So often, souvenirs that entrance at the place of purchase lose their luster once you get them home. The solution to this problem is an easy one in Portugal, where you can buy well-made reminders of your visit that will be useful in daily life wherever you live.
The seafarers’ towns of Nazare and Povoa da Varzim are the best places to buy hand-knit fishermen’s sweaters. Also for sale in any part of the country that experiences cold weather are wool capes and knit caps.
Though traditional hand-made products are not as abundant as they were a decade or so ago, you’ll still be able to buy some gorgeous pieces, such as hand-embroidered poinsettias to decorate the Christmas table, hand-painted tiles and intricate cutwork from Madeira at shops in the Chiado, Lisbon’s most exclusive shopping district.
One of the best hunting grounds for quality crafts is in the area around Estremoz in east central Portugal. Even if you’re not in the region during the July crafts fair or on market day, you can find a good selection of work by local artisans at Artiguos Regionais, across the street from the town’s tourist office. Among the most outstanding works are the terra cotta figurines, including religious processions and Christmas crèches with primitive figures. Among the best are those from the workshop of the late Sabina Santos, whose descendants carry on the tradition.
Factories provide another shopping option. At Portalegre, visitors can tour the tapestry factory. The Vista Alegre porcelain factory at Ilhavo, about 43 miles (69 kilometers) south of Porto, the carpet factory in Arraiolos (about a two hour drive east of Lisbon) and the Marinha Grande crystal factory (a few miles north of Nazare) are other plants with showrooms on the premises. Prices are high, but your purchases will cost substantially less than you would pay for the items if you bought them in your home country.
Locals’ Shopping Spots
For shoppers on limited budgets, the secret is to shop at the stores local residents patronize. Hardware stores are where you’ll come upon drawer pulls and oven-ware with a foreign flavor. In the home-ware sections of department stores, you’ll find items like plastic orange juicers in fanciful designs and trays that produce novelty-shaped ice cubes. At stationery stores you can buy gift wrap, paper napkins and stationery with a Portuguese flair. Supermarkets are the place to buy tinned anchovies, baby eel and other products of the sea.
For additional shopping opportunities, time your visits to towns on your itinerary so that you are there on market day. The treasures you find there will depend on the region and time of year. Whether you buy the traditional ceramic roosters or brown and tan pottery in Barcelos, a many-pocketed shepherd’s jacket in Braga or a child’s embroidered dress in Sintra, you will get your money’s worth of memories in the bargain. And while you are shopping, be on the lookout for locally-made shopping bags. They’ll come in handy when you’re packing for the flight home.