Lisbon Shopping: Streets, Markets, and Malls

The Portuguese capital of Lisbon, once the center of commerce for a huge sea-faring empire, is now a European shopping destination. From leather and porcelain to wines and jewelry, Lisbon shopping is proof that Portugal is still an international trading post. Lisbon is a relaxed but fashionable city, and the variety of shops means that both fancy fashion plates and practical pick-n-savers will find places to float their cash to eager merchants. Portuguese specialties to look for during your Lisbon shopping excursions include glazed “azulejo” tiles, fado music, pottery, ornamental jewelry, and items made of cork. In terms of locations, Lisbon shopping can be broken down into three types – street shopping districts, markets, and malls.

Street Shops – Neighborhoods

Baixa. In the heart of Lisbon’s city centre is the Baixa and its famous street Rua Augusta. Free from traffic and catering to pedestrians, Rua Augusta finds itself between two old squares, Comercio and Rossio. From street merchants near these squares to the lovely shops along the avenue itself, shoppers will find plenty of shoes, jewelry, scarves, handbags, and lots of tourist items (almost too many cheap souvenirs). Try the foodstuffs for sale, too, including roasted chestnuts. Also, be sure to venture away from Rua Augusta to explore the Baixa side streets, many of which are named after the kind of businesses originally situated there (for example, there is a Rua dos Sapateiros, or “Street of Shoemakers”).

Chiado. Although there was a devastating fire here in the late 1980s, this neighborhood is home to some of the finest shops Lisbon has to offer. Big name designers and jewelers maintain stores here, but you’ll find some balance between European boutiques (i.e. Hermes) and more local merchants. Chiado is a great area for books and porcelain, one of Portugal’s specialties. Be sure to look for painted roosters, a popular motif in this country. Rua Garrett is probably the most notable street for shoppers.

Bairro Alto. Take an escalator, such as Elevador da Gloria, from the Baixia to the Bairro Alto. Remember that Lisbon was built on seven hills! In addition to its nightlife, the Bairro Alto is known for its somewhat funkier, trendier shops. Full of artists’ galleries, second-hand stores, tattoo parlors, and all kinds of unconventional merchants, Bairro Alto will reveal hidden gems to you if you explore the nooks of the neighborhood. If shops full of old curioisities interest you, the Rua Dom Pedro V is recommended for antiques. Avoid the trite tourist shops of the Baixa and bring your friends a souvenir from an odd shop in the Bairro Alto.

Markets

Feira da Ladra. Known as the “market of thieves” this outdoor Portuguese bazaar is a colorful place to see Lisbon residents buying and trading everything from used electronics to blankets and sweaters. Despite its name, the market is generally safe, provided that you protect your wallet from would-be pickpockets. Although you can haggle prices in some other Lisbon shops, this flea market is definitely the place to negotiate; don’t buy anything at face value without making a lower offer. Stick with lace, leather, clothing (especially retro t-shirts), “azulejo” tiles, African art, and cheap jewelry – all of which are readily available. Feria da Ladra is located in Lisbon’s Alfama area, near Campo de Santa Clara, and operates only on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Mercado da Ribeira. Even though this market specializes in foods (especially produce), it’s worth poking around to grab some sunny citrus fruits or some fresh flowers. The market provides a juicy respite from “regular” Lisbon shopping.

Malls

Centro Colombo / www.centrocolombo.pt
If navigating the shops and markets in Lisbon’s winding streets makes you long for an air-conditioned shopping center, visit Centro Colombo, one of Europes largest malls. Portugal’s answer to the Mall of America, with over 400 stores and 60 restaurants, is readily accessible via the Lisbon metro’s blue line at Colegio Militar station. When you’re done spending your Euros on everything under the Iberian sun, you can ride a roller coaster in the complex’s amusement park. Colombo is best known for women’s apparel, shoes, jewelry, and handbags, though it has just about every kind of store. Although it makes for a vast shopping experience, Colombo lacks some charm and character. As a result, it is best saved for a rainy or excessively hot day when street shopping is less feasible.

Centro Vasco da Gama / www.centrovascodagama.pt
Named after an explorer who rounded the southern tip of Africa in the 1400s, this mall is smaller than Centro Colombo but still quite large: almost 175 stores. It is accessible from the Lisbon metro’s red line via the Estacao Oriente stop.

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