What gifts should you bring back from Portugal?
My trip to Lisbon, Portugal was a bucket list destination and one that I got to check off. For as long as I could remember, stories were told about my maternal great-grandmother, who originated from Portugal, and how amazingly awesome she was.
While I never met her, it was always my dream to visit Portugal, her homeland, to take a stroll down memory lane and check out my roots—so to speak. This was also going to be my very first solo trip, and I wanted it to be extra special. There were going to be no interruptions to my itinerary because I was going to wing it. There would be no-one saying “I’d rather do this instead,” or the constant waiting that happens when you travel with a companion or child. I was going to do this my way!
And guess what? Portugal did not disappoint. It surpassed all my expectations and left me saying “I’m going to be back!”, but before I started to plan a return trip, I picked up a few items to remind me of my visit. Gifts that are uniquely Portuguese that anyone visiting should add to their gift or wish list.
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1. Portuguese Rooster
The Portuguese Rooster, or “Galo de Barcelos”, is said in the Portuguese culture to bring good luck to anyone who owns it. It’s also one of the national symbols of Portugal. You can find these vividly colored roosters in every souvenir shop in Lisbon, but I happen to find the best ones in the tiny shops in the Alfama district. Prices vary due to the size and the material they’re made of, but a medium-sized one can cost anywhere from €8–10. The hand-painted metal kind seemed to be very popular and was the one that I happened to obtain upon my trip.
Not necessarily the tinned edible kind that we’re used to in the USA, although I do recommend eating grilled sardines while you’re there.
Sardines play a significant role in Portuguese history. Every year in June, the Festival of Saint Anthony is a month-long celebration, and sardines are usually the highlight of these festivities. It was said that the Patron Saint Anthony, frustrated by the people, went to the river to preach to the fish, and the fish gathered around and listened until he was finished while bobbing their heads. That’s quite a tale, for sure.
Sardines can be found in souvenir shops in a variety of materials. From ceramic, to cork, metal, and even wood, although the ceramic versions are the prettiest, as they tend to be hand-painted.
Ginjinha is a Portuguese sweet cherry liqueur made with ginja berries infused in alcohol. I was actually told that the ginja berries aren’t edible in their natural form, but once infused with alcohol and made into ginjinha, you’re then able to eat them. You can find this drink in many Portuguese bars and can pick up a bottle or two duty-free at the airport. One way, and quite possibly the best way to drink ginjinha is in a chocolate cup.
4. Port Wine
Have you ever wondered where port wine originated? Port wine originated in Porto, the wine capital of Portugal, and is a dessert wine, but you can find it all over Portugal. It actually has the name Port from Portugal in its name, so why not take a bottle home? The price varies, as with most wines, on the age of the wine. While you can get a bottle for as little as €20, you can also get a bottle as expensive as €150 or more. I suggest taking a day trip to Porto and indulging in a wine tasting, but be sure to grab a bottle before you leave and stash it in your checked luggage as the ones at the duty-free counter at the airport just aren’t the same.
5. Portuguese Ceramics
You may have seen those beautifully decorated pasta bowls/plates/etc. at your local home goods store. Some may even have been stamped “Made in Portugal,” but they just can’t compare to the real thing that you can find in the shops in Portugal. It’s been said that the Portuguese have been creating ceramics for centuries, and you can find pieces, handmade in many souvenir shops, in various designs. Before you leave Portugal, be sure to pick up a hand-painted ceramic bowl that’s been signed by the creator.
6. Decorative Ceramic Tiles
While walking around Lisbon, I couldn’t help but admire all the decorative tiles on the buildings that I passed. In a few spots, I even noticed that they were missing a few tiles, as though they had been forcefully removed to become souvenirs. While they would make great souvenirs as they’re the “authentic thing,” there are many shops that sell hand-painted ceramic tiles. You can find single tiles or a few that depict a mural. While the more significant, the more expensive they are, they make great art pieces or can even be used as coasters.
7. Cork Bags or Wallets
Did you know that Portugal is the biggest producer and exporter of cork? When thinking of cork, we think of coasters or maybe being used for resealing our wine bottles. The Portuguese, however, widened their imagination, thought outside the box, and have been creating works of art with cork. Think backpacks, shoulder bags, wallets, hats, and even shoes. While you can get a wallet for as little as €5, bags usually start around €20.
So what gifts do you get when you’re in Portugal?
When in Portugal, be sure to pick up a few of these goodies to commemorate your visit. While there are a few stores that are open on Sundays, the majority are open from Monday-Saturday from around 10am-7pm, while the malls close at midnight. Be sure to check out the street markets as well, which open at various locations throughout Lisbon on different days of the week with vendors selling their unique products.