Lisbon’s light is unique. The sun shines spectacularly even in winter months. Its rays bounce off every corner of its streets. They highlight the beautiful shapes of its old stores and workshops, the unchanging background to centuries of the city’s life. The same light seems to shine from the people who work in them: welcoming, smiling men and women who love their land and its history.
Animatógrafo do Rossio
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

The heights of Art Nouveau

An Art Nouveau extravaganza of flowers, vegetables and women with long-flowing hair, the façade of the Animatógrafo do Rossio will stop you in your tracks. When it opened its doors in 1907, this was a movie palace with seating for 100 people. The tile paintings of two women, on either side of the box office, are especially beautiful. In time, the locale moved on to other incarnations, including variety house and children’s theatre. Today the Animatógrafo is home to a peep show/adult cinema.
Barbearia Campos - Cabelleireiro
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Barbershop for kings – and everyone else

Artists and writers, politicians and journalists have chosen Campos as their favourite barbershop, or cabeleireiro, as the magnificent sign reads in Lisbon’s central Chiado district. The elegance of the place is such that even exiled kings Humbert II of Italy and Carl II of Romania made it their destination for personal grooming. Founded in 1886 by José Augusto de Campos, the shop stands in the same place and in the hands of the same family, which probably makes it the oldest continually operating barbershop in Europe. Even the furniture, the richly decorated celings, and the magnificent white and pink Carrara marble sink have remained the same.
Livraria Sá da Costa
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Home for book lovers

This is the kind of bookshop where you find students sitting and reading on the floor, or bibliophiles passing hours in communion with books – even the president of Portugal is known to browse here. The key to this diversity, says Pedro, the shop’s manager, is “the Portuguese art of welcoming people”. The place looks special when you see it from the outside, on a street in the central Chiado neighbourhood. Above the entrance is the bookshop’s ex libris, with its motto “instruere:construere” (educating is building). Art Deco lettering frames two large windows, spelling out “National books” and “Foreign books”. Inside you find a wealth of manuscripts, incunabilia, out-of-print books, along with thousands of modern books. This wealth of resources has accumulated since the shop’s start in 1913. Apart from its role as bookseller, Sá da Costa has contributed to the country’s culture by publishing a collection of Portuguese classics. Today it hosts all kind of events, and takes part in the Artfest Lisboa.
Retrosaria Bijou
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

A magic place for little things

Lisboners have developed a strong bond with this haberdashery over its century of history. Behind its tidy Art Nouveau front, they have found, year after year, the best buttons, laces, embroidery, threads, ribbons, clasps, and even jewelry. The inside of this shop in the Baixa Pombalina has not changed since its founding in 1915, adding a cozy enchantment to the experience of shopping there. José Vilar de Almeida, grandson of the founder Augusto de Almeida, believes that the place was declared an historic shop by Lisbon’s City Hall not only for its tasteful design, but for its intangible atmosphere – a magic place for finding the little parts that go into making beautiful things.
Camisaria Pitta
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Suspenders for men sold here

Lisbon’s neighbourhood of Santa Maria Maior has given way to shops for tourists, but there is one representative of old Lisbon still that holds firm. The 130-year-old family-run Camisaria Pitta is probably the only place in Portugal where one can buy such as items as suspenders for men, says owner Alfredo. In fact, here a man can get all he needs to hit the streets in style, from socks to hat. But custom-made shirts are its specialty. The wood craftsmanship of the shop’s design creates a feeling of professionalism – “a welcoming space for the client to have his privacy in the tailor’s workshop”, Alfredo explains. Winner of various awards, the shop has figured in such movies as “Night Train to Lisbon”. But Alfredo says he feels his shop is a lonely outpost in the neighbourhood these days. “We would like to see more traditional shops around us, so that clients would have more motivations to come and buy on this street”, he says.
Sapataria e Chapeleria Lord
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

A specialty shop with Art Deco style

Travellers are immediately taken in by the black and copper facade of this hat and shoe shop in the Rua Augusta, a major thoroughfare in Lisbon’s Baixa Pombalina neighbourhood. Its Art Deco design motifs recall the shapes of the boats in the nearby river: the entrance door, the sign’s painted iron letters, the undulated ceilings and the service counters. A purveyor of handmade hats, shoes, purses and gloves, the shop has been a bastion of quality since its founding in 1940. In 1955, young Mário da Silva started working there – and started dreaming that one day he would own the shop. In took nearly 40 years, but that dream finally came true. Now his children want to “keep his dream alive”, says his daughter Ana. The shop’s greatest distinction, and the reason for its success, is personalized attention. “We are proud to serve this tradition”, says Ana.
Video credit Fabio Tabacchi

