There is no safe way to walk in Lisbon, full stop.
A cautionary tale: In my early days as a Portugal transplant, I got overconfident in my walking skills - been doing it since the age of one, after all. A month living in hilly, cobbly, uneven, Lisbon and there I was zipping along R. do Poço dos Negros, dodging and weaving through tourists like some sort of human navigation champion. Thing about tourists is they have the propensity to stop walking out of nowhere to snap a selfie, check their Google Maps, what-have-you. Middle of a five-way road junction? No bother! ‘Look at me in Lisbon!’ Screech. Crash. 10-car pile-up, 20 pedestrians injured. We’re all super glad you got your selfie, though. Okay, that is not what happened. Still, I got hurt when a selfie-stick carrier stopped short. I tried to manoeuvre around him but the two-inch sidewalks forced me into the street where trolleys and cars were in full motion. I went flying. Then I went falling. My ankle rolled in a way one’s ankle should never roll. This little anecdote ends with me in the hospital with a bad sprain, then hobbling around on crutches for the next month. I want to blame the tourist, but the truth is my shoes are the reason I couldn’t get a grip that day.
Shelve those Oxfords and brogues, gents. No more stilettos, or even kitten heels, ladies. I know you’re having trouble putting away those treasured Louboutins, but you WILL get over it after one attempt to leave the house, and/or learn the hard way like me. If you do ever plan to make it up and down the Seven Hills of Lisbon (feels more like 70 to me, but no bother), you’ll soon find “Portuguese-made” gives all other shoes a run for their money. Curiously remarkable considering Portuguese kicks can be found for very affordable prices without forsaking quality, if you know where to go.
Do not end up on crutches when you can snag these Lisbon shoe clutches.
So many locations, so many shoes. Admittedly, it can be a mission looking through the interminable rows that stretch for miles at these shoe emporiums. The international brand of Portuguese origin, has been around for 30 years selling shoes of all sorts for all ages and genders, 70% of which are produced in Portugal, which as Seaside can proudly boast, “allows us to monitor production and ensure quality, in addition to privileging the development and growth of the country’s economy, more specifically in the footwear industry sector”. To speed up the process of shopping here, make sure to be clear with the salespeople that you are only interested in footwear made in Portugal. Now that you have cut your selection down by 30%, go have a field day. The low prices and vast selection mean you can get your boots, sandals, trainers, etc. all in one shot here. Admittedly, I have seldom left a Seaside with less than three new pairs.
Looks quite the mess from the outside but do not pass by this Baixa shoe-in-the-box shop without popping in. This is a must-try for extremely low-priced footwear with many options that are the same high-quality as many of the pricier destinations in town. Brunu’s also has originals made from Portugal’s treasurable cork and bonus: the staff is the most helpful, friendliest in town, and without being pushy. The latter a rarity in any shoe store. This is old-school service with price tags you can’t beat and superior soles. With no website to speak of you can find Sapataria Brunu’s at Rua Barros Queirós, 19, Lisboa - Baixa.
The go-to boutique for hip and trendy Portuguese shoe design, Gardenia in Chiado, has an array of both Portugal-made (with a modern twist) and globally recognised brands from Roberto Cavalli to Uggs, and beyond. Step away from the name brands (what did I tell you before about Lisbon-friendly and Portuguese-made? Remember!) and head directly to the back to find true foot comfort meets high fashion and funky options for men, women and children – these always sell out fast so if you like what you see, do not come back later and expect it to be there. Buy now, think later.
Sapataria do Carmo
If elegance is more your vibe, without sacrificing comfort, just around the corner from Gardenia is one of the oldest, most charismatic and classy shops in Lisbon. Founded in 1904, Sapataria do Carmo sells slightly pricier (still never overpriced) and well-worth it, hand-made in Portugal footwear of sophistication and ingenuity. ‘After 117 years, Sapataria do Carmo remains true to its purpose: to highlight the best of Portuguese footwear produced with the savoir faire of Portuguese artisans who shape them in the north of the country,’ the self-described ethos proves accurate. Bonus: This quaint, dapper boutique looks out onto the equally charming Carmo Square where you can enjoy the cafés and culture in your new, one-of-a-kind specialty shoes.
You can’t miss the concept space with interactive screen displays on the fanciest block in Lisbon, Avenida da Liberdade. Led by Fortunato O. Frederico, the Overcube was born from the desire of the Group of Kyaia “to shake and revolutionise the world of footwear and accessories online”. This company is unsurprisingly (and quite impressively) also the force behind the success of many famed Portugal-exclusive footwear brands such as Fly London (do not let the name confuse you, it is all Portuguese product here), Softinos, Foreva and ASPORTUGUESAS. No one would argue this mighty crew has indeed shaken things up in the country’s shoe revolution. While online shopping for footwear is Overcube’s mission, you can’t beat checking out the real-life location for finding all the designs you can dream of to dress up those feet - and many styles you could never imagine - feels like a feat in itself. Lisbon-dwellers and visitors do love a feet feat.
Now that you won’t be trippin’ all over Lisboa, go on and get to steppin’.