Opinion: The World’s Oldest Bookstore

I recently spent a glorious weekend in Lisbon, and before I went, while doing the usual research into the highlights of the city, I discovered that it was home to the world’s oldest bookstore! Imagine my delight.

The Bertrand bookshop is 285 years old, established by Pedro Faure in 1732. I think I was expecting to find a tiny little bookstore, dark with a few books, but it is actually a splendid corner building clad in the most magnificent blue and white tiles. I actually took a picture of the building before realising it was the bookshop I was looking for!

In 1742, Faure added an associate to his business, Pierre Bertrand and then on Faure’s death in 1753, Pierre and his brother, Jean Joseph, took over the business and gave it it’s now famous name. Over the years it has expanded, so that this store is now the founding shop of the Bertrand Livreiros chain, with over 50 bookshops across Portugal.


Inside, it has been wonderfully maintained and I loved the rounded cavernous rooms, curved corners and the fact that it was all on the ground floor, it just kept going back and back like Aladdin’s cave. The smell of wood and books that hit you as you walked in was just divine. I also loved the wood panelled shelves and the old-school ladder used to reach books on the higher shelves, mainly because it’s the closest I’ve come to being in the bookstore that Belle visits in the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast.  Obviously, most of the books were in Portuguese, but it was so calming to browse the shelves and see the wide range on offer.


When we walked past the Bertrand bookstore on a Saturday morning, a book market was taking place outside – not sure if it was actually linked to the store or just on the road next to it, but either way, it was the perfect setting (pictured below.) Again, most of the books were Portuguese, but I did manage to find a few English language ones tucked away on some of the tables, including a vintage Agatha Christie (with a giant fly on the cover), which I snapped up for €1. Bargain.

The Bertrand bookstore was a truly delightful place and a must-visit if you ever find yourself in Lisbon.


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