Casa das Aguas
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

From one fad to another

This place has been different since it opened in 1907. At that time it sold… Glasses of water! People came here to drink all kind of thermal waters: sulphurous, carbonated, iodinated, ferruginous… There was one kind of water for every disease. After those glorious times it took a U-turn health-wise and became a tobacco shop, then fell into slow neglect until a decade ago, when a vintage-addict transformed into something special again. Now, when your eyes adapt to this tiny, dark shop, you start to see a marvel of strangely-shaped lamps, vintage boxes, old postcards, license plates, tiles, flags and vinyl LP, among other curiosities.
Livraria Bertrand
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Oldest bookshop in the world

We have been part of Lisbon’s cultural life for so long that we believe our story is a piece of the story of the city, and of the story of books in Portugal”, says Paulo, the manager of the Bertrand bookshop. This venerable shop’s facade of blue azulejos is typical of the Chiado, a neighbourhood at the very heart of the Portuguese capital. But the importance of this place goes far beyond Portugal: Bertrand is the oldest working bookshop in the world, a distinction that attracts droves of visitors each year. Founded in 1732 by a French gentleman named Pedro Faure, it passed into the hands of the Bertrand brothers after his death. In almost three centuries, the bookshop has lived through major events, including an earthquake and two civil wars. But what makes Paulo most proud is its contribution to Portuguese culture. Here worked José Fontana, one of the founders of the country’s Socialist Party, who committed suicide within its walls. The Portuguese writer Aquilino Ribeiro was so fond of the bookshop that he had a special room just for him. Today the Bertrand is the flagship of an international network of bookshops, with a role that “goes far beyond selling books”, says Paulo. It hosts a rich cultural program, including the monthly Ler no Chiado club, and still sells its trademark Bertrand deck of cards (with caricatures of writers) and the 76- year-old Literary Almanaque.
Joalharia Do Carmo
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

History written in gold

The story of a city could be told through the story of the gold that has passed through it. Since its foundation in 1924, the Lisbon jeweler Joalharia Do Carmo has been a participant in that story. It crafted dozens of gold pieces in this jewelry for ships’ baptisms. During World War II, many Jews fleeing Europe sold their gold here to pay for their escape. “That was a lesson for me: I understood that in war and turmoil the most valuable assets are gold, coins and precious stones, because money loses its value”, says Alfredo, nephew of one of the founders, who owns the shop today. Photographs hanging in the shop’s windows show some key moments of its history. They also show that nothing has changed in the facade and furniture of the shop in its 55 years. “The way of serving clients is the same, too”, adds Alfredo. While the Joalharia Do Carmo still maintains its commitment to Portuguese products, like the classic local gold filigree, it has adapted to today’s tourist Lisbon with products like beautiful miniatures of the city’s tramways to hang on necklaces and bracelets.
Casa Buttuller
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Uniforms and accoutrements of war

Uniforms can hold more history than any other piece of clothing. For that reason many regular visitors of the military garments shop Casa Buttuller are more friends than clients. “They tell me stories of the guerra do ultramar [Portuguese colonial war] and sometimes I see them crying”, says Maria, the store’s manager. “Other clients bring their grandchildren to show them where they had their first uniform made, and some foreigners come back from time to time, with a present for us”, she says. Several public figures were served by the shop, in Portugal and beyond: on a wall hangs a framed letter send by Buckingham Palace in 1982, in gratitude for a job done for the Queen. The place opened in 1847 as a hat and shoe shop, but during the First World War it shifted towards uniforms, metal and cloth badges, holsters, canteens, flags and other decorations. The owner left for Paris, leaving the management to Maria, who runs it as if it were her own shop, because “it means a lot to her”, she says.
Luvaria Ulisses
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

For the love of gloves

A neoclassical facade built in 1923 and an interior decorated with Empire furniture make this shop look like a temple. And it is a kind of sanctuary: this is the last shop in Portugal devoted esclusively to gloves. Since 1925, when the shop was founded in Lisbon’s Chiado neighbourhood, practically a Who’s Who of Portuguese society has passed through its doors in search of just the right set of gloves for all occasions. “We have a great variety of models, so it’s hard to highlight one: but what really makes me proud is our capacity to meet personalised requests, however special they may be”, says co-owner Carlos Carvalho.
Tous - Ourivesaria Alianca
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Portuguese Versailles

