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Livraria Bertrand – Visit the Oldest Bookshop in the World (2024)!

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Did you know that the oldest bookstore in the world is Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, Portugal? 

Established in 1732, its claim as the oldest operating bookshop has been verified by Guinness World Records. 

It’s had a turbulent history over the centuries but was once a hive of the Portuguese author elite. Today, it’s a literary empire being the largest book network in the country.

If you’re a reading lover you must visit their original bookstore in Chiado covered in stunning Azulejo tiles. 

Here’s how to visit Livraria Bertrand, the world’s oldest bookshop in Lisbon. 

Livraria Bertrand Oldest Bookshop in the World

Top Lisbon Travel Resources

  • Buy a Lisbon Card for entry to major attractions and free public transport
  • Don’t forget travel insurance, I always use World Nomads

What is the oldest bookshop in the world?

The oldest bookshop in the world is Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, Portugal and it was established in 1732. 

Now, I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I heard about this as there are a lot of bookshops around the world that claim to be the oldest.

But, Livraria Bertrand had their claim verified by Guinness World Records in 2010. 

They proudly showcase their certificate as the world’s ‘oldest operating bookshop’ near the front door for all visitors to see and have a plaque on their facade.

Livraria Bertrand Oldest Bookshop in the world

Livraria Bertrand history 

This bookshop was first established in 1732 but it has switched locations and ownership several times over the years.

It’s also seen many renovations and modernisations. It’s even changed its name nearly a dozen times so it has an interesting story to tell.

This bookstore was first created by Pedro Faure and opened in the Rua Direita do Loreto neighbourhood in Lisbon. Then, in 1747, the Bertrand Brothers were introduced as associates.

After Faure’s death, the bookshop was renamed ‘Bertrand Brothers’ who took over the enterprise. Tragically, the original store was destroyed during the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. 

This natural disaster would see over 85% of buildings in Lisbon levelled, including the Royal Ribeira Palace. The Royal family only survived as the princesses wanted to celebrate All Saints Day in Belém.

The quake and following tsunami would result in over 60,000 fatalities in the city and further deaths in the aftershocks that were felt in Spain and Morocco making it one of the largest earthquakes in European history. 

Livraria Bertrand Lisbon

In 1773, Livraria Bertrand reopened in a more secure location on Rua Garrett and has remained here in Chiado ever since. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, this bookshop would become a ‘tertulia’, almost like an elite literary book club. 

Some of Portugal’s most esteemed writers like Alexandre Herculano and Ramalho Ortigão would visit here to discuss and debate ideas. 

Today, Livraria Bertrand is a literary empire and the largest bookstore network in Portugal with over 59 branches nationwide.

But, every reading lover must visit their Chiado store as it’s the oldest operating bookshop in the world!

Livraria Bertrand oldest bookshop in the world

What do they sell in Livraria Bertrand?

As you would expect, most of the books that they sell in Livraria Bertrand are Portuguese books. 

Their offerings include classic works by famous Portuguese writers like Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago, the only Portuguese language writer to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature. 

There are also folios and works of historic poets such as Luís de Camões known as the Portuguese Shakespeare!

He is one of Portugal’s most famous writers and you’ll find his gilded epitaph in the National Pantheon.

But, they also stock the latest titles to hit the shelves and sell a large variety of English books and travel guides.

Livraria Bertrand Oldest Operating Bookshop

What to expect on your visit 

First, you’ll notice that this beautiful bookshop is covered in gorgeous Azulejo blue and white tiles. 

It’s a delight to photograph and there are many details to capture on the facade. Although it does look small from the outside, don’t let that fool you. It’s a large bookstore with many sections.

The first room is very impressive with its gorgeous dark wood bookshelves but as you walk further in through the vaulted archways, you’ll find rooms upon rooms filled with books.

As you walk through each of the arches between rooms, make sure to look at the floor as they have a timeline of the store and a directory. 

