portuguese volumes, maps, etchings, and more).

Online, to avoid tariffs, head to German-based online store medimops, which has a fairly substantial selection of second-hand English-language books, decent shipping prices, and delivery within a week, in our experience. They also carry second-hand CDs and LPs. Some of the site is in English, but you’ll have better luck with the translate function in your browser, we found.

And the used-book stores that have not been bought out by Amazon and deliver pretty much all over the world at reasonable rates, including to the U.S. and the U.K., but also to Portugal (sometimes with a tariff, sometimes not) are WorldOfBooks at wob.com, BetterWorldBooks.com, and ThriftBooks.com.

Related: Where to Find English-Language Books in Lisbon

MUSIC: An Amazon package with some new tunes just doesn’t have the same oomph as a record you found rummaging through one of Lisbon’s many record shops. We’ve also had great experiences buying used records on olx.pt — just stick with the sellers that have been online for some time and ask questions if in doubt.

NIFTY AUTHENTIC LOCAL ARTISANAL ETC GIFT IDEAS: Well-established as well as up-and-coming Portuguese companies make knitwear, soaps, tinned seafood, pottery, books, and, of course, wine, olive oil, cheese, and pastries galore. Many small, independent shops around town carry these items, and some have online stores if you can’t leave the house — some will even deliver abroad. Our favorites are here. Portugal also has a plethora of talented visual artists you could probably afford.

ELECTRONICS: Worten, FNAC, with physical locations across Portugal and online stores, too. The independent sellers around the city also carry everything from phone chargers to washing machines, and if you ask, they may just price-match Amazon (your mileage may vary). And if you’re looking for a new(er) phone, FNAC has a refurbished option on the big brands on its online store, while our go-to for that sort of expenditure has been Techlovers.pt.

CLOTHES: Every major brand will have a reasonable shipping fee from their online store to anywhere in the world, even though it may be a few euros more expensive than Amazon, sure. And yes, you can buy a cheaper sweater or skirt at the chain stores you’ll now find on “main street” in Lisbon, Milan, Málaga, Bucharest, and whatnot, and they have their online versions, but you’re gonna throw it away in a year or two because their stuff is merde, and you know it. But right next to these stores or right around the corner, in Lisbon, at least, are lovely local boutiques, some more expensive than others, and a good number of them work with local manufacturers who also source materials locally. Also, while Lisbon sucks for second-hand clothes, unfortunately, because the idea of second-hand is still alien and we here in Lisbon somehow prefer “upcycled” and “vintage” to “used,” they’re here — and such stores get much, much cheaper once you’re outside Lisbon (5€ Sacoor Brothers dress shirts, for example, is a thing, but you’ll have to get lucky).

SHOES: Calcadoguimaraes.pt and Seaside.pt are websites for stores that have physical locations all over Portugal, and much of their stuff is made in the country. Spartoo.pt is pretty darn good for a broader selection. And here’s the thing: most well-known shoe manufacturers have dedicated websites, and you can buy directly from them. We have, and remain happy.

SPORTS GEAR: For climbing, mountaineering, proper backcountry camping, and canoeing needs, Yupik has a physical location in Lisbon where the people who work there will be able to get into the nitty-gritty of 10- or 12-point crampons, among other topics, without making you feel like a chode. There’s the more corporate and less personable Decathlon chain of physical stores, with an even bigger online selection as well, and at more affordable prices. Sport Zone is more “lifestyle” but we swear by it for running shoes and short-shorts, and socks. Trekkinn has some decent gear at often great prices, although customer service isn’t what it used to be — they can take 2-3 days to respond, as of 2023 — and you can expect to wait weeks on some items even though, or because, they’re in Spain. Bergfreunde.com (which means “mountain friends” in German!) is far better as of 2024, If you can manage the translate function in your web browser, and Sportler.com is very good as well. 

BOOZE: If you’re shopping for someone in Portugal, Garrafeira Nacional has the best selection and knowledgeable staff at its locations in Lisbon, as well as an online store, with free deliveries for bigger orders. And it may take a few weeks, but if there’s something you absolutely need — say, the very specific Peychaud’s Bitters used for a proper sazerac — they’ll order it for you. And then there’s Cavelusa.pt, which has a selection often rivaling Garrafeira’s when it comes to more esoteric libations such as Italian bitters and Spanish vermouths, if that’s your thing.

Presents, with no one wearing cowboy hats while riding rockets
On Key

You May Also Like

The Best Travel Guides to Lisbon

There are many travel guides for Lisbon, and each tends to suit a certain traveler. Luckily, we’ve had a look at the best to save you the legwork.

Where to Find English-Language Books in Lisbon

There are plenty of native English speakers in Lisbon, and Portugal has a tradition of reading in the original language, which means lots of choice for English-language literature at decent prices.

Best of Lisboa 2022

The best of the best in Lisbon, and beyond, according to people who know what is the what.

What Commerce in Lisbon Looks Like Under Lockdown

Updated April 22, 2020 Last month, the Portuguese government announced a 9.2-billion-euro package to provide liquidity for companies and support workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. But what does that

Markets at a Glance

Lisbon is a market town. On the weekends, it’s common to see folding-table vendors popping up in just about every public space to hock their hand-crafted hard and soft goods

The Thirteen Best Markets In Lisboa

Not all Lisbon markets are created equal, nor are the vendors who comprise them. Here’s where to go if you’re keen for a stroll as you shop or bargaining before you buy.

Newsletter

Subscribe to
the Atlas Lisboa Newsletter

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close