One of the most unusual places in major European cities is undoubtedly the flea markets, almost all of them have centuries of history, where you can find a little bit of everything, new or second-hand, frequented by the greatest diversity of people, locals, and foreigners, who travel there to shop, observe, stroll or simply sit on one of the surrounding terraces and enjoy that environment.
As Madrid is to El Rastro, London to Portobelo and Paris to Marché aux Puces, Lisbon is to Feira da Ladra, it is the best-known flea market in the Portuguese capital. Its origin dates back to the 12th century, right after the reconquest of Lisbon from the Moors in 1147 by D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, with the help of the Crusaders. From then on, the fair began to take place outside the walls of the Castle of São Jorge, 1430 it moved to Rossio, where it remained there until the great earthquake of 1755 that destroyed a large part of the city, from then it’s moved to different locations until 1882 when he settled in Campo de Santa Clara in Alfama, where he remains until today.
One of the biggest curiosities about Feira da Ladra is the origin of its name, at first glance, and for native Portuguese speaking locals it may suggest that the items sold are stolen as its name derives from the word “Thief”, however, If it is a myth since the fair with almost 900 years of existence initially functioned as a market, there are therefore many theories of the origin of its name, we leave here the best known, the first derivative of the bark louse, a louse that is very frequent of being found in similar fairs and in antiques, the second originates in the fairs existing in Paris in the Middle Ages, which had the name of Saint-Laudre derived from Saint-Lazare and the third is linked to the Arab occupation that during its passage left in the city a statue of “Nossa Senhora” whose Arabic name was “Al Hadra” (the virgin).
The space where the fair takes place is a very pleasant place and the summer days invite you to visit as it takes place on the street, there we can find locals but also many tourists, who take the opportunity to walk and buy souvenirs, the prices of items they are fixed by the marketers although many of them are open to negotiating, it is, therefore, usual to find visitors haggling prices with the marketers in a fun way. For some time, the market was the target of many pickpockets who were looking for an opportunity, especially among tourists, however, today the place on fair days (every Tuesday and Saturday) is heavily policed, which made this phenomenon almost completely disappear.
But after all, what can we find at Feira da Ladra? As we’ve already mentioned above a little of everything, there are new items that are mostly clothes, jewelry, paintings depicting the city, such as city highlights, trams, and Transtejo boats and there are second-hand items, where the limit is really the imagination, from antiques, furniture, vinyl records, comic books, mobile phones, cameras, crockery, tiles, toys, books, decorative items, tools, vintage clothing, we could be here all day cataloging the immense items you can find there, however, and as it could not be otherwise, we were looking for what shines most in our eyes, the watches.
Finding watches at Feira da Ladra, although not an easy task, may take some time, since in the midst of so many “trinkets” and people we have to have a keen and trained eye to filter so much “information”, we found essentially the so-called “fashion watches”, some exposed on benches and others dumped in crates that forced us to dive to rummage through all of their content, the result was almost nil, but here we take the opportunity to make a disclaimer, our visit to the fair was what we call here a visit as a doctor, it didn’t last more than 45 minutes and therefore we didn’t have time to look better, however and as the best is almost always at the end, on the way out we found two watches that caught our attention, the first was a Cartier Tank, which we shamefully forgot to photograph and ask about it and the second was a vintage automatic Tissot, which looked to us to be of military origin from the WWII era, the watch seemed to be working in good condition, although the condition of its dial was not the best with obvious signs of dampness, which led us to choose not to buy it, the asking price was around €150.
In conclusion, visiting the flea markets is one of the most fun tours we can do, interacting with merchants and locals, taking pictures, among many other things, and it doesn’t matter if we go shopping or just for a walk, the important thing is to socialize and interact, and if, in addition, we still dedicate some effort and time, we can find there real “pearls” for sale at a bargain. We liked it and we want to go back there soon.