Consider Lisbon. It’s less than three hours by air, well served by cheap flights, and you won’t even have to adjust your watch (it shares the same time zone as the UK). There’s another good reason to choose Portugal’s capital — it was cited by Post Office Travel Money in its 2016 City Costs Barometer as offering the best value on the ground for British holidaymakers, so your faltering Brexit pound will go a little further when converted to euros.
And then there’s the fact that shopping doubles as sightseeing in this eye-catching city on the Tagus. In place of the usual uniform high-street franchises, you’ll find art nouveau and art deco buildings, as well as ancient warehouses that once stood on the river but have found themselves marooned inland by the retreating waters.
The good burghers of Lisbon have cherished many of these historic properties over the years, maintaining and re-purposing them for today’s shopper, to house indie boutiques, local fashion labels and small businesses that have been making handcrafted leather, intricate rugs, divinely scented soaps and the finest silver jewellery, for centuries.
At Luvaria Ulisses, a glover’s shop which opened in 1925, trying on a pair of the covetable leather gloves is a must-do experience, even for those not interested in shopping. Inside this tiny shrine to art deco, the friendly assistant sizes hands at a glimpse before selecting options from a wall of mysterious drawers. Then, with a puff of talc, he opens the fingers and smooths the leather on to the customer’s hand like a second skin. What’s more, a pair from a range of styles and shades can be picked up for around €50 (£44). They make for legendary gifts.
To discover more about the retail history of Lisbon, try the Shop Tour offered by Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, which uncovers more historic stores around the city and allows a little time to shop for presents along the way.
Published in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)