Bookshops with History in Lisbon

Traditional businesses have been struggling to survive the advent of online shopping since the noughties. And bookshops in Lisbon are no exception. Many readers, however, still thankfully find it delightful to browse shelves and tables full of old and brand-new releases. There’s something special about the possibility of holding books, admiring their covers and take some of them home with us if the blurbs are captivating.

The Lisbon city council has set up the project “Lojas com História” (“Historic Shops”), in February 2015, in order to protect the traditional businesses that are significant for the identity of the Portuguese capital. Some economic activities are, after all, part of the cultural heritage of various cities worldwide. Not only does this programme provide marketing support to shopkeepers, but it also offers financial aid as, for example, rents soar. Two bookshops in the Chiado neighbourhood are part of this project – Bertrand and Ferin.

Located at Rua Garrett in a beautiful building adorned with blue tiles, the Bertrand Bookshop holds the title for the oldest bookshop in the world still in operation. Open since 1732, it was founded by Pedro Faure, a French bookseller who moved to Lisbon. Later, he chose as an associate Pierre Bertrand, who also married his daughter. It has a diverse selection of books from a variety of genres, displayed in multiple rooms with archway ceilings. The majority of the books are Portuguese editions, but you can also find many books in French, Spanish and English, including new releases. Continue reading


Discovering Fernando Pessoa around Lisbon

The life of Fernando Pessoa is imprinted in the city of Lisbon. While strolling around the Chiado and downtown neighbourhoods, we can find many traces of the poet’s usual daily life activities as well as some of the houses where he lived in. But the best place to start discovering more about Pessoa in Portugal’s capital is in the Campo de Ourique neighbourhood, where it’s located an institution whose main purpose is to disseminate the author’s work and biography.

‘Casa Fernando Pessoa’ opened, in 1993, in the building where the poet lived during the fifteen years preceding his death. He moved with his family to the number 16 at Rua Coelho da Rocha in 1920. Although he only lived in the apartment on the first floor right, the public institution occupies the entirety of the building. The main attractions of the house are a reconstruction of his bedroom, the multimedia room and the library specialising in world poetry.

On arrival at ‘Casa Fernando Pessoa’, whose white front is festooned with famous quotes by the poet, I was advised by one of the members of the friendly staff to start the visit on the top floor and walk my way down. There, it is set up a multimedia room where visitors can learn more about the life and work of Pessoa. Have you never heard of his heteronyms? There you can find plenty of information about them. The various images of Pessoa on the walls convey that idea of an author who wrote under different personalities. Continue reading

José Saramago’s Work in Exhibition at ‘Casa dos Bicos’

Not far from the bank of the river Tagus in Lisbon, at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, there is a hundred-year-old olive tree underneath which José Saramago’s ashes are buried. But that is not the only spot you can visit in case you’re interested in the work of the renowned Portuguese writer. Nearby, the José Saramago Foundation houses a permanent exhibition named The Seed and the Fruits focusing on his life and work.

The José Saramago Foundation is a private cultural institution which has been headquartered at ‘Casa dos Bicos’ since 2012. The name of the house stems from its original façade decorated in diamond-shaped protrusions that resemble beaks (‘bicos’ in Portuguese). It was built in the early 16th century and survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which destroyed great part of the city.

The walls of the first floor, which houses the permanent exhibition, are festooned not only with the various books written by José Saramago and their translations into many languages, but also with photographs in which he is in the company of other authors, artists and politicians. Inside the many display cases, there are edited manuscripts, personal organisers and notebooks, which he used to take notes while writing. It’s also possible to listen to Saramago reading excerpts from some of his books, including O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ) and O Memorial do Convento (Baltasar & Blimunda), to watch his Nobel Prize in Literature speech and to see the respective medal. Continue reading