– charm and choice on the Silver Coast
From the traditional charm of old town shopping districts to the gleaming new facades of superstores, the Silver Coast offers the best of both worlds to shoppers.
The region’s towns and cities are fortunate in having retained their traditional high streets where the shops are largely still owned by local people. Many have been run by generations of the same family for decades. The shops are very individual and bring a unique charm and atmosphere to the shopping districts, many of which have been pedestrianised over the years to enhance the browsing and shopping experience.
The old town areas are the places to head for shops selling everything you could possibly need. Here shoe shops rub shoulders with hardware stores; old-style gentlemen’s outfitters sit opposite bookshops with dark, cool interiors; traditional craft shops share frontage with electrical suppliers; and few street corners are without a cafê with its tables spread outside.
Shopping on the Silver Coast has been given a boost in recent years with the opening of three major new shopping centres and a host of other individual superstores. Many of the big national chain stores have now set up shop in one or other of the Silver Coast’s three main cities – Leiria, Caldas da Rainha and Torres Vedras.
The region’s newest and biggest shopping centre is in Leiria, with 120 shops, 19 restaurants and a seven-cinema multiplex. Caldas da Rainha has Vivaci shopping offering 60 shops, 14 restaurants and five cinemas, while Arena Shopping in Torres Vedras is a complex of 90 shops, 15 restaurants and a five-screen cinema.
Most good-sized towns and cities have at least one supermarket, and in the bigger centres it is common to have half a dozen to choose from. Two of the biggest in the region are the Continente hypermarket in Leiria Shopping and Auchan in the Arena shopping centre in Torres Vedras. There is also a Makro retail warehouse on the edge of Leiria open to those who have a customer card. Foreign visitors and residents wanting a taste of food from home will find a limited range of foreign food products in the supermarkets. Shops such as Union Jacs in São Martinho sell British food and other products.
Stores serving the DIY market have also mushroomed in recent years. Caldas da Rainha has Aki, Bricomarche and Maxmat; Leiria has Aki and Bricomarche; Torres Vedras has Aki; and Alcobaça has a branch of Bricomarche. Sports enthusiasts are well served with Decathlon superstores in Torres Vedras and Leiria and branches of Sportzone in the big shopping centres.
Where to buy
British food: Food and other products from the UK are available on the Silver Coast at Union Jacs, the British shop on the quayside in São Martinho do Porto.
Foreign newspapers: The tobacco and newspaper kiosks attached to most of the major supermarkets normally stock some publications from abroad. Check the dates though – they are sometimes a few days past their publication date.
Deli foods: Try a charcutaria for an amazing array of smoked meats, sausages, cheeses and local jams.
Hardware: A visit to a drogaria (hardware store) is a fascinating experience, and often cheaper than the superstores.
Cakes: A typical Portuguese pastelaria will have an extravagant array of cakes and pastry for sale – enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth.
Shoes: Look for a sapataria – the Portuguese love their shoes and you will find several in every town.
Medicines: Only a farmácia is licensed to fill prescriptions and sell certain types of medicines. Other chemist-style shops sell health and beauty products and a more restricted range of medicines.
Garrafeira: wine store
Peixaria: fish shop
Shops in the traditional shopping districts normally open from 10am to 1pm and then from 3pm to 7 or 8 in the evening. Most shopping centres open all day, every day, from 10am in the morning and often until midnight. However some of the big supermarkets in the shopping centres close on Sunday afternoons.