The sculpted lions heads, medallions and floral elements on the facade of this jewelry shop justify its popular name: the Portuguese Versailles. Once you enter, you find another: the beautiful painting by Artur Alves Cardoso that appears among the plaster garlands of the ceiling. This jeweler was magnificently decorated in 1914, 11 years after its opening in 1903. The richness of the space has always matched that of the jewels it sold: the shop has received numerous national and international jewelry awards. In 2012, it was on the verge of ending its distinguished history, but the Tous company took over and refurbished it, maintaining its original detail and restoring it once more to its status as one of Portugal’s grandest shops.
Au Petit Peintre
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Artists’ garden

The garden of my life”: that’s how José Manuel Fragueiro Dominguez defines his shop in Lisbon’s center. “Everything has its own beauty”, he says about the products he sells: stationery, paints, prints, pens and all kinds of frames. He and his wife Maria do Céu Inácio Martins Manuel give their all to this little corner of writing and art supplies in central Lisbon. More than a century has passed since it was founded, in 1909, by António Franco, a member of José’s godfather’s family, who left the business to him. The golden Art Nouveau letters of its sign have been a beacon to Lisbon’s artistic life, including some of Portugal’s best painters: Carlos Reis, António Silva, Mestre Malhoa, Alfredo Morais and Real Bordalo, among others. As a centre of Portugal’s artistic culture, the shop experienced its heyday in the 1920s, when it edited the Jornal da Mulher, a women’s magazine with many important collaborators.
Ginjinha Sem Rival
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Lisbon’s liquid essence

Nuno Gonçalves is a man with a front seat on Lisbon society. “From the prime minister to the hobo, everybody has drunk a liqueur in our shop: it means autenticity, antiquity, emotion, exclusivity, and, above all, Lisbon, Lisbon and Lisbon”, he says. The shop is small but well-stocked. Lisboners know it affectionately as “Ginjinha das Portas de Santo Antão” (the name of the old street where it is located). Ginjinha refers to the two kinds of cherry liqueurs sold there amid masonic symbols. Nuno’s great-grandfather, who opened the shop in 1890, was a freemason. Since them, these liqueurs have become a symbol of Lisbon. Especially the “Eduardino”, whose name comes from a Spanish clown and friend of the founder, who drank it before hitting the boards in the nearby Coliseu dos Recreios.
Manteigaria A Minhota
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Lisbon’s time capsule

If you are willing to leave the beaten path to another side of the real Lisbon, head for rua de S. José, a narrow street with cloth-curtained windows. You can’t miss the destination, identified by a beautiful tile painting of a minhota, or woman in traditional garb, with headscarf and a cow at her side. The manteigaria, or dairy bar, has been there since 1917, and not much has changed since: it’s a charming time capsule of simpler and slower times. Clients are mostly old men, drinking their coffee, browsing newspapers. But the owner doesn’t think he needs much modernization, knowing that younger people are discovering the bar’s retro pleasures.
Pequeno Jardim
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

A garden in a stairwell

This historic florist, located in a mid-19th century building with a gold-lettered sign and overflowing flowers and plants, was first registered in 1922, but its history as an urban oasis goes back even further. But what most distinguishes Pequeno Jardim – the Small Garden – is just that: this florist is located in a building stairwell. Eventually the shop passed to Virgílio Madeira Gante, a man who worked there from the age of eight to 80, turning the shop over to the current owner, Elisabete Monteiro, in 2003. “Since the very first day, I have embraced the project with all my love, because I knew it was a space to respect for its history and longevity”, she says. The shop has appeared in many TV reports, movies and advertisements. But for Elisabete what matters most are the fresh and dry flowers, the plants and the decorative aricles that carry the florist’s name.
Casa Macario
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Twin pillars: coffee and Porto wine

We have third generation clients: the grandparents bought coffee here, and the grandchildren still come to by coffee at Casa Macario. Some clients even have their own personal coffee mix”, says Luis Torres, whose family has owned the shop since 1974. The shop’s origins go back roughly a century, when Macario Moraes Ferreira began selling the coffee he grew in Angola. Throughout decades, the barrel on which the coffee was sold in the shop has been in the middle of a lot of Lisbon’s history. It was here that former President Mario Soares, for example, received news about his father, who had been jailed by the political regime in power at that time. Along with coffee, today’s Casa Macario also sells wines, liquors, whiskeys, as well as chocolates, jams and teas. More than a half of its sales are Porto’s wines. Luis has bottles as old ad 1900 and a secret dream: to become the oficial “house of Porto” in Lisbon.
L’ultima speranza delle bambole
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Doll’s last resort

