Lisbon Oldest Bookshops: A Journey Through Literary History
Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is not just a hub of culture and history but also a sanctuary for bibliophiles. Scattered throughout the city are several old bookshops, each more than 70 years old, that have withstood the test of time and technology. These bookshops offer more than just books; they are gateways to Lisbon’s past, curators of rare collections, and meeting places for literary minds.
1. Bertrand Bookstore: A World Record Holder Established in 1732, Bertrand Bookstore holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest operating bookstore in the world. Located in Lisbon’s Chiado district, Bertrand has survived earthquakes, political upheavals, and the evolution of reading habits. Its wooden shelves, lined with a mix of Portuguese and international titles, have hosted generations of Lisbon’s literati.
2. Livraria Ferin: A Legacy of Literary Excellence Livraria Ferin, dating back to 1840, is another jewel in Lisbon’s literary crown. Situated near the Rossio Square, this bookshop has been a family-run business for generations. Its historical interior and wide-ranging collection, including rare Portuguese literature and foreign language books, make it a must-visit for book lovers.
3. Livraria do Simão: A Nook of Nostalgia Tucked away in the narrow streets of Alfama, Livraria do Simão is as quaint as it is old. This tiny shop, established in the early 20th century, is crammed floor-to-ceiling with books, mainly second-hand and antique volumes. Its owner, Simão Carneiro, personally guides visitors through his trove of treasures.
4. Livraria Ulmeiro: A Hub for Intellectuals In the Benfica neighborhood, Livraria Ulmeiro has been a gathering spot for intellectuals since 1969. Although slightly younger than its counterparts, it has played a significant role in Lisbon’s cultural scene, particularly during the Carnation Revolution. The shop specializes in philosophy, politics, and social sciences.
5. Livraria Brito & Cunha: A Remnant of the Past Livraria Brito & Cunha, founded in the 1940s, is reminiscent of a bygone era. Located in the fashionable Príncipe Real district, it boasts an elegant façade and a cozy interior. The shop is known for its curated selection of classic literature and fine arts books.
These unique bookshops are more than commercial entities; they are cultural landmarks that embody the essence of Lisbon’s literary heritage. They have been silent witnesses to the city’s transformations and continue to be sanctuaries for those who cherish the written word. A visit to any of these bookshops is not just a shopping trip; it’s an immersion into a rich literary world, a unique blend of the past and present.
Note to Visitors While embracing the charm of these historic bookshops, visitors are encouraged to respect their legacy and contribute to their preservation by supporting them. Each book purchased is not just a transaction but a participation in keeping Lisbon’s literary history alive.