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.
We visited the Feira da Ladra on a Saturday morning. The weather was brisk but beautiful, and the buzz at the market was like at a festival, with thousands of people milling about the stands, picking up old shoes, rifling through reams of records, or just standing on the corner, clutching hot coffee and laughing with friends.
The anarchic spirit which accompanies all the best flea markets is definitely present at the Feira da Ladra. This isn’t a regulated event for which sellers have to register, and then stick to their designated stall… we saw families (and, let’s be honest, probably some thieves) claim whatever open patch they could find, spilling the random contents of a bag out onto their blankets.
We walked away with two LPs and a couple comics, including a graphic novel called Hanoi-Saigon, which I had spied from afar. Given our recent travels in Vietnam, I wanted this book desperately, but seconds before I could grab it, some dork snatched it. He spent five minutes leafing through, while I stood uncomfortably close to him, seething with unconcealed hatred. Luckily for both of us, he put it back down, and victory was mine.
The closer you get to the São Vicente, and the higher up the hill, the more commercial the market becomes, with stands selling mass-produced souvenirs aimed squarely at tourists. Needless to say, this wasn’t our favorite section. But it’s easy to avoid, and most of the Thieves’ Market is excellent. This is a fun place to spend a Saturday morning, especially if you’re looking for a unique souvenir or gift.