Wandering the bright, winding streets of Portugal’s capital, it is easy to feel inspired by its unpretentious beauty. Lisbon is both otherworldly and bursting with reality, both divinely old and sleekly modern. It’s no wonder, then, that so many of the world’s most famous writers – such as Pascal Mercier and Robert Wilson – used the city as their muse, bringing it to life within the pages of their books.
Lisbon’s literary influence is kept alive today by its vast collection of bookstores and library cafés. From tiny, traditional places to the edgier, more modern approach, a good book is always within your reach. We’ve selected our top ten of the best, most unique bookstores in Lisbon for you to choose from; so grab a coffee and a Pastel de Nata, and get reading!
MENINA E MOÇA
This cosy bar sits right in the middle of Pink Street: one of Lisbon’s brightest, busiest, and most vibrant streets. But once you step inside the doors of Menina e Moça, you are transported into an entirely different world.
With books lining the shelves and poetry scribbled across the ceiling, this bar is a haven for creatives from all fields, and even includes a small live music area at the back of the venue. All the books here are for sale, and the store includes an English language section, too.
Settle yourself into one of the colourful seats that spill out onto Pink Street and soak in the atmosphere of the city; if you look above you, you’ll even find poetry suspended from the surrounding buildings.
This area is also known for being one of the city’s nightlife hotspots: after dark, the bar transforms into a buzzing hive of laughter and conversation. Sit back and watch the street come to life as the sun goes down!
If this bookstore’s imposing white architecture and traditional blue tiles aren’t inviting enough, then the fact that Livraria Bertrand has been crowned the oldest operating bookstore in the world may just pique your interest!
Having opened its doors in 1732, this grand, elegant store is located in the heart of the city’s Chiado area, and is spread out across the ground floor of a traditional Lisbon townhouse; in fact, it’s also known to be the largest operating bookstore in Portugal. Lose yourself in its deep labyrinth of books, its low archways guiding you from one room to another.
If you find you need a pick-me-up, there is a café situated towards the back of the store, with chairs spilling out into the cobbled street outside. The lunch menu is light yet delicious, offering dishes such as salads, bruschettas, and a range of home-made cakes and pastries.
A popular tourist destination for its quirky brightness and its unusual setting, Ler Devagar (which means ‘Read Slowly’ in Portuguese) is actually better known to locals as the ‘LX Factory Library’. Located within the colourful walls of the LX Factory itself, this re-purposed printing press makes the perfect home for books from all over the world.
In true Lisbon fashion, moving art installations hang from the ceiling, giving the place an otherworldly feel. Sip at your coffee from their café underneath the old printing press machine, or climb up the sleek, iron staircase to discover the bookstore from a different perspective.
This space also houses regular concerts and art exhibitions, making it popular among Lisbon’s widespread community of creatives.
Bookshop Bivar sets itself apart from other bookstores in the city for one particular reason: all its books are in English. It is for this reason, then, that the tiny, bright shop, decorated with smooth, light wood, is a popular favourite amongst Lisbon’s growing expat community. Its proximity to a large number of Lisbon’s co-working offices means that its clientele is made up, primarily, of the freelancers who work nearby, acting as a meeting point for this network of digital nomads.
The store also houses a number of events and clubs, transforming it into a cultural centre. From its Bivar Book Club to its Author Q&As, this bookstore is the perfect spot for any international literary fanatics.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre is Lisbon’s Coffee Library: a crisp, white café with a long window seat, which makes it perfect for reading.
Although known for its large book collection, the Coffee Library is also famous city-wide for its inventive, delicious doughnuts, which come in all flavours, shapes and colours. If a peaceful afternoon curled up with a book is what you’re looking for, then this bar is the place for you – and is definitely worth the short metro ride out of the city centre!
While the books are not for sale, the café uses a book exchange system: if you bring in a book, you can take one away with you.
FEIRA DOS ALFARRABISTAS
If you happen to be strolling through the Chiado area on a Saturday, you may stumble across a small street lined with tables and stalls, each one laden with more books than you could imagine: this is the Feira dos Alfarrabistas.
This antique, second-hand book market is aptly located in Rua Anchieta – just outside the world’s oldest bookstore, Livraria Bertrand – and is held every Saturday from roughly 10 am to 5 pm. Flick through the vast collection of books, magazines, comics and posters, in a range of different languages – but, of course, mainly Portuguese.
