From the ramparts of the Castelo de Palmela, we had an excellent view over nearby Setubal, which would be the next destination of our four-day road trip from Lisbon. Although we knew it was Portugal’s third-largest city, we were surprised by the extent to which Setubal sprawls along the coast, and suddenly uncertain we’d given ourselves enough time to see everything the town had to offer.
I wouldn’t have guessed it before arriving, but a big part of our Lisbon experience has had to do with tiles. They cover the facades of the city’s buildings, decorate its churches and palaces, and are even the subject of a popular museum. So it seemed natural to visit a workshop, where they’re still being made the old-fashioned way. The family who runs the Cerâmica São Vicente was kind enough to invite us inside and introduce us to their craft.
Reconstructed after the 1755 earthquake in accordance with an ultra-rational plan devised by the Marquis de Pombal, Lisbon’s Baixa (or “Lower”) district is a rectilinear grid of streets at the base of the city’s main valley. Many of the shops that were opened during the earliest days of the neighborhood’s rebirth are still in operation. We checked out 22 of these “lojas com historia” (“shops with history”) during a long day spent exploring Baixa.
We love visiting markets at our various homes around the world, and were excited to learn that Lisbon has historic halls spread all across the city. However, once we started visiting them, we weren’t always too impressed.
Set inside the sprawling confines of a former manufacturing complex in Alcântara is the LX Factory: a collection of almost painfully cool shops, galleries, restaurants, and offices. We spent an entertaining afternoon poking around the merchandise, browsing a stunning bookstore, and grabbing drinks at a bar on top of the factory.
Held every Sunday in the district of Marvila, somewhat near the airport, the Feira do Relogio is Lisbon’s biggest market. With mostly clothes and food on offer, this is shopping for locals, and not the kind of flea market where you’re going to find charming old antiques. But if you want to see a different, boisterous side of Lisboan life, it’s great fun.
When Lisboans want to shop, they head to the neighborhood of Chiado, found between Baixa and Bairro Alto. This upscale “middle ground” is known for its historic shops, churches and theaters. Braced for madness, we explored it on a sunny Saturday, two weeks before Christmas.
Held on Tuesdays and Saturdays on the sloping hill behind the Monastery of São Vicente da Fora, the Thieves’ Market, or Feira da Ladra, has a history stretching back to the 13th century. Today, we assume that the sellers have cleaned up their act, but the market is still a great place for those looking to make a steal.