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shop 'til you drop in lisbon

by Sharon Hudgins

Who would have thought of Lisbon as a city for shopping? Sure, tourists flock to London, Paris, Florence, and Rome for the designer fashions and other finery featured at those cities' big department stores and little boutiques. But Portugal's capital is a surprisingly good place to shop for handicrafts, gifts, clothes, and personal indulgences, some of which can't be found anywhere else.

Although you can find interesting shops in many parts of the city, the main shopping areas in the historic part of Lisbon are the Baixa district, and the tony Chiado section of the Bairro Alto district, adjacent to Baixa. In Baixa, start at the Lisbon Tourist Office (Rua do Arsenal 23, www.visitlisboa.com) next to the Praça do Comércio, a huge open square near the river. Pick up a city map and the latest free booklet about shopping, wining, and dining in Lisbon. Also browse the adjacent Tourist Office gift shop to see good examples of the kinds of crafts made in Portugal.

Next, head up Rua Augusta, one of the major shopping streets in Lisbon. For inspiration, stop first at MUDE Lisbon's new design museum, to view the artfully displayed exhibits of 20th-century fashion, furniture, and decorative objects (Rua Augusta 24, www.mude.pt/en/mude_site.html ).  As you stroll along the main street, also detour onto the little side lanes where tiny stores are tucked away, selling everything from clothing and shoes to food and souvenirs.  Keep up your energy by stopping for an ice cream at Fragoleto (Rua da Prata 80), just a couple blocks off Rua Augusta.

Rua Augusta leads into Rossio Square (aka Praça Dom Pédro IV), the major hub in this part of Lisbon, surrounded by shops and cafes. Nearby is another landmark square, Praça da Figueira, where you'll find Confeitaria Nacional, a classic pastry shop which has been selling sweets on that site since 1829. Taste the pasteis de nata (custard tart) or their signature Bolo Rei (King's Cake), along with a cup of rich coffee; upstairs they also serve a light, reasonably priced lunch (http://confeitarianacional.com/english/home.html). Nearby is a classic old-fashioned food shop, Manuel Tavares, which has been selling hams, sausages, cheeses, wines, and confections since 1860. And from this same square, walk up Poço do Borratém street toward the Martim Moniz tram stop, where you'll find an excellent kitchenware store with hundreds of local and imported products, and another large shop selling Portuguese textiles.

Back at Figueira Square, walk along Rua D. Antão de Amada to visit Manteigaria e Bacahoaria Silva, another classic old shop purveying salt cod, dried beans, hams, cheeses, and Portuguese canned products. At the top of that street, on Largo de São Domingos 8, an even smaller shop sells nothing but bottles of ginginha, Portuguese cherry liquor. For only one euro, you can taste before you buy.

From the other end of Rossio Square, walk up Rua do Carmo to Rua Garrett, window-shopping or spending your money at the many boutiques and designer stores that line these streets. You're now in the Chiado section of the city, an area frequented by Lisbon's artists, intellectuals, and young sophisticates. Chiado is where you'll find many funky boutiques, tiny art galleries, dusty antiquarian book stores, and cozy cafes. This is also good place to look for Portuguese handmade products, traditional and modern.

A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11, www.avidaportuguesa.com ) takes you back into the past, with contemporary versions of old Portuguese products in their original style of packaging, and traditional crafts such as hand-woven textiles and hand-painted ceramics. The modern Artes & Etc. store (Rua da Misericórdia 94-96) features fine-quality folk crafts from all over Portugal, including ceramics, cork products, jams, and chocolates (other locations at Rua da Atalaia 73, in the Bairro Alto district, and Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmão, in the Alfama district). Atelier55 (Rua António Maria Cardoso 74, www.atelier55-eng.blogspot.com) is chock full of unique Portuguese crafts by well known artists: pottery, wood carvings, dolls, embroidered textiles, crucifixes, Nativity scenes, Christmas decorations, and much more.

Shop for funky designer clothing at Vintage Bazaar (Largo da Academia Nacional de Belas Artes 5, www.vintagebazaar.pt), and accessorize with handmade leather gloves from Luvaria Ulisses (Rua da Carmo 87A, www.luvariaulisses.com). Step back into the 1920s-1970s with clothing and furniture from A Outra Face da Lua (Rua da Asuncião 22, www.aoutrafacedalua.com). Light up your life with handcrafted candles from Caza das Vellas do Loreto, Rua do Loreto 53-55, http://cazavellasloreto.pai.pt), which has been selling candles from this woody shop since 1789. Azulejos Sant'Anna (Rua do Alecrim 95, www.fabrica-santanna.com/show-room) is the place to buy traditional handmade Portuguese tiles by Lisbon's Sant'Anna factory, which has been producing them since 1741.

In a historic building in the Alfama district (the old Moorish quarter), A Arte da Terra (Rua Augusto Rosa 40, www.aartedaterra.pt), exhibits and sells excellent quality traditional and contemporary crafts by 200 Portuguese artists. Behind the São Vicente church in Alfama, you'll find the 19th-century Mercado Municipal de Santa Clara, the city's first covered food market, now transformed into a center for culinary arts (in the interior) with several little shops around the exterior, where you can buy antiques, urban handicrafts, and tempting handmade chocolate desserts (at As Marias com Chocolate).  The Feira da Ladra ("Thieves Market") is a colorful flea market held outdoors, just behind the Santa Clara market, on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Go early on Saturdays for the best selection.

Museum shops are another good place to hunt for quality products, from art reproductions and high-end souvenirs to books and postcards. Visit the shops at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (Av. de Berna 45A), the National Tile Museum (Rua Madre de Deus 4), and in the modern building (combination cafe and museum store), across the square from the Maritime Museum in the Belém district (Praça do Império, Belém).

Finally, if you can't resist a shopping center, Lisbon is the place for you. It boasts some of the largest shopping malls in Europe, including the Colombo (the biggest in Lisbon, on Av. Colegio Militar, www.colombo.pt); Amoreiras (the city's oldest, Av. Eng. Duarte Pacheco, www.amoreiras.com); Atrium Saldanha (Saldanha Square, across from the Lisbon Sheraton, the tallest building in the city, www.atriumsaldanha.pt); Armazéns do Chiado (Rua do Carmo 2, in the Chiado district, www.armazensdochiado.com), and Centro Vasco da Gama  (in the new Park of Nations district, www.centrovascodagama.pt).


Article and photos copyright 2012 by Sharon Hudgins.

Sharon Hudgins
is a food and travel writer with more than 700 articles published in magazines and newspapers across the globe.  She has lived in 10 countries on three continents and traveled in 60 countries around the world.  She is the author of four books, including two award-winners--a cookbook about the regional cuisines of Spain and a travel memoir (The Other Side of Russia) about her life in Siberia during the early period after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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