In 1830 Lisbon was still recovering from its terrible 1755 earthquake. In the site where All Saints Hospital stood before being taken down, a smaller, different kind of hospital opened its doors that year. The patients were not humans, but dolls. Since then, says Manuela, the shop’s chief physician, “we cure the diseases of our dolls, and the saudades [longings] of our clients”. In this remarkable shop and doll museum, it is still possible to see inscriptions and graves from the pre-earthquake hospital. “Destiny changed a place of pain and death into another one, where the tears are only those that come to one’s eyes when remembering childhood”, says Manuela, a physician with a poetic soul. Beyond fixing injured dolls, the shop also sells new ones with handmade traditional Portuguese clothes, along with stuffed animals and mechanical toys, among other items. Unsurprisingly, Hospital de Bonecas has been used in performances for theatre, movies, recordings and even fashion shows.
Soares e Rebelo
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Vegetable nirvana

Do you want to grow the ingredients of your own sopinha lusitana (Portuguese soup)? Here you can find the seeds of local cuisine, literally, from turnips, tomatoes, and radishes to onions, cabbages, beans, and peas. And the list goes on. At Soares and Rebelo you will also find the tools, books, and fertilizers you need for a proper go at urban gardening. The green wooden facade is decorated with an old painted advertisement of the house brand: “Hortelao”. The shop was opened in 1935 in the Praça da Figueira, a market square where, at the time, country folk came to sell their products. The founders saw that they could buy something, too: seeds for their fields. The idea hasn’t changed: simple sacks of seeds cram the shop’s wooden shelves. But Soares e Rebelo is not stuck in the past: an online power in its field, the shop provides seeds to international clients.
Confeitaria Nacional
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Six generations of sweets

The medallions on the front of the Confeitaria Nacional, won at international exhibitions in Philadelphia, Vienna and Paris, are the least of the honours earned by this Lisbon pastry shop and bar founded in 1829. Currently run by the sixth generation of the founding family, the Confeitaria became supplier of the Portuguese royal family in 1873. Today it still supplies the president’s office. Its specialty is the Bolo Rei, a traditional cake with raisins, candied fruits and nuts, based on the recipe of the French “Gateau des Rois”, which is sold only between November and March. One historical footnote: Confeitaria Nacional attracted so many important customers that it became the first place to have telephones in Lisbon.
Caffè e cultura
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Coffee and culture

Brazilian coffee, now considered among the best in the world, did not have many fans in the early 20th century. In 1905, a Portuguese who had lived and cultivated coffee in Brazil returned to Lisbon and opened A Brasileira, hoping to change opinions about his brew. The coffee shop won over converts. But more importantly A Brasileira became a meeting point of artists and intellectuals after the beginning of the Portuguese Republic in 1910 and the right to freedom of assembly. The cultural icon Revista Orpheu was conceived there. In 1925, 11 paintings by seven new generation artists were exposed at the café, as a statement in favour of modern style. In 1971, another 11 paintings by contemporary artists were displayed, validating the new once again. Writer Fernando Pessoa came so often that his presence was immortalized with a bronze statue.
De Sousa & Silva
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

First stamp-seller in Portugal

The first shop to sell stamps in Portugal is still there today, distinguished by its refined wooden facade. Opened in 1819 in central Lisbon, it passed from the original founding family to other hands. Today it sells a range of nationally made products, including bags, leather goods, business cards, and even trophies. Fernanda Igrejas, manager of the shop, takes special pride in her offerings made from cork, a typically Portuguese material that can be worked to produce distinctive objects.
Chapelaria Azevedo Rua
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

A hat for any head

If you want to feel a little bit of the enigmatic and hypnotic Lisbon of poet Fernando Pessoa, consider putting on the classic felt hat that the writer wears in almost all of his pictures. The right place to get one is the Azavedo Rua hat shop, in Lisbon’s Rossio neighbourhood. The story of the shop is quite literary in itself. In 1886, a winemaker from Porto no Douro called Manuel Aquino de Azevedo Rua was on the verge of bankruptcy due to a phylloxera outbreak. He borrowed money from a priest uncle to open the hat shop in Lisbon, in exchange for substantial discounts to members of the clergy. Later, the hat shop specialized in making hats for the plays at the near National Theater D. Maria II and the tricorns for bullfighters. Some models have not changed since 1886; others are tailor-made according to the customer’s specifications. “We always try to find a hat for any head”, says Pedro.
Casa dos Ovos Moles em Lisboa
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Soft eggs and convent-made confections

