All the quirks, ups, downs, and mood swings of Lisbon have been featured in Fado tunes, tragic poems, and the occasional romantic ode. What can I say? The city photographs well and poses for art (in any form) even better. She likes the attention.
As Lisbon’s Book Fair is about to start, I think it’s important we turn our cultural travel minds to a book-themed sort of itinerary. Bookmark this blog post (pun intended) on the most popular places to see in Lisbon for bibliophiles.
Palavra de Viajante
Twenty years later, and Lisbon still surprises me. This bookstore at the end (or beginning, it depends on the perspective) of São Bento Street, right before it meets the Poço dos Negros one, sells travel books exclusively. You can, shamelessly, use that Saint Agustine quote “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” here.
Travel guides, travel memoirs, travel literature, travel-themed accessories, all organized in different nooks and levels (one for each continent). Looking for a specific travel book in Portuguese, English or French? Step right in because they probably have it.
Rua de São Bento 34 – 1200-819 Lisbon
Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
This is probably the most Instagrammed bookstore in Lisbon, with shelves full of books from top to bottom. No wonder it’s already been rated as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world!
Translated into English, the bookstore name means “to read slowly” and that’s exactly the mood here. Flip through those pages, take time, follow every single word on that line with the tip of your finger. Go back. Do it again.
Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103 – 1300-501 Lisboa
Monday noon – 9 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday noon to midnight, Friday and Saturday noon – 2 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Casa Fernando Pessoa
Attention to all Fernando Pessoa fans: whether you choose to take the two-hour guided tour in English or meander alone through the Modernist’s writer old quarters, one visit is never enough. One is never like the other because you discover one more detail or one more book written by him that you had never seen before.
The library is a huge rabbit hole but in a positive way. The last time I visited, I started with a question about a book, that brought me more books, that brought me more questions, that brought me more books. I ended up with a table full of copies in different languages and a long list of books to buy later.
Rua Coelho da Rocha 16 – 1250-088 Lisboa
Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Martinho da Arcada
Speaking of Fernando Pessoa, no tour in Lisbon about the author is complete without a visit to one of his old hangouts in the city downtown.
For some, there is a fine line between considering this a tourist trap or a must-see spot. I call it one of the most popular places to see in Lisbon if you love books, Fernando Pessoa in particular, and all the spots where literary History happened.
Praça do Comércio 3 – 1100-148 Lisboa
Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Menina e Moça
How cool is it to be at a bar where you can buy books and order a drink inspired by a Portuguese-speaking author? We shall name names and call it bookstore bar.
The interior is surprising! First, you feel like you’ve walked into a dark library but then, as your eyes adjust to the light inside, you notice the unusually pop-colored triangle tables. Drop in for a drink, a book or a live concert. The place is completely unexpected among the rest in the street (then again, what isn’t unexpected at the “Pink Street” in Cais do Sodré?).
Rua Nova do Carvalho 40-42 (also known as “Pink Street”) – 1200 Lisboa
Tuesday to Thursday noon – 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday noon – 3 a.m., Sunday 6 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Fundação José Saramago
José Saramago is famous for a very peculiar way of writing books (although I’m not entirely sure that peculiarity translates well in a foreign language) and for being the only Portuguese author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, so far.
The foundation with his name is one of the most popular places to visit in Lisbon, not only for the fans of the author and his work but because the building where the Fundação is set is one of the most peculiar ones in the city (kind of like his writing).
Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 10 – 1100-135 Lisboa
Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Feira do Livro de Lisboa
Lisbon’s Book Fair is pushing 90 but, like everything else in the city, it keeps reinventing itself to be relevant (even though you’d think people don’t read books anymore).
For two weeks in June, Parque Eduardo VII is invaded by colorful stands selling books – old, new, rare, best sellers, comics. Whatever you are looking for but aren’t sure where to find will probably be on sale here.
There are live concerts, food trucks and food carts, book signings and lectures on a variety of topics. Every day, the organizers highlight the Book of the Day that you can buy at a significant discount.
Parque Eduardo VII
Monday to Thursday 12.30 p.m – 11 p.m., Friday 12.30 p.m. – midnight, Saturday 11 a.m. – midnight, Sunday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.