For anyone with an interest in Portuguese history and culture, you are certain to find a book to feed your curiosity at this flea market. Chat to the locals who man the stalls, or simply wander through the crowds, taking in the endless sea of books and book lovers. Whether it’s the vintage postcards or a dusty, leather-bound novel that catches your eye, you won’t walk away empty-handed.
PALAVRA DE VIAJANTE
Specialising in travel guides, albums, maps, and all things international, Palavra de Viajante (or Traveller’s Word in English) is an ideal destination for the keen traveller or nomad.
Tucked away in one of the city’s more residential areas, this store is often more peaceful than those found in the centre, giving you the freedom to browse at your own pace. Navigate your way through the store’s maze of enclaves and archways in search of your next adventure; you’re sure to find inspiration here, be it from the plentiful book collection, or from the colour and life of the store itself.
As is custom in Lisbon, the bookstore is also home to a café, where you can nurse a glass of wine or cup of coffee as you map out the plans for your next trip.
Whether you’re a tourist visiting for just a few days, or a local who has planted their roots in the city, Lisbon’s history is undoubtedly fascinating to everyone who experiences it. Bookstore Fábula Urbis, tucked away just behind the cathedral, is the perfect place to delve into the culture of this wonderful city; every book on offer is exclusively about Lisbon. The store also hosts a number of poetry readings and other cultural events, all based around the history of the Portuguese capital – including art exhibitions from local artists.
The books are available in a range of languages, making it accessible to people from all over the world, while its picturesque setting along the well-worn route from the cathedral to the Miradouro Santa Luzia makes it an ideal stopping point for weary travellers.
O AZ DO LIVRO
Nestled into one of Lisbon’s many shaded staircases, O Az do Livro is located between Rossio and the Bairro Alto, yet is easily passed unnoticed by the many tourists trekking between these two lively areas.
The tiny, narrow store is brimming with books both new and old, and its friendly staff will happily source any copy for you that you’re not able to find amongst the maze of pages. O Az do Livro houses everything from modern fiction to older, more historical works. This is the perfect excuse to rest your weary legs (and lungs!) as you clamber to the top of one of the city’s seven hills.
MBOOKS – CAIS DO SODRÉ
Although not a traditional bookstore, this spot is perfect for the Lisbon commuter or traveller on the go; MBooks is a large, open-plan store located within the Cais do Sodré station.
Almost market-like in its set-up, MBooks boasts a huge range of both fiction and non-fiction books, all for extremely affordable prices. Divided by genre, the surfaces of this store are overflowing with reading material, and include also both a children’s section and an English language section. Its home, in one of Lisbon’s busiest train stations, means that you will always have something to read during a long trip.
MBooks can also be found in most major metro stations across the city, including at Santa Apolónia and Marquês de Pombal.
BEST HOTELS FOR BOOKWORMS AND LITERATURE LOVERS
Even some of the city’s top hotels use this fascination with literature as their inspiration.
BE POET HOTEL
In the Baixa area, this is embodied by the Be Poet Hotel. Upon stepping into the lobby, you are greeted by fluttering pieces of paper, each boasting a quote from some of Lisbon’s top poets.
Entirely unique in its décor, each floor is designed around the works and writing styles of four of the city’s most renowned poets, including the likes of Manuel Bocage and Luís de Camões. Prices for a room at this hotel start from roughly €100 per night.
LISBOA PESSOA HOTEL
The Bairro Alto is home to the Lisboa Pessoa Hotel, named after acclaimed poet Fernando Pessoa. As expected, the lobby of this guesthouse is adorned with well-stocked bookshelves, while a rooftop bar gives guests a stunning panoramic view across Lisbon’s terracotta roofs.
The hotel also hosts a Literary Walking Tour of the city, which leads guests around Pessoa’s Lisbon: the houses he once lived in, the cafes he wrote from, and the places which inspired him. Rooms at this hotel also start from roughly €100 per night.
UNIQUE BOOKSTORES IN LISBON WRAP UP
Lisbon is a reader’s paradise and there are so many unique bookstores and cafes to visit. Next time you find yourself in the city be sure to go explore and find your next favorite read!
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit some unique bookstores in Lisbon. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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