Whether or not you are in Lisbon for the annual Feria do Livro (reviewed by Jeffry Larson in the Fall 2005 WESS Newsletter) that takes place from mid-April through mid-May, you will not want to skip out on some of the livrarias (bookstores) the city has to offer. This brief guide highlights ten of the noteworthy that I was fortunate enough to encounter on a recent visit. It lists mostly bookstores that sell new books and does not attempt to enumerate so many of the alfabarristas (antiquarian dealers) such as Artes e Letras, Biblarte, Luís Burnay, Castro e Silva, Livraria Histórica e Ultramarina that are as commonplace as the yellow elétricos (trolley cars) and tascas (taverns) that characterize the urban landscape. Horários (hours of operation), when available, come from the bookstore web sites and do not necessarily coincide with the actual time a bookshop owner may decide to open or close. For the sake of the flâneur, bookstores are grouped by bairro (neighborhood):
Ler Devagar (read slowly) – An important piece to the success of the hip, redeveloped, and former manufacturing complex known as LX Factory, this bookstore is perhaps the most magical of all bookstores I chanced upon. It reclaims an open and well-lit former printing factory that’s filled from floor to ceiling with an international collection of new and secondhand books, organized by subject (even if it requires a 12-foot rolling staircase to reach some of them). On the upper levels is an art gallery and a permanent display devoted to the art of printing – which in fact is suspended by a monolithic rotary printing press that could not easily be removed during the renovation. There’s a welcoming café/bar on the ground floor where author readings and lectures take place (check web site under aconteceu for daily listings). Ler Devagar also has its own imprint.
Rua Rodrigues Faria, nº 103
Edificio G, Space 0.3
Tel: (+351) 213 259 992
Horário: terça-feira a quinta-feira: 12.00 às 24.00; sexta-feira e sábado: 12.00 às 02.00; domingo: 12.00 às 24.00
Museu do Oriente – It goes without saying that almost every museum in Lisbon has a bookstore worth checking out, and the Fundação Oriente’s museum is no exception. Aside from exhibition catalogs published, the foundation also publishes specialized monographic series on Asia and the Portuguese presence in Asia such as Orientalia, Sinica Lusitana, and Oriental Viagens.
Avenida Brasília, Doca de Alcântara (Norte)
Tel: (+351) 213 585 200
Horário: terça-feira a domingo: 10.00 às 18.00; sexta-feira: 10.00 às 22.00
Livraria Letra Livre – Specialized bookstore with new, used, and out-of-print titles in the fields of literature, human sciences, anthropology, Africa, Brazil, gender studies, social history, Lisbon, politics, sociology, etc. Particular attention to small publishers such as Antígona, Apenas, Aquário, Averno, Black Sun, Deriva, Dinossauro, Edições Mortas, etc. With a smaller shop in the same neighborhood in Galeria Zé dos Bois, they also publish their own books through Ediçoes Letra Livre.
Praçada do Combro, 139
1200 - 113 LISBOA
Tel: 21 346 10 75
Horário: segunda-feira a sábado: 10h às 13h e 14h às 19h.
Bairro Calouste Gulbenkian
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian – Within the verdant and sprawling Gulbenkian Park, there’s a fabulous bookstore on the ground floor of the Head Office building with virtually every publication available in their catalog, ranging from bibliographies of medieval Iberian manuscripts to studies of optical physics. However, don’t bother looking for any books without the Gulbenkian emblem on the spine.
Avenida de Berna, 45A
Tel: (+351) 217 823 233
Horário: segunda-feira a sexta-feira: 10:00 às 12:00 e 15:00 às 17:00
Babel @ Biblioteca Nacional - With several locations throughout the city, the book distributor Babel operates the bookshop within the national library, including an ample stock of new and out-of-print BNP publications. Good selection of art, history, and literature titles from other publishing houses.
Campo Grande, 83
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Horário: segunda-feira a sexta-feira: 10h-19h30
Assírio & Alvim – One of two bookstores in Lisbon owned by the reputable publisher (part of Grupo Porto Editora since 2012), it offers an excellent selection of books on all subjects. The second location is in Bairro Penha de França on Rua Passos Manuel.
Pátio Siza - Rua Garrett, 10 / Rua do Carmo, 29
Tel: 932 561 288
Horário: segunda-feira a sábado: 12h-19h; domingo: 14h-19h
FNAC – Seems no southern European city is complete without a FNAC media and book megastore these days, and the same can be said for Lisbon which has a few in the greater metropolitan area. The busiest and arguably the best is the one in the Chiado Armazéns (shopping mall). With comfortable seating, late hours, and multiple levels of books, CDs, and DVDs, the national and Lusophone sections are always worth perusing. This particular location has a cozy reading room dedicated to banda deshenada (graphic novels).
Armazéns do Chiado
Rua do Carmo, nº 2
Horário: segunda-feira a domingo 10h-22h
Bertrand – Now owned by publishing conglomerate Grupo Porto Editora, the name of this publisher/bookstore at least commands a vast chain of bookstores that extends throughout Portugal. Founded in 1732, the flagship location has a poster in its window boasting its age as Portugal’s oldest bookstore: “We’ve lived through one earthquake, one civil war, 9 kings, the assassination of a king, 16 presidents, 48 prime ministers, 3 republics, 6 military coups, 2 world wars, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Europe, the conversion to the Euro, and we also sell books on the subject!” Broad coverage for all disciplines with an excellent magazine section.
Rua Garrett, 73-75
Tel: (+351) 213 476 122
Horário: segunda-feira a sábado: 8h-22h; domingo: 11h-20h
Marquês de Pombal
Buchholz - Now owned by the other of Portugal’s two largest publishing groups, Grupo LeYa, this bookshop is located just a block away from the Praça Marquês de Pombal and Parque Eduardo VII where the Feria do Livro is held every year. Founded in 1943 by German bookseller Karl Buchholz on Avenida da Liberdade after fleeing war-torn Berlin, it has attracted regulars such as former prime minister Mário Soares and acclaimed novelist António Lobo Antunes. The spacious location that it has occupied since 1965 carries a broad selection of titles, particularly strong in the humanities and the social sciences. Bottom floor functions as an art gallery.
Rua Duque de Palmela, nº4
Tel: (+351) 213 563 212
Horário: 9:00 às 21:00 de segunda-feira a sexta-feira; sábado, 10:00 às 14:00
Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda (INCM) – With four retail locations throughout Portugal, this is one of two in Lisbon and is the most central. Like the Gulbenkian bookstore, it offers a unique chance to comfortably thumb through a good representation of the publisher’s output in one place. With more than two hundred years of publishing experience, INCM continues to publish high-quality books in the humanities and social sciences, often co-edited with prominent entities such as the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Museu Nacional de Etnologia, Instituto Camões, Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores, etc.
Rua da Escola Politécnica, 137
Tel: (+351) 213 945 700 /(+351 213 945 729
Horário: segunda-feira a sexta-feira: 09h00 às 18h00
Text and photographs by Claude Potts
Librarian for Romance Language Collections