More or less well-known, ancient or modern, libraries are much more than mere deposits of books. They are magical places, full of history and wisdom, true treasures waiting to be discovered. Accept the invitation from All About Portugal and be amazed by the gems that parade on the shelves, the sumptuous or lighter decoration, the smell of old books and even, the silence... If you are passionate about Literature, History, or the Art by the great Masters of Architecture, embark on this adventure to discover 10 of the most beautiful Libraries in Portugal!
Library of the National Palace of Mafra
It is an authentic national treasure, recognized both nationally and internationally for its beauty, majestic architecture, its history, and the valuable heritage it houses. There are almost forty thousand books, from the 15th to the 18th century, on all areas of knowledge. Among several rarities, such as a polyglot Bible from 1514 or the first Encyclopaedia, we can find an amazing nucleus of prohibited books. In the delicate task of preserving the volumes, the main role rests with the resident bats, which help to fight insect pests. Entry requires prior booking.
Joanine Library, University of Coimbra
A masterpiece of the Baroque, it easily integrates any list of the most beautiful libraries in Portugal and in the world. In their gold-lined shelves, countless relics delight researchers from all over the globe. A first edition of Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões or a Hebrew Bible are some well-kept treasures of the library of the University of Coimbra. To preserve them, visits are limited to small groups and no more than 20 minutes. Enjoy every second.
Library of the Galveias Palace
In Campo Grande, Lisbon, in a noble palace from the late 17th century, discover one of the most important and beautiful libraries in Portugal. Find refuge in the garden or on the terrace and, inside, pay attention to the details: the marbles and wood, the decorated ceilings, the tiles, and the busts. Let yourself be inspired by the unique atmosphere of the rooms full of light, as did, for example, José Saramago, a frequent visitor to the library. The largest room was later named after the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Municipal Library of Viana do Castelo
The linear design, the materials, the light that comes through the huge windows... Everything in this building, opened in 2008, in the riverside area of Viana, has the well-marked signature of its author, Álvaro Siza Vieira. Whether due to the architecture, its books or the countless activities promoted in the space, there is no lack of excuses to visit the library, a real tribute to three of the greatest names in Portuguese literature: Luís de Camões, José Saramago and Fernando Pessoa.
Library of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences
The gilded bookshelves that line the walls, the frescoes on the ceiling, the frieze where busts of notables from the sciences world and, obviously, the books, fill with magic one of the most important libraries in Portugal, installed in the old Convent of Nossa Senhora de Jesus. Among the valuable assets, there are numerous works of a scientific character and a remarkable collection of books and manuscripts from the 14th to the 17th century. It is open to the public, but if you want to discover the secrets and stories of the space, book a guided tour in advance.
Public Library of Évora
It is one of the oldest libraries in Portugal, created more than 200 years ago in a building erected on the remains of the old Castle of Évora, right next to the Roman Temple. Recent works have recovered the lustre of other times in a library that has one of the richest Portuguese heritage collections, which includes parchments, manuscripts, incunabula, geographic charts, musical scores and hundreds of newspaper and magazine titles.
Municipal Public Library of Porto
It was a Franciscan convent before hosting, from 1842 on, the Royal Library. The building, full of history, is worth a visit in itself - the tile panels, the interior garden and the unmistakable smell of old books are an invitation to an authentic journey through time. From the estate, we highlight the notable collection of periodicals, musical manuscripts, old maps, letters from writers and other Portuguese personalities and even an “Autograph Museum”.
Municipal Library Florbela Espanca, Matosinhos
Surrounded by a mirror of water, the Municipal Library Florbela Espanca seems to hang in the air, such is the lightness of its lines, designed by the architect Alcinho Soutinho, contrasting with the imposing building of the Matosinhos City Hall. The agenda is usually filled with exhibitions, storytelling hours and art workshops. Besides, among books, newspapers and magazines, there is a whole universe at your disposal, to consult or take home.
Library of the Portuguese Red Cross
In the Palace of the Counts of Óbidos, home of the Portuguese Red Cross, there is a little-known library that is a treat for the view. Look up: the imposing crystal chandelier, in the centre of the room, shares the attention with the beautiful paintings that fill the ceiling with episodes and characters from the History of Portugal. The shelves hold more than twenty thousand works, among which you will find everything about Human Rights.
Almeida Garrett Municipal Library, Porto
Designed by architect José Manuel Soares, the building, with simple and modern lines, integrates perfectly with the bucolic landscape of the gardens of the Crystal Palace. Inside, wide, and full of light, there is an exhibition gallery and, on the upper floors, thousands of books, periodicals, and audio-visual documents. And what greater pleasure than flipping through a book or reading a newspaper to the sound of birds chirping?