Nowadays, ebooks are very popular among those who fancy reading everywhere without the burden of carrying a book. There is hardly any inconvenience. You purchase a book on a website for a lower price and use your electronic devices (mobile phones, tablets, Kindle,…). However, for many, nothing compares to the excitement of purchasing a new book from a (Lisbon) bookstore and the pleasure of smelling one for the very first time.
As Lisbon is in the midst of a lockdown, purchasing a book in a physical bookstore is impossible. Nevertheless, one must hold on to the hope that soon we will be able to return to our normal lives and this year past will be nothing but a distant memory. For that reason, I come here today to share a list of 5 emblematic Lisbon bookstores you must visit.
In the meanwhile, RELI (Rede de Livrarias Independentes or Network of Independent Bookstores) offers you the chance of purchasing books from a large variety of smaller local businesses. Such as the following bookstores to be ordered from the comfort of your own home. It is a great way to support a sector that has been deeply affected by the pandemic and prevent further iconic bookstores from closing.
In some of these, you can stop and take a hot cup of coffee while you submerge in the literature universe. In others, you will find yourself emerging in decades or even centuries of history.
Located in LX Factory since 2009, this 3-storey bookstore holds thousands of used and new books. It also has a café where you can read your newly purchased books or a newspaper. Read whilst you enjoy a “O Bolo da Marta” (or “Marta’s cake”). Moreover, this bookstore often houses concerts and exhibitions that gather Lisbon’s most creative individuals.
Menina e Moça
Located in the iconic Pink Street in the heart of Cais do Sodré, this bar/bookstore comprises an impressive number of bookshelves, poetry all over the ceiling and a small live music space. All books there are for sale. After business hours, you will not be able to distinguish this bookstore from any of the other bars in downtown Lisbon
As of 2011, this bookstore was marked as the oldest running bookstore in the world by the Guinness World Records! This bookstore opened in 1732 in Chiado, right in the city centre. Emerge yourself in a world where the Portuguese literature’s iconic names baptized this bookstore’s many rooms.
This one is located near Saldanha. Even though it has been in the market for quite a short amount of time (around three years), it already displays an impressive collection of English-friendly second-hand books. If you are lucky enough, you might find a book swap party or a book club meeting you can join the next time you visit.
Livraria do Simão
Named after its owner Simão, this is possibly the smallest bookstore in Lisbon, if not in the entire country. Nevertheless, it holds thousands of books which makes it harder for you to find a specific one if that is what you came looking for. You can find it between Baixa and Alfama neighbourhoods. It is so small that you need to be careful not to miss it!
Furthermore, this market is facing a crisis that is compromising the existence of small bookstores across the country, especially due to the pandemic. These iconic and local businesses are having a hard time competing with chain stores that already have solidified home-delivery systems. Some of them are even allowed to stay open during the lockdown.
It is clear that bookstores have a fundamental role in the cultural cohesion of society and contribute to the proliferation of critical and free-thinking. Moreover, independent ones have been part of Lisbon’s landscape for decades or even centuries. Some of them have been passed around through generations. We cannot let traditions like this die!
To finalize, books educate, inform and entertain us. If we want culture to be accessible for all, we must assure the survival and autonomy of our local bookstores!
Enjoy your readings and support local businesses!
Don't stop here! If you would like to learn more about Lisbon. You might also like "Lisbon - The City of the Seven Hills"