Running from the grand entrance to Lisbon on Praça do Comércio to central Praça Rossio, Rua Augusta is the bustling main street of Lisbon. Pedestrianised, the street captures every aspect of Lisbon life from market stalls and street art to high end and high street shops. The road was immortalised in Gulliver’s travels. I watched this not too long ago and had no idea that Lisbon was featured. Much to my friend’s annoyance I could not stop the squeal of excitement I let out when I noticed Gulliver being wheeled through the magnificent archway (Arco do Rua Augusta).
Assuming you have not been captured by the people of Lilliput, the first thing you will see upon entering through the giant archway from Praça Comércio is a variety of market stalls. Most of these sell bags, scarves and some jewellery. Cross the road ahead and you then come to a rash of stalls either side of the street selling paintings of Lisbon and Portugal. Be warned that some of the stall holders are very pushy. I just happened to glance at one of the pictures I liked and the stallholder was telling me his life story in seconds and then offering me a deal on two for the price of one in under a minute! I was amused as I had already decided I wanted to purchase a picture the day before and sales patter has absolutely no effect on me whatsoever. Just so you know, this is the part of the street where the banks are so head here if you need an ATM (although there are plenty scattered around the city anyway).
Cross the next street and this brings you to the cafes that have seats situated in the centre of Rua Augusta. Tables and chairs abound here for the weary traveller who’s just landed in Lisbon. Food at these tables tends to be cheap and cheerful. On the right hand side of the street is a little souvenir shop selling a wide variety of nik naks.
Next to this is ‘A Chega’ which sells all things woollen. The quality looks good and not too expensive.
Crossing over the tram lines and continuing up Rua Augusta you’ll see a large branch of Zara on your left. A little further along is the rather lovely “Casa Pereira da Conceição” This shop has been here since 1933. It’s one of my favourite shops in Lisbon but then I am a coffee lover and of course in Lisbon you will always find good coffee! In truth I must nod to tea as well as this traditional shop sells fine teas and coffees from all over the world. There is also gorgeous porcelain china, vintage ports, ginginha and home-made chocolates Mmmmmm 🙂 The shop is still run by the same family and has another smaller outlet in Chiado. If you want to buy your loved ones a foodie gift (or yourself!) this is a nice place to look.
Just across the next road that bi-sects Rua Augusta on the corner to your right is São Nicolau Cafeteria. Stop here for traditional Portuguese pastries such as pasteis de nata, queijinhos d’ovo, tarte de amêndoa, fatias, douradas and more.
Across the way is “Monteiros e Jorge LDA”, a high class leather and suede shop. Next up on the left is ‘Madeira House’ with typical Portuguese china (might be the place to buy your Portuguese cockerel). Beside this is the familiar H&M store and opposite are an array of other high street clothes shops.
Look left as you cross the next stree (Rua da Vitória) and you’ll see Chiado-Baixa metro.
The heart of the street now alternates between jewellers, fashion shops and tiny tourist kiosks packed with take home goodies. Poised gracefully between these is a rather swish looking men’s clothes shop at 195- 197 Rua Augusta called Pitta. Whilst there’s little for me to buy inside, I love this shop simply for it’s fabulous carved wooden frontage. Gleaming in the sunlight this shop pitches you back to an older era when every shop was individual and owners took great pride in every aspect of their business. Beside the gorgeous wooden-fronted shop is a tiny stairway that leads to a handicraft shop.
Cross the next street and you’ll come to Gazela – a little cafe in the centre of the road. It may serve as a much needed break if you are into shoe shopping because on this part of the street you’ll be spoilt for choice. I am still always surprised at just how many shoe shops their are in Lisbon and more so because they often seem to be open later than the other shops. Beside’s being born female I’m afraid I never sucumbed to the lure of shoes but then I’m a bit of a hippy so I’d probably go bare-foot if I could.
As you cross the next street you’ll see the Elevador Santa Justa – do go for a ride.
The next point of interest is Casa Brasileira and absolutely terrific pastry shop. You can tell it’s good because the Portuguese are going in to eat. Opposite is Casa Macário which sells a huge range of Portuguese wines, sweets, honey’s and jams.
From the glorious calçadas to the traditional shops and cafes; from human statues and hustling buskers to the occassional sly hiss of “hashish” from a passing dealer. From well dressed Portuguese businessman to tired tourists, Rua Augusta is the lively centre of Lisbon. With the Tejo glittering at one end through the triumphant arch the light here falls on every colourful aspect of Portuguese life. It’s easy to rush down this street on the way to somewhere else but it deserves to be wandered and savoured and very definately tasted. Now, where next for a pasteis…