5 Awesome Bookstores in Lisbon for English-Speaking Writers and Bibliophiles

Hidden gems and open secrets

Paulo da Silva
Mar 1 · 7 min read
Books in store
Books in store
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I haven’t been to Lisbon in over a year, and I am melancholic with saudades a mostly untranslatable Portuguese word encompassing sorrow, nostalgia, and the essence of what it means to be Portuguese.

I took a seventeen-day trip there in 2016 and walked my feet off, researching a novel I was planning.

I never wrote that novel, but I did find the most incredible bookstores!

Livraria Bizantina (“Byzantine Bookstore”)

Their website says they’re a store of “rare books,” and I can definitely vouch for that.

The books you’ll find here are phenomenal.

Just look at this stash I walked out with. The total cost of all these books came to about €7.00. It’s hell on my luggage costs, though.

Various books, Country Manors of Portugal, Wicca and Witchcraft Encyclopedia, Collector’s Pocket Book, Great Lakes.
Various books, Country Manors of Portugal, Wicca and Witchcraft Encyclopedia, Collector’s Pocket Book, Great Lakes.
Invaluable research material. Photo by the author.

Address: R. da Misericórdia 147, 1200–334 Lisboa, Portugal

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/nF2Pi4zzypcPzMfF6

Easiest way to get there: Catch the Metro (subway) to Baixa-Chidao, then walk up the Rua da Misericórdia road.

Grab a bite to eat and a coffee (ask for an “Americano” if you want a big cup) at the “Padaria Portuguesa” (Portuguese Bakery) on your way up that hill. The staff there speak English. I highly recommend the bread with the chouriço inside it.

What you’ll find there: Second-hand books, non-fiction. Real treasures at dirt-cheap prices. Many, many, many of them in English, also in other languages.

Why I adore it: It’s basically a hole in the wall, a bibliophile’s dream for obscure treasures. There are books so old in there that opening them and sniffing their aroma will transport any bibliophile into literary heaven.

The feel of the place is incredible, library-quiet. There’s one long table in the center and then books on shelves surrounding you. Comfortably cramped. The place doesn’t fit more then a handful of people at a time, and you huddle quietly, nudging past each other, engrossed by what’s on offer, occasionally sharing a knowing nod, then returning to the hunt, touching old masterpieces as if they were new lovers.

Why it’s great for writers: Because of the rarities. They’re fascinating for research or coming up with ideas for plots.

Livraria Círculo Das Letras (“Bookstore of the Literary Circle”)

View from Miradouro da Graça. Photo by the author.

Address: R. da Voz do Operário 62, Lisboa, Portugal

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/nF2Pi4zzypcPzMfF6

Easiest way to get there: Uber. (Or walking up a serious flight of crushing stairs after getting off at the Martim Moniz Metro station.)

What you’ll find there: Go to the back of the store! That’s where the good stuff’s at.

And by “good stuff” I mean cheap, sensational, 1960s fiction in small bites which will cost you nothing, and which you will devour in mere hours!

The store is a typical small bookstore in Lisbon selling popular titles (mostly in Portuguese), but they have a stand of used books in the back. This stand contains books in multiple languages — quick reads perfect for a vacation.

Why I adore it: Who doesn’t love cheap, 1960s fiction? If my memory serves me right, I paid €2.00 total for these three gems.

Ca. mid 19th century “pulp”-style novels. Photo by the author.
Ca. mid 19th century “pulp”-style novels. Photo by the author.
Ca. mid 20th century “pulp”-style novels. Photo by the author.

Who is this Marie Garrat, you ask? Yes, I ask myself that as well. I loved this book so much that I googled the freaking heck out of that author…and came up empty. I was ready to buy everything she ever wrote, and figured she probably wrote only this one title. Or maybe this was a pen name and she wrote several other titles I will never get to know.

I am her eternal fanboy forever and ever.

Reading in the Príncipe Real Park, sunny in November.
Reading in the Príncipe Real Park, sunny in November.
Reading in the Príncipe Real Park, sunny in November. Photo by the author.

Why it’s great for writers: Did you not read the part about sensational, 1960s fiction? Jeez.

But seriously: Nothing gets my juices going as a writer like a damn good book. And I love these easy reads, especially when I’m on vacation.

