Why You Should Visit The Lisbon Book Fair

Some books are content to be seen by the eyes of a small and specific niche. Others implore to be reissued, redistributed, translated, reissued again with hip new cover art that allows them to bridge the generations. 

At Lisbon's Feira do Livros you'll find both types of book. And more. 

This year marks the 88th edition of the fair. 88 years of drawing Lisboetas to the sprawling lawns of Parque Eduardo VII. 88 years of fanning the flames that burn between bibliophile and book. Still today, a visit to the fair is something of an annual ritual for locals. After all, there's no replacing the quiet joy that comes from browsing row after row of colourful spines, new and old - and doubly so when it can be done in the open air under perfect spring skies. 

Here are 5 reasons to visit the fair:

1. It's a reminder that books are not dead.  The magic of books is in more than the words, it's in the touch and smell of printed letters on paper. For all the smartphones and tablets and ebook readers in the world, nothing can replace the feel of the real thing. And the Portuguese have definitely not given up on the printed book just yet. After 85 years of Feira do Livros, Lisbon locals are still coming, browsing, buying, reading, and enjoying the magic of books. 

2. The jacarandas. June is for Jacarandas. Before you enter Park Eduardo VII you'll have to pass through their florescent purple curtain. Take a minute to breathe in their beauty: when the last petals blanket the ground, you won't see them again until next year. 

3. To eat and drink. Reading is an activity that's even better when accompanied by a good snack. At the fair you'll find old fashioned lemonade stands, fresh watermelon juice that tastes like summer, kiosks, street food vans and traditional sweets. With a drink and bite to eat, the act of sitting in the sun reading is complete.

4. To discover these three highlights of Parque Eduardo VII.  At first glance, Parque Eduardo VII might look like little more than a long stretch of grass embossed with hedge-maze patterns. But explore it more fully, and you'll discover some gems.

Firstly, there's the view. Go right to the top of the park, where you'll find an interesting monument - a fountain rising out of stone ruins that commemorates the 1974 Revolution. From here, you have a god's view of the city: one that stretches past the iconic Marquês de Pombal statue and all the way to the Tagus river.

Secondly, there's Estufa Fria. Have you heard of this indoor arcadia of greenery? Follow the path off to the west of the park and you'll end up at this living museum. Built inside a former quarry, Estufa Fria (which means "cold greenhouse") houses hundreds of different plants from around the world alongside water features and man-made streams. Find a corner that calls out to you, sit and bask in the cool air and peaceful surrounds. Close your eyes and note the scents of the damp earth and lush plants, listen to the droplets of water crescendoing into a full symphony of aqueous noise. Get lost in your senses. Or, of course, you can take your new favourite book and get lost in that instead. 

And now thirdly. On the other side of the park is the beautiful Pavilhão Carlos Lopes. The building is flanked by imposing statues, covered in impressive azulejos (tiles) depicting historical scenes, and decorated with stone faces whose eyes seem to follow you as you pass by.

Opened in Lisbon in 1932, the building became a famous sports pavilion in the 1940s, hosting the World Championship of Roller Hockey in 1947. In the 1980s it was renamed after Portuguese athlete Carlos Lopes. The pavilion closed down over a decade ago, and up until recently was abandoned and falling to ruin. Now it's been completely restored to its former glory and is worth exploring.

5. To get to know some locals. Antonio has been selling ice-cream for 40 years.

He sells ice-cream out of a little red cart attached to a little red motorbike that's 61 years old. He tells us he's owned the bike for 46 years. 

"This park was one of the pearls of Lisbon," he tells us in Portuguese. "40 years ago it was very well taken care of, but now it's a little bit neglected. Today there is too much freedom." 

Though Antonio reminisces that the Lisbon of 40 years ago was far more beautiful, he's never given up his love for the city or for serving ice-cream with a smile. And after 40 years, he knows his business well. 

"If ice-cream quenched the thirst," he tells a customer with old-fashioned frankness, "I wouldn't be here selling it tomorrow." 

The locals, the views, the food and drinks, and of course, the books. Need you more reason to make your way there? The fair runs until June 14 and you can find more information at

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