Livraria Bertrand Lisbon
Livraria Bertrand Lisbon

There’s a children’s section, a puzzle section and an entire section on travel guides if this is what you’re searching for. 

I loved the fact there were books in every nook and cranny here and some Chesterfield sofas to relax on. 

They really celebrate their heritage as the oldest bookshop in the world with lots of murals and information about the bookstore’s long history if you’re interested. 

I could have spent hours in here browsing their books. Despite their historic status, this bookshop is relatively quiet throughout the day and it was so relaxing!

Don’t forget: you can get any of your book purchases stamped when you check out at the register. It’s a great souvenir from the oldest bookshop in the world!

Livraria Bertrand Oldest bookstore in the world

Does Livraria Bertrand sell English books?

Yes, you’ll find a large selection of English books in the second room of the bookstore.

They had a beautiful collection of hardback classics and well-known titles. Plus, there were plenty of newer releases.

I’m a huge lover of Romantasy books and they had a surprisingly large selection on offer here. I bought A Touch of Chaos by Scarlett Sinclair which is part of the Hades x Persephone series!

Livraria Bertrand English Books
Livraria Bertrand Oldest Operating Bookshop

Livraria Bertrand Café

If you head to the very end of the bookshop, you’ll eventually arrive at their cosy Café Bertrand. 

I loved the murals on the walls of Fernando Pessoa, a famous Portuguese poet and writer, and the bookish decor!

Here, you can relax with a coffee and fresh pastry and delve into your new book.

It’s also a very popular place for locals to hang out and catch up with friends. You’ll often find patrons plugging in laptops to work or study. 

Livraria Bertrand Cafe Fernando Pessoa artwork

How to visit Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon

Livraria Bertrand can be found on the popular shopping street of Rua Garrett in Lisbon.

Fair warning, there are a few bookshops called Livraria Bertrand in the city as they are a popular chain. But, the oldest and most famous is in Chiado.

The bookstore is very close to Cafe A Brasileira, Santa Justa Lift, Carmo Convent, Lisbon Cathedral and Elevador de Bica and is easy to access on foot. Click here for a Google Pin. 

That being said, Lisbon is notorious for its steep streets and hills so it may be easier to catch one of the historic trams and funiculars to reach the bookstore. 

Livraria Bertrand is open from 9 am – 10 pm daily and is completely free to enter.

There is rarely a queue to go inside as it’s a huge bookshop. I went on a Saturday and there was barely anyone inside.

Livraria Bertrand do Chiado
Livraria Bertrand Chiado

My top tips for visiting the oldest bookshop in the world

  • Go anytime – unlike Livraria Lello in Porto, Livraria Bertrand rarely has a queue to go inside. It was relaxing to shop in here.
  • It’s free to visit – another great thing is that this bookshop is free to visit. But, don’t expect to leave empty-handed as there are so many amazing books to browse. Luckily, I didn’t have much room in my suitcase for purchases or my bank account would have suffered!
  • Leave lots of time – the entrance is quite deceiving but it stretches back through several buildings. Leave lots of time to look around all the sections.
  • Stamp your books – Livraria Bertrand has several stamps in different languages to stamp your purchases. It’s a lovely keepsake from the oldest bookshop in the world. 
Livraria Bertrand Chiado Lisbon

Don’t miss Café A Brasileira nearby 

Just up the road from Livraria Bertrand you will find a historic café that is more like an institution in Lisbon.

Café A Brasileira do Chiado is like stepping back in time. It was established in 1905 by Adriano Telles and has not changed much since it was first opened. 

Telles was born in Portugal but he lived in Brazil for some time and he wanted to bring back Brazilian coffee culture to Lisbon.

He opened his ‘Brasileira’s’ in the hope of making drinking coffee more of an enjoyable experience. 

Café A Brasileira do Chiado Lisbon

This coffee house has welcomed many literary figures over time such as Fernando Pessoa. You can find a life-size statue of him outside the café.

They are famous for their ‘Bica’ which is a strong short espresso and you must pair that with a freshly made pastel de nata!

