Some of the quirkiest items on sale in Embaixada are these playful lions replete with multi-colored manes and matching tails — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
At Lisbon conceptual shopping gallery Embaixada, the retail experience is played out in a wonderful old 19th-century mansion, a stately building that's more akin to a Moorish palace with its onion domes, pointed turrets and Arabesque windows.
Sited in the city’s trend-setting Príncipe Real district and overlooking the neighborhood’s verdant park, Embaixada is the collective name of one of the capital’s most original multi-brand stores.
Behind the whimsical façade is a mini mall of quirky boutiques selling a fantastic range of goods and products that showcase Portuguese design, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Temporary art exhibitions regularly hosted in the building reinforce the upbeat, avant-garde vibe.
The interior of Temporary Brand, with its plywood counters and faux scaffolding — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Shops are arranged across the ground-floor lobby, first floor and an upper level, with each salon making use of the many high-ceilinged rooms set throughout the sprawling property.
The spaces are enhanced by original architecture preserved during refurbishment, features such as vibrant stained glass windows, animated wall frescoes and a magnificent grand staircase in pink marble.
A chic, boho ambiance pervades Embaixada. This is alternative shopping at its ad-hoc trendy best. The emphasis is on local products and home-grown creativity: most of what’s on sale has been conceived, crafted or manufactured in Portugal.
Scarves on sale at Antiflop include this example, featuring a 1561 map of Portugal that was created by the 16th-century cartographer Fernando Álvaro Seco — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Around 18 boutiques share the gallery, all arranged in a fluid, open-plan style that allows for effortless browsing. And shopping at Embaixada is full of surprises!
Step over the gallery’s threshold, and you’re immediately welcomed by a pride of miniature lions, their playful manes a riot of rainbow colors.
These artisan creatures, crafted by hand, typify the eccentric collection of toys and other decorative ceramics on sale at Mercado, a stall set at the foot of the staircase.
Venture up to the first floor, and Temporary Brand and the apparel, stationery, furniture and other assorted curios available further underline Embaixada’s offbeat and unusual stock credentials.
At oddly named Antiflop, the beautiful silkwear on sale includes a range of patterned scarfs. A standout design reproduces a 1561 map of Portugal by celebrated cartographer Fernando Álvaro Seco.
Menswear shop UOY provides bespoke tailoring as well as ready-to-wear jackets and blazers — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Fashion is well represented at Embaixada. Several boutiques are devoted to clothing and accessories, most of them geared towards women’s wear. Also available is a range of dinky baby wear.
However, for bespoke male tailoring, UOY is a cut above the rest. (The acronym stands for "Uncover the Original You.") Besides its off-the-peg selection, UOY offers personalized fittings, with suits and jackets ready for collection in a matter of days.
Perhaps the most eclectic range of items displayed is at Artes & Etc., which ably promotes popular Portuguese art. The term is broad, with anything from eco-friendly cork handbags and dolls dressed in national costume to attractive framed prints of Lisbon street life and colorful azulejos displayed on shelves and tables.
Embaixada's most sumptuous interior is used by Artes & Etc., which promotes popular Portuguese art — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
For kids, this is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave: the bars of yummy chocolate are enough to get eyes agog and lips a smackin’.
Crammed with original souvenir ideas, Artes & Etc. also happens to be set in the gallery’s most resplendent room, with wares displayed under horseshoe arches supported by marbled columns that are topped with capitals of swirling plasterwork.
You can spend a good hour shopping in Embaixada, working up an appetite along the way. Fortunately, there’s a café on the ground floor, where tired and hungry shoppers can pause and take stock.
Tables are arranged across the hall, and the souk-like setting is quite unique. A neighboring bar has a balcony that overlooks a shady rear garden, itself a wonderfully conducive city center meeting point.
The interior of conceptual shopping gallery Embaixada has preserved original architecture and period furniture — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt