What to Buy In Portugal


No trip is complete without some sort of memento or souvenir taken away from it. This is as true when visiting Portugal as it is when visiting any other country. However, Portugal really does have a uniquely rich culture that manifests itself in so many interesting materials you can buy and take back as a souvenir. So, instead of walking into tourist traps and falling for the little gimmicky stuff, there are so many more meaningful things you can get in Portugal that can last a lifetime (in some cases) and make you feel like you are bringing part of the culture home with you.

As mentioned, Portugal is a nation with a rich culture, especially when it comes to the crafts and fine arts scene. Its wealth of crafts includes everything from excellently woven baskets to beautifully embroidered linens, and everything in between. Other great crafts for your home from Portugal include delicate porcelain and pottery pieces (colorful Portuguese bowls are particularly popular), as well as various Items made of leather, different types of wood and even cork. Know that if you’re looking for really good crafts, Central Portugal is generally where the best of them are currently being made. For ceramics particularly, look in the area around the city of Alcobaca.

Keep in mind that if you are interested in purchasing any of these items on your trip to Portugal, some planning ahead may be necessary in order to get them home safely. For example, larger pottery or porcelain pieces will require you to leave some extra space in your luggage. Of course, if packing them in your suitcase or carry on bag, you should consider taking along your own bubble wrap, tape or other packing materials that you can use to roll them up and pack them so they don’t break.

Because the cities of Portugal are so full of history, going antiquing can also help you find some really unique, memorable souvenirs. Lisbon, for example, is a great place to look for antiques. Besides being a near perfect city for walking and strolling around its winding, historical streets, its neighborhoods all over the city are filled with storefronts of items new and old, and among them you can often find antiques mixed in. Sometimes you may need to walk to the very deepest parts of retail stores, but hey, aren’t all good things worth putting in the extra effort? 

Still, it also helps to know where to look. The best neighborhoods in Portugal that have a reasonable concentration of antique stores are the very “Dickensian” neighborhood of Sao Bento, particularly the deeper you walk into it, and the far more bohemian Bairro Alto, especially if you walk along Rua Dom Pedro V. Now, because Portugal is a country with roots going deep into Catholicism, a lot of what you will find in these stores (in terms of antiques) are old religious artifacts and Catholic ritual stuff. Lisbon in particular has bountiful of old furniture pieces, jewelry, porcelain and ceramics (as mentioned above), and even paintings from past centuries. Depending on their age and value, not to mention the person selling them, the items you find yourself interested in for souvenirs will come in varying prices. If you are unhappy with a price quote, know that it is generally okay to try to bargain with the seller, but do so in a nonaggressive manner, and don’t try to too much lower. In general, the antique prices found in Lisbon will be cheaper overall (there are always exceptions) than those found in many other European cities.

If crafts and antiques really aren’t your thing, perhaps clothes are. The fashion and design scene is thriving in Portugal, especially around Lisbon, where you will be able to find lots of retail stores— from high class, high fashion to lower key styles. Going along with the antiques talked about above, you will also be able to find vintage clothing in some shops. Still, top names in Portugal’s current fashion industry include Josè Manuel Gonçalves, Ana Salazar, Manuel Alves, and Fàtima Lopes. In any case, it’s all much better than just grabbing a cheesy T-shirt in the nearest tourist trap retail shop. That said, if you do happen to be really into fashion, it will interest you to know that Portugal holds its annual fashion week in Lisbon every October (the exact dates vary).

Last but not least, food and drink should be on your list of Portuguese souvenirs. Although they obviously don’t last forever, local wines in particular make for great memorabilia— for both you and people you may be bringing things back for. Consider it bringing a taste of Portugal back with you, and in a way, when you drink it you’ll be able to feel like you’re still there.