Support local businesses in Lisbon buying souvenirs at these shops
Companhia Portugueza do Chá
Earlier in 2017, I discovered Lisbon still had a sense of community in some places if you took enough time to explore.
It’s easy to get caught up in the angry voices speaking against the touristification and the gentrification of Lisbon (even though they happen) and forget to see the positive side of things.
That year, I found myself caught in a whirlwind of recommendations that started at Polo Cultural Gaivotas, in a neighborhood of Lisbon that’s not really a neighborhood, but a cluster of three small streets between Bairro Alto and Santos.
That string of tips that always started with the question “have you been to?” eventually led me to Companhia Portugueza do Chá.
The shop specializes in tea (and it’s a rare sight in a city where people clearly prefer coffee). Still, even if you’re not a fan of the drink, the decor alone is worth the visit.
If you’re curious enough to ask questions, you hear the story of the shop, how it came to be, and how the owner (and master tea sommelier) crafts his customized tea blends with ingredients from Portuguese producers.
Rua do Poço dos Negros 105
10.30 am – 7.30 pm Mon-Sat
Mercearia Poço dos Negros
A grocery store was my second stop that day, following the string of recommendations. However, I don’t know if grocery store is the right name for it.
Mercearia Poço dos Negros is more a place around the corner where you buy bread and a dozen eggs when you don’t have time to drop by a chain supermarket.
These days, most grocery stores in Lisbon are props for tourists, selling everything they can stick the “typical” sign to and making a profit by jacking up the prices. Or, they cater to very niche segments of the population, selling very niche products.
So, when I decided to take a peek at Mercearia Poço dos Negros, my mind was fixed on one of those two stereotypes.
But, instead, I met the sweetest, most welcoming couple behind that counter, who attend to tourists with the same bright smile as when they chat with the old lady from three doors down that popped in for fresh butter.
Don’t be fooled by the size of this store. You can find something from anywhere in the country there (yes, really), all sourced from small producers who craft their goods in small batches. I know that the “artisanal” adjective gets a bad reputation these days, but this is not the case here.
Rua do Poço dos Negros 97/99
10.30 am – 8.30 pm Mon-Sat
Six months passed between my first and my second visit to “the triangle.” This time, the plan was to give my undivided attention to street Poiais de São Bento.
I ended up losing track of time inside a bright, minimally decorated corner shop/art gallery called Apaixonarte.
Not only did the owner have the audacity to open the shop in the middle of the recession, but she also dares to sell only design pieces produced in Portugal.
Our conversation was interrupted by the clackety tram 28 at least half a dozen times while I was there. The most famous tram ride in Lisbon goes right through “the triangle” (on both sides). Unfortunately, there aren’t many people hopping off.
No, I don’t want this to become another mass-tourism attraction on someone’s bucket list. I want people to pay attention to the few things that still hold Lisbon’s cultural identity intact.
Rua Poiais de São Bento 57
Noon-7.30pm Mon-Fri & 11am-6pm Sat
Historic Shops of Lisbon
Not all is lost under the threat of overtourism in Lisbon (although we’re not quite there yet when it comes to short-term rental regulations).
In 2015, Lisbon City Council started considering some of the most iconic stores in the city as local heritage. That means they have considerable value in the city’s History (as architecture eye-candy) and that they can apply for a special restoration fund if needed.
It’s more than slapping a plaque on a wall or on the sidewalk. This is an active way of giving these shops visibility (and hopefully attract some business).
At the time I’m writing this post, the list includes 82 officially recognized historic shops. Lisbon City Council just launched a pretty neat (but not very portable) book listing all of them and their background stories.
Not all of the shops included will appeal to everyone, but that’s obviously not the intention.