If you’re a book lover, Portugal should be on your list of places to visit! From century-old libraries to several iconic places that have inspired authors from all over the world, a vast collection of poets, writers and even a Nobel Prize in Literature... there are plenty of reasons to discover Portugal's love affair with literature!
Some of the world's most beautiful libraries and bookstores are also in Portugal, which makes it the perfect place for anyone fascinated by book-covered walls!
Discover why Portugal is an amazing place for book lovers...
From Portugal's most famous writers to writers inspired by Portugal...
When thinking about Portuguese literature, the name José Saramago (1922 – 2010) automatically comes to mind. Especially after having won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, making him the first Portuguese writer to achieve such recognition.
In 2003, Harold Bloom, one of the world's most famous literary critics, described Saramago as "the most gifted novelist alive in the world". To this day, he is considered one of the most influential Portuguese writers of all time.
Some of Saramago's best works include “The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis”, “The History of the Siege of Lisbon” and "Blindness", adapted to a movie in 2008 by director Fernando Meirelles.
You can visit the José Saramago Foundation in the famous Casa dos Bicos, at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, number 10, Lisbon.
Throughout history, Portugal has inspired writers from all nationalities to create unique literary universes. For example, British writer J.K. Rawling, creator of the Harry Potter book series, is also frequently associated with Portugal. The world-famous author wrote part of the book “The Philosopher’s Stone” in Porto, while living in the city in the ’90s. Some parts were actually written in the iconic Majestic Café.
Some people believe that several places and items that are part of the Harry Potter books are actually inspired by Portugal. Such as the capes worn by the wizards at Hogwarts, which are very similar to those worn by students at the University of Coimbra. Portuguese influences are also present in a famous character, as J.K. Rawling has admitted that Portugal's dictator António Salazar was the inspiration behind the evil character Salazar Slytherin.
Other famous books inspired by Portugal include:
"The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon" by Richard Zimler
"Alentejo Blue" by Monica Ali
"Night Train to Lisbon" by Pascal Mercier
"Requiem: A Hallucination" by António Tabucchi
"The High Mountains of Portugal" by Yann Martel
"Distant Music" by Lee Langley
"300 Days of Sun" by Deborah Lawrenson
Best places to visit in Portugal as a book lover...
If you’re a book lover planning a visit to Portugal, don't forget to include some of the world's most beautiful libraries and bookstores in your itinerary:
Livraria Lello (Porto)
Located in Porto, Livraria Lello dates back to 1906. This bookstore is famous for its incredible variety of books, as well as its beautiful neo-gothic architecture. As soon as you walk in, you are welcomed by an impressive red staircase carved in wood and direct sunlight that comes through a stained-glass window.
As you look up and around, thousands of books fill the countless shelves and stunning architectural pieces fascinate everyone… no wonder it’s considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and one of the main attractions in the city of Porto!
Livraria Bertrand (Chiado)
Visiting the Bertrand bookshop, in Chiado Lisbon, is like walking through Portuguese history and literature. In 2011, Guinness World Records acknowledged it is the oldest bookstore in the world still running (since 1732).
In its seven rooms, you will find countless books and stories to share. Many famous Portuguese writers, such as Eça de Queirós and Alexandre Herculano, used to visit this bookstore, not only to read and socialize but also to participate in gatherings that took place there.
Joanina Library (University of Coimbra)
When visiting the city of Coimbra, the Joanina Library is a mandatory stop! Built in 1728, it is widely famous for its extensive collection of books and literary works, but also its stunning Baroque-style carvings, paintings and architecture.
Joanina is home to a rich collection of books from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as rare editions, showcased on lavishly decorated century-old shelves.
Library of the Mafra Convent (Mafra)
Considered one of the most important libraries in the world, the library of the Convent of Mafra is part of a beautiful palace, built in 1717 by Portuguese king D. João V. The library is home to several rare books written between the 15th and 19th centuries.
The largest room in the Mafra Convent library has over 40,000 books, arranged and aligned on beautifully decorated rococo-style shelves. Their leather bindings and gold engravings contain pages holding centuries of knowledge and culture.
As in the Joanina Library, the Mafra Convent also relies on the precious help of bats to naturally preserve the physical integrity of its books. The bats come out at night to eat the insects that would otherwise damage these masterpieces of world literature.
Santiago Bookstore (Óbidos)
The bookstore in the Church of São Tiago is another amazing place for book lovers! Located in Óbidos, it is located within the medieval walls of Óbidos Castle.
The bookstore offers a wide variety of books, film screenings, debates, book launches and even exhibitions. The shelves are placed in circles, which makes this place even more unique.
Óbidos is also part of UNESCO's City of Literature programme, hosting annually several literary events which have given a new impetus to the cultural life of this Silver Coast town. Namely:
FOLIO - Festival Internacional de Óbidos - This international literary festival includes book launches, debates, round tables, interviews, autograph sessions and conversations between writers and readers.
LATITUDES – TRAVEL AND LITERATURE - Dedicated to literature and travellers, this event is a meeting point for big names in travel literature.
Óbidos Poetry Sessions.
Ler Devagar (Lisbon)
Ler Devagar (which in Portuguese means "Slow Reading") is also considered one of the world's most beautiful bookstores. This bookstore in Lisbon has been featured in the New York Times and other famous publications around the world, which has brought thousands of new visitors to this beautiful spot in Portugal's capital.
Inside, you can find walls filled with books up to the ceiling, the sculpture of a bicycle floating and a wide cultural program, including concerts, workshops, dance shows, debates, etc.
In addition, Ler Devagar is located in the Alcântara neighbourhood, more specifically at Lx Factory, a busy and vibrant area of Lisbon where you can find shops, restaurants, workshops and people from all over the world!
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