Portugal is world renowned for its fish dishes, namely cod and sardines. And even though cod is probably considered to be our national dish, love them or hate them, sardines are one of those foods that are part and parcel of Portuguese identity. Tins of sardines (conservas) – decorated with either vintage imagery, or cool, minimalistic modern designs – line tourist shops and make some lovely souvenirs for those visiting Portugal to take home. But one store in Lisbon has taken sardine tins to a whole new level. “Ladies and gentlemen! Children of all ages! Welcome to Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa, the greatest sardine show on Earth!”
Set on some of the most desirable real estate in downtown Lisbon, in the Rossio square, Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa opened up only two months ago. The theme of the store is circus; the content is sardines. And though you would probably never think of combining these two things together, somebody did. And the result is impressive!
Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa draws you in with its over the top storefront display, on a par with those on Regent Street in London or Soho in New York. Once you step in, you may think you’re at an old time carnival, waiting to see the circus under the big top. But the walls aren’t lined with posters of trapeze artists or clowns. Instead, they’re covered in colorful sardine tins.
Each tin has a year on it (which is also how they’re organized within the store). Each year has a fun fact about it and lists famous people born that year. If you were to buy a tin with the year 1945 on it you’d not only read that WWII ended that year, but that musicians Bob Marley, Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton were born then. So aside from buying a souvenir from Portugal for a loved one or yourself, you can add a more personal touch by choosing a year that means something. What a cute birthday gift or anniversary present, graduation reminder or unique wedding favor!
And whilst the tins are the star act of the store, candy cane like columns, clockwork cogs on the ceiling, a mini ferris wheel (for tins, not people) and a cutout circus trailer all serve to captivate your attention and reignite that child-like wonder that tends to get lost as we grow up. So yes, perhaps sardines and circuses do go together.