Expat Essentials

Mónica Da Silva in Portugal: My quick guide to accessing public libraries in Lisbon 

Are you a book lover? Do you enjoy keeping up to date with the latest books, or love re-reading your favourites over and over again? Are you keen on fiction stories or obsessed with romantic novels? Whatever the case, this post has great news for you: You can have access to all the books and documents available on the public libraries of Lisbon and even take them home for free.

I am a book lover but also a student, and I must admit that I can’t afford all the books I need for my degree, so I use the services of public libraries frequently. More often than not, I have several books at home that I borrowed from the library.

I think this service is great for students, book lovers and also very useful if you are learning Portuguese and need some books to improve your reading. Furthermore, some of the libraries have a decent collection of books in foreign languages: the most common are English, Spanish and French. You will definitely find something for you! 

Each municipality of Lisbon has its own group of public libraries in which you can find a wide range of books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, newspapers and magazines. Some of these documents and media can be borrowed for you to enjoy them in the comfort of your home for up to 30 days. In order to take books home, it is necessary to register as a user and obtain a library card, but this isn’t necessary if you just want to use the material inside the library.

How to register

The process may vary depending on each municipality but the steps in Lisbon are very simple. Any resident older than 16 years old can ask for a library card that’s valid up to 10 years. Although the card is nontransferable, you can assign two people who are allowed to use it.

To request the card, you will need to fill a form with your information. After filling it, you will have to go to any library of the network with your identification and ask for your card. The map below shows the location of public libraries in the Lisbon area:

Map showing locations of public libraries around Lisbon

The network of public libraries also offers other services such as  access to computers and wifi networks, spaces with cafeterias and gardens, and workshops for families and children. Another very useful feature is the online catalog that allows you to look for a book by title or author, check in which of the libraries it can be found, if it can be borrowed, and if it’s available.

Furthermore, once you have your card you can access the online catalog, make reservations and manage the renewals of the books or documents you have at home. 

There are also specialised services like a braille library available in Olivais, a sound library available in Biblioteca Orlando Ribeiro, a newspaper library, and for lovers of comics, there is a space with over ten thousand titles also available in Olivais. You can keep up with all the events and workshops organised by the network of public libraries of Lisbon on their website

Here’s a list from Tripadvisor of the most beautiful libraries in the city.

There are four libraries on this Dispatches list of the best free workspace in Lisbon.

About the author:

Mónica da Silva comes from a small town near Caracas, Venezuela where she was born. Mónica was raised by her parents and grandparents who left Portugal in the 70s. After living in Germany for some time, she decided to move to Lisbon where she has been since 2018.

She studied Modern Languages and is currently pursuing a degree in European Studies. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and a bit of German. She loves traveling, learning about different cultures and tasting new flavors. You can follow her on Instagram: @monique_df

Read more of Mónica’s posts for Dispatches here.

Read more about Lisbon and Portugal in our Dispatches archives.

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