Portugal is a country that loves books, with Lisbon home to the world’s oldest bookstore in continuous operation. Throughout the city, open-air markets sell second-hand tomes, and in Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon holds its annual book fair, set to celebrate its 87th anniversary in 2017. There’s plenty here to keep bookworms occupied and happy, and at the top of the list are these independent bookshops.
General bookshop | Courtesy of Livraria Bivar
By now, Lisbon is known for being a city that’s incredibly English-friendly and this bookstore only adds to that reputation. Livraria Bivar is a 100% English-language second-hand bookshop that’s located north of the city center, near Saldanha. This cozy spot is what can be expected from an indie shop, with events like book swap parties to book club meetings and a community writing course to enjoy. This year, the Livraria Bivar is celebrating its third anniversary.
Ler Devagar (‘Read Slowly’ in English), first opened in 1999 in Bairro Alto but eventually moved to its current location at the trendy LX factory in Alcântara. Built inside an old printing factory with the original iron framework and machinery, and spruced up with a couple cafés, it has been mentioned in many publications as one of the most visually-appealing bookstores in the world. The shop’s cool location also makes Ler Devagar a site for many events.
Explore the world while sitting in quaint and beautiful Lisbon in Palavra de Viajante. This is a great shop to visit for travel-related literature, from city guides and maps to travel-inspired fiction. Palavra de Viajante, which translates to ‘Traveler’s Word’, is located next to the historical home of Portugal’s favorite poet, Fernando Pessoa, and in keeping with the local café culture, there is a coffee shop on the premises as well.
Named after its owner and containing somewhere in the ballpark of a few thousand books, the Livraria do Simão is known as the smallest bookshop in Lisbon and possibly in all of Portugal. Located between Baixa and Alfama, it’s a very easy spot to reach in downtown, though the real difficulty may be in searching for a specific book while others are trying to do the same within the limited space. However, the experience of perusing this quaint shop may make the effort totally worth the while.
While Palavra de Viajante is the shop for international travel, Fábula Urbis is the spot for learning all there is to know about its own city, Lisbon. Worried about not being able to read in Portuguese? No problem, since despite the narrow topic of interest, the shop sells books written in a few different languages, including English. Fábula Urbis is a local favorite located near Alfama.
Although it’s not as old as the famous Livraria Bertrand, Livraria Ferin is the second oldest bookshop in the city, having opened its doors in 1840. Here bookworms can find titles from many countries and written in a range of languages, and it was once a favorite of the city’s most notable residents. From literature and fiction to the sciences and history, this is a great one-stop shop to find what you’re looking for, all with a personal touch.
Located in Bairro Alto, this shop sells both new and old books, with most focused on Portuguese literature and social sciences. Livraria Letra Livre opened in 2006 and is another shop that’s easily accessible, just down the road from Praça Luis de Camões (a square named after one of Portugal’s most famous poets).