Buying Books in Portugal

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Last updated on June 14, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 7 minutes

Buying books, especially foreign-language books, can be a challenge in Portugal. And, if you can find the book you want, it often costs a lot more than you’re used to paying for a book. Getting used to the higher prices for books is just a part of living in Portugal, but the bigger challenge is not being able to find the book you want at all. 

All of this wasn’t such a big issue prior to Brexit. However, now that the UK has left the EU, ordering new and second-hand books in English (and other languages) is now much harder. You can still order books from the UK, of course, but customs fees and handling charges make it much more expensive. The same applies with ordering books from the US. 

English Language Books

The simplest solution to buying books in Portugal, particularly for English and other foreign-language books, is to buy a Kindle or some other form of e-reader. Yes, books are nice to hold, but having a Kindle will mean you can easily look up what you’re looking for and, in most cases, download it straight away. And, if you register the Kindle to an address in the UK or US, your English-language options will be greater and your costs lower. 

Not convinced? Try downloading the Kindle app on your phone to see what options are available. If you’re happy, switch from reading on your phone to buying a Kindle from Amazon Spain. The Kindle Paperwhite is probably the best option for most people, but if you want to be able to easily access books in Portuguese as well, you may want something than can read EPUB files as this is the format Portuguese shops like Wook sell their ebooks in. These e-readers are more expensive and a bit more experimental than the Kindle, which is why the Kindle is typically the best option for most people. 

For paperback books, Amazon.de (Amazon Germany) and Amazon.es (Amazon Spain) are both good places to look. Amazon Spain, in particular, is a good option as it offers free shipping to Portugal if you purchase €19 or more of books. 

EBay.es is also useful as it allows you to search for books, particularly as you can select to search across the whole of the European Union. Most of the results are from booksellers in Germany, and are brand new books rather than second-hand, but it’s still a good backup option to have as well as Amazon. 

If you’re not looking for a specific book, but rather any English-language books, Facebook can also be a good place to look. 

Many Portuguese bookshops will also have an English-language section. They’re typically only a few shelves, and books will be more expensive than in the UK or US, but it’s still always worth having a look. 

Second-hand books can be hard to find in Portugal but there are a few options in Portugal.

Lisbon

  1. Salted Books, Santos, Lisbon – Founded by Alex Holder, an English journalist and writer, in 2023, Salted Books offers new English-language books, engaging talks, and events that attract both expats and Portuguese readers alike.
  2. Bivar Books, Estefânia, Lisbon – A treasure trove for lovers of secondhand English books, Bivar Books stands out for its extensive collection of Penguin editions and science fiction novels.
  3. Ler Devagar, LX Factory, Alcântara, Lisbon – Set in one of Lisbon’s most picturesque locations, Ler Devagar is primarily a Portuguese bookshop but stocks a number of works by contemporary American and British authors.
  4. Bertrand Livreiros, Chiado, Lisbon – Holding the title of the world’s oldest bookstore still in operation, Bertrand Livreiros offers a decent array of English-language books. Visiting here is also a unique experience in itself.
  5. Livraria Sá da Costa, Chiado, Lisbon – Situated near Bertrand’s flagship store, Livraria Sá da Costa is an antique bookstore with a remarkable selection of English-language books.
  6. Palavra de Viajante, São Bento, Lisbon – A haven for travellers, Palavra de Viajante curates a wide selection of guidebooks, travel journals, and luxury photo books. It stocks both Portuguese and English titles, catering to a diverse audience of globetrotters and literature enthusiasts.
  7. Livraria Britânica, Principe Real, Lisbon – Specialising in English language learning and teaching materials since 1981, Livraria Britânica offers a unique selection that caters to educators, students, and general readers looking for classics and children’s books in English.

Porto

  • Flaneur– Nestled near the iconic Casa da Música, Flâneur stands out as a beacon for bibliophiles in Porto. This enchanting bookstore and publisher captivates visitors with its warm, inviting atmosphere and thoughtfully curated collection, featuring captivating works in English among other languages.
  • Livraria Leitura – A cornerstone of Porto’s literary community, Livraria Leitura boasts an impressive selection of novels and technical books in English, French, and Spanish. It serves as a cultural hub for readers seeking both leisurely reads and specialized knowledge, catering to a diverse audience with its multilingual offerings.
  • Livraria Lello – Renowned for its stunning architecture and historical significance, Livraria Lello is not just a bookstore but a landmark of Porto. It offers a wide range of books in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German, alongside travel guides in Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. Despite its popularity among tourists and the requirement to purchase a ticket for entry, the bookstore remains a top destination for book lovers, with the ticket price redeemable against book purchases.
  • Poetria – Nestled within the charming Galerias Lumière, Poetria is a sanctuary for poetry enthusiasts. Specializing in bilingual poetry books, it provides a unique selection that spans Portuguese and English, French, German, or Spanish. Notably, Poetria features works by the famed Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa in English, offering a deep dive into his profound and emotive verses.

Algarve

  1. Algarve Book Cellar – Nestled on Rua dos Pescadores, Algarve Book Cellar is an English-language bookstore that has become a cornerstone for book lovers in the region since its opening in 2002. The bookstore boasts a vast collection of at least 400,000 books, offering a book exchange program, refunds on returns, and a selection of audio books, CDs, and videos.

Elsewhere

  1. FNAC, Nationwide – While primarily known as an electronics retailer, FNAC stores typically have a decent collection of English, French, and Spanish-language literature, including classic and contemporary works. Its online store offers fast delivery, ensuring readers have quick access to the latest releases.
  2. Bertrand – Bertrand has stores across Portugal, including places like Braga, Guimarães, Évora, and Madeira.

Portuguese Books

Finding Portuguese books is, unsurprisingly, considerably easier in Portugal. The main bookshops are Bertrand and Fnac, as well as online bookshop, Wook, which also has plenty of titles as well. You’ll also stumble across bookstalls, often in shopping centres or outside, selling both new and second-hand Portuguese books and then there’s the annual Feira do Livro de Lisboa or Lisbon Book Fair. If you’re looking for interesting books to read in Portuguese, this is an event that’s not to be missed.

There are a few Portuguese second-hand bookshops in Portugal, particularly in larger cities like Lisbon and Porto. If you can’t find one near you, try TradeStories.pt, an online marketplace for buying and selling second-hand books. Most of the books are in Portuguese, but you’ll also find books in other languages like German, French, Spanish, and Italian as well. 

Other Languages

Finding books in languages besides English and Portuguese can be even harder. Bertrand and Wook both have sections for Spanish and French-language books, but, naturally, the selection is quite small. 

If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, the same advice applies. Other Amazon sites (e.g. Amazon Germany) are great, particularly if you’re looking for books in German, but a Kindle is definitely the easiest option.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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Comments

  1. Does anyone know of a good way to purchase Portuguese books easily to be sent to the US? I find that Brazilian and Portuguese bookstores online request some sort of tax ID and therefore cannot complete any purchases.

    Purchasing French, Italian, or German language texts from retailers in France, Italy, or Germany does not present this challenge.

    Reply
    • Portuguese online shops will normally request a NIF, which is a 9-digit tax number that people in Portugal use when making many purchases. In most cases you can just put nine zeros and it’ll be accepted.

      Reply
  2. If you are in the US and looking for books in Portuguese, try Amazon (US). There are quite a few available there. Or try eBay because I’ve had plenty of items shipped to the US without needing to use my Portuguese NIF number (frankly, in Portugal, you’re not required to use it to make purchases or tourists would be unable to buy anything).

    Reply

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