Shopping for Mementos to Bring Back From Lisbon
A guide to shopping in Portugal's capital for old-world mementos that are sure to make you want to pack an empty bag—or two!
Portugal's charming capital, Lisbon, is an ancient city steeped in history and beauty. Travelers can explore winding alleys and cobblestone streets leading to hilltop castles, ancient marble fountains, and any of seven spectacular miradouros overlooking the city. Fado melodies fill the air as people emerge from the majestic doors of timeworn bars, and the scent of roasting chestnuts can be smelled for miles. Street vendors cook the ancient snack over a fire on their carts and roll sheets of newspapers into cones counting out a dozen into each one.
Exploring Lisbon is like stepping back in time to a bygone era. Over two years of living there before moving to New York and now traveling back three times a year due to marrying a Lisbonite, I can certainly say I’ve explored the city and been lucky enough to get an insider’s view into its many cabinets of curiosities.
The city has changed quite a bit in the last few years. It's become more contemporary yet it still retains an old-world charm. That old-world charm can still be seen in a handful of centuries-old shops that have been in the same family for generations and hold beautiful treasures with stories to tell, craftsmanship traditions inherent to Portugal, and delightful packaging. Who doesn't want to return home with a suitcase stuffed with treasures reminiscent of their travels?
Here, our recommendations for where to shop for objects that are quintessential Portuguese so you can bottle up a bit of old Portugal (perhaps literally!) and bring it home with you.
Gloves from a Bygone Era from Luvaria Ulisses
Luvaria Ulisses is the epitome of traditional leather glove craftsmanship
Walking through the art-deco door of this tiny century old shop dedicated solely to gloves is to be transported. There was a time when goods were always behind a counter so that you could be personally waited upon hand and foot -- in this case hand. Luvaria Ulisses holds onto this tradition. A cheery attendant sizes up your hands just by looking at them from the other side of the counter and retrieves a pair of soft, supple leather gloves and opens them on a peculiar antique wood apparatus. Once your exact sizing is confirmed, you will have thought these gloves were molded just for you and you’ll be dreaming up a suitcase full of colors and styles to take back home with you. Luvaria Ulisses is the epitome of traditional leather glove craftsmanship.
Luvaria Ulisses has been in this business since 1925. It is the last shop in all of Portugal dedicated solely to the sale of gloves. Shopkeepers attend to just one or two guests at a time, giving you their undivided attention. Since the shop is so tiny, you may need to wait outside for at least 10 minutes to get inside. Once you pick the perfect custom gloves, they will set you back around 65 Euros complete with a pretty silk bag to take them home. The raw material and production of the custom-made gloves are done in-house.
Suggestion: if you live in a colder climate, opt for their cashmere lining. They’re BEYOND luxurious!
Porcelain From Vista Alegre
Vista Alegre is a porcelain company dating back to 1824 and is best known for its artistic design, incorporating Portuguese culture and collaborations with world renowned artists. The shop is located in Lisbon's trendiest neighborhood, Chiado, and is housed in a charming 19th century building adorned with beautiful tiles.
Vista Alegre produces its decorative porcelain, stunning dinnerware and crystals in one of four factories located in the central region of Portugal.
Our personal favorite collection is the one featuring calcada. If anything reminds you of Portugal when you reminisce on your travels, it's the calcada - the artistic black and white mosaic stones you won’t be able to miss as you stroll along the breathtaking streets of Portugal. There's an espresso coffee set that we had to get our hands on as soon as it was released - it features the most prominent calcada in Lisbon. The collection has expanded to include treys, a cake stand, a sugar box and everything you need to entertain your friends who come by to hear all about your travels.
Traditional Crafts From A Vida Portuguesa
A Vida Portuguesa is a charming shop playing tribute to Portuguese-made objects with stories to tell and manufacturing techniques that haven't changed in a hundred years. Here you can find infamous tasty ginjinha (sour cherry) liqueur, ceramics, throws, jewelry and everything in between stocked in old wooden cabinets once used by an old perfume factory.
We especially recommend picking up a divine bar of Claus Porto bath soap, a nice set of
gold filigree earrings for that special woman in your life, and a tablecloth with Viana do Castelo embroidery.
There are currently five A Vida Portuguesa shops throughout Portugal, four of which are in Lisbon. Our favorite is the original shop, located in Chiado and housed in an old warehouse and perfume factory David & David.
Candles From Caza das Velas do Loreto
You could easily pass the quaint candle shop called Caza das Velas but it's worth making an effort to find because as you step inside, it's like you're back in the year 1789, the year of the shop's founding. This is actually the oldest continuously operating candle shop in the whole world. I mean, how cool is that? Upon entering, you'll find hand-carved wooden arches filled with rows and rows of shelves displaying handmade candles behind glass. We love the sleek pillar candles.