As one of the most famous cafés in the city, expect queues throughout the day and prices to reflect its legendary status. 

Click here to read my review of Café A Brasileira do Chiado

Cafe A Brasileira Lisbon
Cafe A Brasileira

Looking for more things to do in Lisbon?

Lisbon is a beautiful city in Portugal. As it’s the capital, you can expect it to be busy throughout the year. 

Near Livraria Bertrand, you can find the historic Santa Justa Lift. You must take it to see beautiful views over the city skyline. Or, if the queues are too long, you can climb the steps to the side to see the views for free.

You can then pop into Carmo Covent, a goth ruin which gives you a look into the great earthquake of 1755. Don’t forget to try the cherry liquor, Ginjinha. 

Carmo Convent
Carmo Convent

There are plenty of Miradouros to enjoy amazing views over the city and one of the best is Miradouro de Santa Luzia near Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa).

Praça do Comércio is the heart of the city by the river with its Arco da Rua Augusta and from here you can visit the famous Pink Street and Time Out Market. 

Away from the historic centre, you can visit the incredible bohemian LX Factory art village with the famous Livraria Ler Devagar

Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Livraria Ler Devagar LX Factory Bookstore
Livraria Ler Devagar

Then, move on to Belem where there are plenty of incredible things to do along the mighty River Tagus.

I would recommend heading to the Belem Tower, Belem Lighthouse and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. 

You can also visit the MAAT museum and get a picture-perfect view over the 25 de Abril Bridge.

Belem Tower
Belém Tower
Jeronimos Monastery
Jeronimos Monastery

Further inland, you can visit the magical Jeronimos Monastery with its stunning cloister courtyard. These cloisters had some of the most beautiful carving work I had ever seen.

Just nearby, you must visit Pasteis de Belém which is the birthplace of the famous custard egg tarts. 

And no visit to Lisbon would be complete without a ride on a historic tram. You can catch the famous Tram 28 or take the Elevador de Bica.

Elevador de Bica
Elevador de Bica

Where to stay in Lisbon

During my visit to Lisbon, I stayed in the fabulous Pousada de Lisboa which is part of the Small Luxury Hotels Of The World.

It’s based in Praça de Commercio and used to be part of the Royal Ribeira Palace before the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake.

The entire square was rebuilt by Marquês de Pombal and this hotel was built on the previous Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Today, it has many luxurious rooms and suites to stay in the heart of Lisbon. Their breakfast buffet is exquisite in the mornings.

Also, whilst you’re here you must visit their RIB Beef & Wine restaurant which is a fine dining experience and top-rated in the city.

Click here to book your stay in Pousada de Lisboa

A Praça do Comércio Lisbon
Praça do Comércio

Read more of my Portugal travel guides

Palacio da Bolsa – How to visit Bolsa Palace in Porto

Livraria Lello – magical bookshop in Porto

Was Harry Potter written in Porto’s Café Majestic?

Visiting the fairytale Palacio da Bolsa aka Bolsa Palace

Why you shouldn’t skip Monserrate Palace in Sintra

The mysterious Initiation Well in Quinta de Regaleira

Save how to visit the oldest bookshop in the world for later!

How to visit Livraria Bertrand Oldest Bookshop in the World

Here are some Portugal travel resources

  • Flights: I use Skyscanner to look for flight deals. Try to be flexible with travel dates for the best prices.
  • Accommodation: is my go-to hotel platform and I’ve used them for years. 
  • Attractions & getting around: Make sure to buy a Lisbon Card for transport and attractions which will save you money.
  • Car rental: Rental Cars is a great choice that compares all sorts of rental companies and gets you the best price.
  • Activities: I love GetYourGuide and use the platform all the time for booking group tours and attraction tickets.
  • e-Reader: I love to read Romantasy books and I always take my beloved Kindle Oasis with me. It has an orange light and is waterproof which is perfect for lounging by the pool.
  • Travel insurance: I always use World Nomads to book travel insurance. You never know when you’ll need cover!