Livraria Bertrand – the world’s oldest operating bookshop

One of the best things about visiting a city where you know a local is you get all the tips that the guide books don’t give you. This is especially handy if you are me, and too lazy to read guide books. S& J kindly gave us lots of tips about great places to go and walked us around some cool neighbourhoods to make sure we found them. One place they knew L & I would love was Livraria Bertrand, the world’s oldest operating bookshop (they have a Guinness World Records certificate and everything.) L works in publishing, so is even more of a book junkie than me, and both of us were delighted that Lisbon is so well-served for bookshops, both new and second-hand (we also popped into the theatre bookshop, theatre nerds that we are).

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Opened in 1732, in the district of Chiado, Bertrand is a gorgeous space, well-stocked not just with Portuguese titles (nothing makes me wish I spoke more languages than seeing foreign-language edition books) but also a decent selection of English language titles (pro-tip: don’t just look in the section marked English language, they also have some English titles in the spinners located around the shop). There is a nice little coffee shop out back, and the day we went there was also a second-hand book fare going on in the adjacent alley, with about half a dozen book stalls. Although clearly aware of its status as a tourist magnet, it also feels very much just like a great bookstore – the people ahead of me in the queue were just buying their everyday books, rather than ‘souvenirs’ (in fact, the shop is very low on own-brand merchandise – I would have liked to buy something branded!).

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If you buy a book they will also stamp it to prove you bought it there (you might have to ask, and they will give you an option between having it stamped in English or Portuguese.) Again my small suitcase prevented me /protected me from buying tons of books, though of course I had to make at least ONE purchase to get that treasured stamp…

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