Join us as we venture inside hole-in-the-wall boutiques, go back in time at artisan workshops and seek out the smallest bookshop in the world. From 19th-century milliners Chapelaria Azevedo Rua and 18th-century candle makers Caza das Vellas Loreto, to the city’s oldest glove shop, Luvaria Ulisses, this insider’s guide is the only shopping companion you’ll need on your next trip.
Walk down Rue da Madalena and look for the Conçeição stairs to discover one of the tiniest and quirkiest boutiques in Lisbon, Simão’s Bookshop (Livraria do Simão, in Portuguese). Said to be the smallest bookstore in the world, it has just four square metres of space, in which it manages to pack in a staggering 4,000 books. Squeeze into the shoebox shop to browse the works of prolific Portuguese authors and international names, discover books about the history and culture of the city, and seek out valuable rare volumes. One of the most intriguing characteristics of the place, besides its size, is its owner, Simão Carneiro, so strike up a conversation as you browse the shelves.
At first glance, Caza das Vellas Loreto may look like a church but it’s actually a beautiful candle store. Bringing something a little different to Chiado’s stylish shopping scene, the historic boutique has been selling handmade candles since 1789. It has long outlived many of its neighbours, and for good reason; the craftsmanship here can be sensed as well as smelled. Dark wood shelving and furnishings are lit by rainbows of colourful candles, available in every imaginable size, shape and aroma.
Squeezed in between the modern stores of Baixa is one of Lisbon’s longest-standing dedicated glove shops, Luvaria Ulisses. Proving you don’t need to travel to Italy for long-lasting, quality gloves, the store’s artisans have been making gloves for Lisboan high society since 1925. The wardrobe-sized bespoke glove maker (which hasn’t been redecorated since it opened) may only have room for a couple of customers at a time, but this doesn’t stop locals coming back time and time again.
Step back in time to an era when a bespoke hat was the ultimate symbol of success at Chapelaria Azevedo Rua, a wooden-panelled hat shop with a rich history. Since 1886, milliners here have been making hats for the crème de la crème of society, even serving King Carlos of Spain. The business continues to maintain the quality and charm implemented by the founder, Manuel Aquino de Azevedo Rua, and remains firmly in the grasp of the family – Manuel’s grandson currently holds the reigns. As well as hats and caps, visitors can discover premium accessories such as umbrellas and scarves.
A guide to secret Lisbon wouldn’t be complete without including Conserveira de Lisboa. While it isn’t unknown, it is one of the most unique stores in the city for it sells just one product…sardines. Don’t judge a book by its cover because inside the plain exterior lies thousands of colourful cans covered in striking vintage designs. The store stands exactly as it did when it opened in the 1930s, right down to the old cash register.
While not a long-established Lisbon emporium per se, A Vida Portuguesa is fiercely proud of its heritage and history. This ingenious concept store has corralled beautiful things from Portuguese artisans and makers of old, and displayed them in a contemporary setting. From prettily packaged Confiança soaps to trusted Viarco pencils and marbled Emilio Braga notebooks, a visit here is a nostalgic journey into Lisbon’s history of makers.
Championed by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest bookstore in the world, Livraria Bertrand is steeped in nearly three centuries of history. Set behind an iconic façade of azulejo tiles, it’s a labyrinth of wooden bookshelves whose loftier shelves are accessed by the kind of ladder that a health and safety officer would cringe from. It has, of course, been renovated over the years, and carries a handful of good English novels in its stock.
A family break to sunny Lisbon. Make it an Easter to remember.