The Ovos Moles de Aveiro counts as one of the 10 things that make a visit to Portugal worthwhile, according to a survey of the Portuguese themselves. The “soft eggs of Aveiro” are a delicacy made of egg yolks and sugar. In 2013, Filipa Cordeiro and Maria Dagnino worked with the Association of Ovos Moles producers to open a shop in Lisbon that would act as its representative for traditional sweets. “Our project wants to showcase Portuguese bem-fazer [well-made things]”, they explain. In addition to the the soft eggs, they also sell a wide range of convent-made confections: traditional sweets made in convents with sugar and eggs yolks for more than five centuries.
Teatro Tívoli BBVA
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Society’s scenery

Under the black dome and behind the neoclassical facade of the Teatro Tívoli, in Lisbon’s Avenida da Libertade, many business agreements were sealed and political actions decided. The theatre, built in 1924, soon became a meeting point of the upper classes, the only ones who could afford its prices. When it opened, the building by architect Raúl Lino was the most modern theatre in the city. Decorated in Louis XIV style, the 1,114-seat theatre was also outfitted for the evolution from silent cinema to talkies. At its peak in popularity, it maintained a resident company and its Carnaval and New Year’s Eve parties were a must for the city’s trendiest people. But in the last decades of the 20th century its fortunes declined, and it seemed set either to become a hotel or to be razed. In 2012, the theatrical production company UAU bought and refurbished it, restoring the building to its original mission.
Pastéis de Belém
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

From humble beginnings to national symbol

The little pastéis de Belém is probably the best-known example of Portuguese pastry. The birthplace of this egg tart is still where it was in 1834, in the Rua de Belém, behind a beautiful facade of original azulejos. And it still produces the pastéis artisanally (albeit in large amounts to meet demand), thanks to its 170 employees. The pastry was produced in the adjacent Jerónimos Monastery until 1834, when all convents in Portugal were closed and the clergy expelled as a consequence of the Liberal revolution. To make a living, an enterprising monk started to sell the pastéis in the surrounding neighbourhood of Belém, finding customers among visitors to the monastery. A few years later, a certain Domingos Rafael Alves set up a factory to scale up production, according to “the secret recipe” of the convent. In time, well-known names like Amália Rodrigues, Jorge Amado and Fernando Peça bought the cakes regularly. Today, the neighbourhood has become part of Lisbon, but the pastry’s home is still there and the recipe still the same.
Fábrica das Enguias
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Lisbon’s first Eels Factory

In 1942, the river in the Portuguese city of Aveiro was experiencing a surge in the eel population, with numbers well above demand. One enterprising family invented a pickling process to preserve them. The eel population retreated, but the Portuguese had got used to the deliciously preserved eels of the Fábrica das Enguias (Eels Factory). The family has continued its eel pickling; in fact this year, the Eels Factory has opened its first shop in Lisbon. Behind a facade inspired by Art Deco drawings of its traditional can, Ana Godinho’s team evangelizes to locals and visitors alike about the secret delights of the eel. “Since we opened, we have carried out cooking sessions to show how versatile our preserved eels can be”, she says. Traditionally, it is consumed with baked potatoes, but new reciptes include an eel and vegetable risotto, eel tapas with tomatoe jam or a special eel sauce with onion and red peppers.
Manteigaria Silva
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

A must for Christmas banquet

I have always wanted to gather in a few square meters the best of Portuguese gastronomy”, says José Branco, who has done a good job of meeting his goal. Located in downtown Lisbon, this gastronomic mecca offers cheese and nuts, sausages and hams, wines and cod. “Portugal’s most genuine, authentic food”, he says. The shop is a Lisbon landmark, an essential stop before Christmas lunch. “Many grandchildren come here to buy what their grandparents already bought”, says José. The specialty of this wonderful shop, founded in 1890, is the Serra da Estrela cheese, which is matured with patience and care in the shop itself.
Farmácia Morão Herdeiros
Photo credit Sebastian Erras

Legacy of neighbourhood service

The three arched wooden doorways, and the vertical carpet of beautiful azulejos above, have been at this corner of Lisbon’s historic Graça neighbourood for more than a century. In 1896, this pharmacy was opened by Helena’s great-grandfather. “We are a neighbourhood shop, centered on the demands of our clients”, she says. Time passes and fashions change, but the mission remains the same. However, the shop has been able to adapt to the evolution in health and medicine, offering products in dermocosmetics, phytotherapy and homeopathy. The interior has also been adapted to the modern times, but without altering the original architecture.
What we have learned.
Entering the most beautiful shops in Lisbon is a way to discover the city in a different way. There is an authenticity there, a mirror on how the great events of history were transformed by the craft and creativity of the Portuguese genius. Lisbon’s craftsmen and merchants seem to bear the sun of the city inside them: they are always ready to shake your hand and welcome you. Don’t forget to meet a few of them when you visit Lisboa.
License: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 4.0