I try not to go shopping when I’m on holiday. I despise clothes shopping when I’m abroad as the very thought of trying on clothes after a day spent walking (and sweating) around a hot city makes me shudder in horror. I also generally try to avoid buying other things like souvenirs because I am often flying short-haul to a European city and have stuffed my carry-on suitcase with so many clothes that I struggle to close it even when I am about to leave my house to go to the airport. I think this habit can be explained by my hypochondriac tendencies and perpetual need to have spare clothes just in case I get a stain on a piece of clothing, sweat profusely during the day and therefore need another outfit later in the day, or in case, through some unknown and unforeseen event, I tear a hole in a pair of jeans. I am a hypochondriac indeed.
There are, however, a few exceptions to my “no shopping rule whilst abroad” rule. If there is something I want to buy for myself abroad because it is cheaper or unavailable in the UK I will make a conscious effort to create space in my luggage for it. Additionally, I will consider shopping abroad when I want to buy a birthday or special occasion present for someone that’s a little more unique than what I might typically find in London. When I was in Lisbon I thought about how my niece’s third birthday was coming up, which in turn made me conjure up memories of a shop which I had seen in a YouTube video about Lisbon and which looked like the perfect place to find gifts. The shop in question is called A Vida Portuguesa.
A Vida Portuguesa has a few locations in Lisbon. The original store in the Chiado neighbourhood is probably the most famous branch, however, the newer and much larger location on Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, which was conveniently only a six-minute walk from my Airbnb, has a much bigger selection of products and is even more aesthetically pleasing than the original (both inside and outside the store).
A Vida Portuguesa means “A Portuguese Life” and as the name might suggest the shop contains an array of items, both essential and extravagant, which one would find in a home. The shop is stocked with an array of toiletries, homeware, food, books, toys and quite possibly anything else that your heart desires. Shelves were stacked high with delicious smelling soaps, handcream and bodycream, tables were adorned with cutlery and crockery and larders were lined with olive oil, sardines, biscuits and the seemingly ubiquitous Portuguese cherry liquor Ginja.
What makes this shop even more amazing is that its products are made in Portugal and many of the products available for purchase are still manufactured by family run businesses. The shop itself is stunning and almost looks like a villa which one might find in the Douro valley. Most of the shelves and tables were made of what I can only assume was fine Portuguese wood which had been varnished to perfection.
Another thing that I loved about this shop was that it was really quiet. This branch is in the Mouraria district of Lisbon which isn’t particularly touristy. With the exception of about seven people who wandered in and out of the store during my visit I had the entire place to myself. I loved being able to freely take as many photos as I wanted and take my time looking for gifts.
Azulejos (tiles), ubiquitous in Portugal
Clothes on the upper level on the shop
A bit of old Hollywood glam in Lisbon
The products aren’t cheap, but neither are they extortionately expensive. I was eyeing up a few 50g soap bars but at eight euros each they were a little too rich for my blood. However, had I set more money aside for shopping for this trip I would have definitely purchased some for myself. Also, given that they are made in Portugal and not made en masse in a factory somewhere in the Far East I think the prices can be justified.
In the end I left the store longing for the verbena, tuberose and wild moss soaps which I thought smelled amazing but content with the biscuits I had bought for my work colleagues and the mini tambourine which I had purchased for my niece (I also bought her a dress from a market in London when I returned from my holiday in Lisbon; the dress had also been made by an independent retailer #supportSMEs).
If you are looking for well-made, authentic and typically Portuguese gifts or souvenirs then this is the place to get them from.