Home > Literary Escapades > Literary Escapade : Lisbon, Bookstores and other bookish things

Literary Escapade : Lisbon, Bookstores and other bookish things

As promised in my billet Literary Escapade : Lisbon and Pessoa, a little tour of the bookstores and bookish things I saw in Lisbon. I don’t speak Portuguese but I quickly picked up that bookstore is livraria, book is livro and it struck me that the word to say free is livre, the way we say book in French. Yes, books make you free.

There seem to be another connection between Portugal and France when it comes to books. The oldest bookshop in the world is the Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon and Bertrand is a very French name. I wondered how this famous Portuguese literary place could have such a French name. The Livraria Bertrand was founded in 1732, before the great earthquake of 1755. (See Candide by Voltaire) It is not located in the same premises as the ones in 1732 but it’s in the Chiado neighborhood, not very far from the café A Brasileira, where Pessoa liked to go. Pedro Faure started his printing house in 1727, which turned into a bookshop. It became the Livraria Bertrand in 1752 after his daughter married a French gentleman named Bertrand and Faure handed his business to the Bertrand brothers. Voilà, the Livraria Bertrand was born. Of course, I had to visit this marvelous place where a lot of writers used to meet and that has been in the book loving business for almost 300 years. Here’s the side of the store, with the mention of its age and the typical ajulezos.


The entrance looks like this…


…and it’s full of dark wood shelves.


Although I don’t speak Portuguese, I still loved browsing through display tables and see what was pushed towards Portuguese readers. I was delighted to see this edition of the whole collection of Mafalda’s comics for her 50th anniversary.


Here’s what Livraria Bertrand recommends for the holidays




Hmm. I’m not sure I want to read Primo Levi when I’m on vacation.


Seems like the Jane Austen anniversary was celebrated here too. Apparently, they also have these horrible covers where women have no face, only skirts and legs. Where does this strange habit stem from? We have the same ones in France and Anglophone publishers like them too.

Not far from this shop is another literary reference. This shop, Au bonheur des dames must have been a women’s clothes store in the past. Indeed, Au Bonheur des dames is the French title of Ladies’ Paradise.


Sadly, it is now a Nespresso store and they didn’t put George Clooney’s ads on display, which could have been another version of Ladies’ Paradise… I have seen other bookstores, like this one.


It looks as old and used as the books it sells. And here’s a former bookstore in Bairro Alto.


I have seen the sign Pura Poesia on several walls…


Near Lisbon, in Sintra, there’s a stair named after Lord Byron,


near the Hotel Lawrence, where he used to stay.


But the loveliest bookish thing I saw in Lisbon is this book box in the tropical greenhouse Estufa Fria.


It’s in a little grove in this giant greenhouse


and you can leave books there for anyone to take. I love these book boxes that bloom in our cities and it was such an improbable place to find one. They remind us that books are meant to be shared.

That’s all folks!

I hope you enjoyed my little bookish tour of Lisbon because I sure had a lot of fun taking all these pictures. (Even if I’ve proven again that photographer is not a career for me)

  1. August 17, 2017 at 12:02 am

    Long live Livraria Bertrand. Thank you for taking
    your readers there.


    • August 17, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Yes, long live Livraria Bertrand. Thanks for reading this billet.


  2. August 17, 2017 at 1:53 am

    Merci beaucoup! I feel as if I have been there all over again:)


    • August 17, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      De rien! I loved the city and I’m always happy to share bookish things. These Literary Escapade billets are fun to write.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. August 17, 2017 at 3:15 am

    Great post Emma. I also love visiting bookstores in places that I visit. Our bookstores ghere in America are no where near as old but still lots of fun.

    The Jane Austen cover thing is both amusing and disturbing 🙂


    • August 17, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Readers are attracted to book even if they’re not in their own language. In Livraria Bertrand, they had a whole shelf of books in French, so I didn’t come out empty handed.


  4. August 17, 2017 at 9:01 am

    What a beautiful bookshop! I love those traditional Portuguese tiles on the outside of the building. Isn’t it wonderful to think that it has been going for nearly 300 years, surviving through many changes in the country? Long may it continue. Thanks for sharing your memories of this trip – it’s been interesting to read them.


    • August 17, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      It’s amazing to think that this bookstore was there in Voltaire’s time and all these years.
      I’m glad you enjoy my Literary Escapade billets, thanks for letting me know.


  5. August 17, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Lovely images brought back happy memories of my visit there last spring & Porto this year with its tourist-packed Harry Potter bookshop, which looks very like Bertrand inside.


    • August 17, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      They have a Harry Potter bookshop in Porto? Aren’t they all in Scotland? 🙂
      Porto is a city I want to visit too.

      The inside of the bookstore reminded me of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, another great bookshop to visit.


  6. August 17, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    What a lovely trip! Thank you for sharing this with us – the bookshops look lovely!


  7. August 17, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    nowt hats what I call a real bookshop. how beautiful is that tiling


    • August 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      It’s a wonderful bookstore.


  8. August 21, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    I also wonder about the covers with just legs. I wonder if publishers want to create mystery by leaving out faces or think that a face might sway the sale negatively. I have no idea. Just speculating.
    It’s interesting to see what it for sale in another country.


    • August 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      It’s weird, these covers without faces. Do you think it is to avoid to show skin colour and please everyone? You can imagine what you want: the woman might be white, black, Asian…
      I like visiting bookshops even if I don’t understand the language just to see what’s for sale. It’s interesting to see if which authors are everywhere, what place the local writers have, etc.


      • August 23, 2017 at 5:02 pm

        Could be. I hadn’t thought of that. I was interested to see Kerry Lonsdale selling there. Not my thing but interesting she has a readership there


        • August 23, 2017 at 10:52 pm

          I had to google Kerry Lonsdale. Not my cup of tea either.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. August 22, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    I enjoyed this very much. I’d love to visit Lisbon.


    • August 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks Caroline. I hope you’ll have the chance to go to Lisbon.


  10. August 31, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    That was lovely. Thanks. I do like the little book box too.

    The covers with legs thing, I wonder if the idea is that the (assumed female) reader can imagine herself into the cover? It could be something stupid like that. Or it could just be it got copied and became a thing for no reason other than it was already a thing.


    • September 2, 2017 at 8:22 am

      I was delighted to discover this book box hidden in all this greenery.

      I should ask questions about these covers to publishers accessible on Twitter or ask @VendrediLecture to ask the question.


  1. September 3, 2017 at 12:12 pm

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