I read the entire book at the Príncipe Real Park, an incredible spot for reading in the sunshine. Even in November!

Livraria Sá da Costa

They offer a vast collection of obscure, ancient maps, documents, books which cost…a lot of money. But, hey, if you’ve made some dough as a writer and want to invest in some hard-to-find research materials, these are your boys.

If you’re like me and just want a good English book to read in the sun, go to the back of the store.

Address: R. Garrett 100, 1200–273 Lisboa, Portugal

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/nF2Pi4zzypcPzMfF6

Easiest way to get there: Metro to Baixa-Chiado. (Take the exit with the escalators, not the other exit!) You’ll be right there when you step out, and you can take a photo sitting with Fernando Pessoa’s statue as well.

What you’ll find there: Maps, documents and prints so expensive you’ll struggle to catch your breath. Also ancient tomes that might or might not be worth a million bucks. (You’ll certainly pay almost that much for some of them.)

Oh, and reasonably priced second-hand English, German, and French fiction books.

Why I adore it: They have decent second-hand fiction in the back.

Why it’s great for writers: Just looking at the maps, prints, and ancient tomes in there will give you writing ideas.

Livraria Bertrand

Exterior of Livraria Bertrand
Exterior of Livraria Bertrand
Photo by 69joehawkins. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Address: R. Garrett 73 75, 1200–203 Lisboa, Portugal

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/nF2Pi4zzypcPzMfF6

Easiest way to get there: The same way you got to Livraria Sá da Costa. Just walk downhill when you get out of that store. Bertrand will be on your right.

What you’ll find there: New books. There’s a section dedicated to English fiction. All contemporary stuff, mostly.

Why I adore it: The books are new, and who doesn’t love the feel of a brand new book?

There’s a fairly wide selection of English books, considering that you’re in a non-English country. I usually visit this store in combination with Fnac (see below) for contemporary novels.

Honestly, though, I adore it because it also has a great selection of Portuguese books, and you often get a bookmark specific to the book you just bought, like these two bookmarks I got when I bought a book on the Portuguese Inquisition, and one on the Great 1755 Lisbon Earthquake.

Matching bookmark with book.
Matching bookmark with book.
I got some swag when I bought this book at Bertrand. Photo by the author.
Matching bookmark for book.
Matching bookmark for book.
More swag. Photo by the author.

Why it’s great for writers: Nice selection of contemporary fiction, and everyone knows that good writers must read a lot.

Some of the English books are on Portuguese topics, like an English book they had there about Philippa of Lancaster.

Fnac, Baixa-Chiado

Armazéns do Chiado mall, where Fnac is located.
Armazéns do Chiado mall, where Fnac is located.
Armazéns do Chiado mall, where Fnac is located. Photo by Threeohsix, Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY 4.0 License).

This is a combination of an electronics store, and a massive bookstore. They have an enormous selection of books in general (Portuguese) as well as a decent amount of English fiction and non-fiction books.

Address: Armazéns do Chiado, R. do Carmo nº 2 Loja 407, 1200–094 Lisboa, Portugal

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/nF2Pi4zzypcPzMfF6

Easiest way to get there: Same directions as for Livraria Bertrand. Just walk all the way to the bottom of the hill and keep walking into the “Armazéns do Chiado” mall.

There’s also great food at this mall.

What you’ll find there: New books. I usually visit this one and Livraria Bertrand for a good selection of English books that I’ll be reading in the sun.

Why I adore it: So many books!

Why it’s great for writers: This store is purely for contemporary fiction, and a few immortal classics.

Sure, you could buy this stuff on Kindle or back home at B&N. But think of the conversation-starter every time you pull out the book for friends and say, “Oh, I bought this one in Lisbon…”


Walking all those hills builds up an appetite, and the last thing you want is to lose all your writing royalties on tourist-priced food. Sheesh.

So head on over to some of my favorite eateries where you’ll save so much dough on food that you’ll be able to buy even more books after your gargantuan lunch!

ONEPIN

An honest travel magazine exploring the world one pin at a…

Paulo da Silva

Written by

Loving Dad. Mostly mediocre. Totally not famous. Writes for a living. https://uk.authorpaulo.com

ONEPIN

ONEPIN

An honest travel magazine exploring the world one pin at a time.

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