Porto – Where to Shop
Armazem dos Linhos
We found Armazem dos Linhos completely by chance, while strolling the streets of Porto. Even from the outside, the shop’s stately interior and shelves of beautiful patterned fabric beckoned us. The property has a long history – born in 1905, it has been in operation since, producing fabrics with traditional Portuguese designs. When it almost closed in 2011, the current owners, Filipa and Leonor Pinto Basto, made it their business to ensure the continuity of this tradition, continuing to recover classic Portuguese patterns and make them available to all.
Beautifully patterned fabrics are one of my favourite things, and Armazem dos Linhos was lined floor to ceiling with them. Inside, there’s everything from rolls of natural, soft fabrics to tablecloths, tea towels, fashion items like belts and wallets and even stuffed animals and other ornaments.
We were there during easter, so there were many quilted eggs. If you’re looking for a place to get an authentic souvenir for yourself or your friends, Armazen dos Linhos is a good bet.
Remember those “My girlfriend went to New York and all I got was this stupid T-shirt” and “I ❤ NY” T-shirts? Instead of the cheesy ones made in China, Typographia has a wonderful, wide range of prints designed by local artists on display in their Porto boutique. The designs here are not only witty but also artfully done, some of the best out there in the T-shirtverse.
Mercado do Bolhão
One of the main attractions in Porto, Mercado do Bolhão is a must visit. It’s a great place to buy all sorts of produce to take back to your apartment and sample, from cheese and sausages to fresh fruit, olive oil and meat, cooked or raw. There were also florists, pastry stalls, and prettily crafted tea towels. The Mercado exemplifies everything we love about Southern Europe. It’s not only a place you go to for your groceries, it’s a place for socialising and mingling with the other people in the city, a place for a mid-day snack or an afternoon drink, and a place to soak in the bustling spirit of Porto. The market is geared towards locals, and is gritty and authentic. We even saw a few local chefs come here to buy their ingredients. Although there are many tourists, there are even more locals, and you feel like you’re getting to the truth of Porto. Here, the cool, hipster vibe predominant everywhere else melts away and you see things as they really are. If you’re a fan of local markets, as we are, this place is an absolute gem and a truly unique place. I’m not surprised it has been declared a UNESCO site since the organisation’s last wave of site classification.
The architecture itself is worth visiting the Mercado for. It was built in 1915 and has a classical beauty characteristic of the architecture of the time. Inside, it is filled with elegant stalls, called Barracas. Looking down from the second level, one gets the impression of a little town filled with small houses enclosed within a walled city.
Livraria Lello is the sumptuous bookstore that inspired the Hogwarts library in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and a visit to this iconic establishment is a definite must for all book lovers. Although the books were mostly in Portuguese, the experience of visiting the store and walking up and down the elegant staircase at its heart, filled me with a sense of wonder. With that sense you get when you’re surrounded by a world of infinite possibilities; of worlds imagined and real, of places you could only dream of and places you had to see before you die, or things you could learn and things we can never know. Honestly it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read most of the books being sold, being able to guess at what they were, was enough.
The architecture was truly something to write home about. The store is a unique gem. With its sumptuous Art Noveau interior, carved out of beautiful hard wood and endless rows of shelves that reached high towards the ceiling, Livaria Lello is a place from another time. The contrast of this early 20th century architecture supporting contemporary books with edgy covers and modern titles provided a pleasant dissonance, making me feel that books will always stand the test of time.
That Funny Shop We Don’t Remember the Name of 🙂
So, unfortunately, we don’t have the name nor the exact location of this shop, but it’s right under the words “Tourism Point” on this street view, and it has some really cool stuff in it. Namely, the owner and artist’s collection of hippy Jesus ceramics. Heck, we don’t even have a great photo – only this one taken by Phil when he unwrapped the protective packaging at the end of a long flight from Lisbon to Singapore to find that the foot of John the Baptist had fallen off. Clearly, the Portuguese are good humoured about their religion. Religious or not, Hippy Jesus will make a good gift for your friends and family.