Question: You’re in a history walled city, but you need to find a 21st century bookstore. Where do you look? Did you check the church?!?! If’ you’re in the picturesque, central Portugal village of Óbidos, you should go to Igreja de São Tiago. This centuries old church has been transformed into a beautiful, unique, and certainly cool, bookstore that should not be missed.
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The Church of São Tiago was built in 1186 by Portuguese king D. Sancho I. It was used by the royal family when they would visit their Óbidos castle. In fact, one doorway of the church opened directly into the castle. Sadly, the church was completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1755, the same disaster that leveled much of Lisbon. It was rebuilt in 1772.
In recent years, the church was abandoned and fell into ruin. Yet, literary champions from popular bookstore Ler Devagar in Lisbon recognized potential in the structure. They corralled support from the European investors to the tune of €300,000 and began the transformation.
The seed of this idea continued to grow, however. In addition to the church, the team began to renovate more abandoned structures. One, a former organic market was re-imagined. Now, instead of holding fruits and vegetables, the baskets and bins hold paperbacks and magazines. The new literary shop extends to eight unique spaces.
The inventory is quite extensive with Portuguese and other international language books. Themes range from poetry, religion, creativity, history and design, to food, wine, travel and adventure. Children’s books are always quite popular.
Livraria de Santiago is just one entity of a growing literary and arts movement in the village. A cultural association, called Vila Literária, has been formed to focus on art, photography design and literature. Shops in this consortium include, Galeria Pelourinho, Residência Josefa de Óbidos, Museu Municipal, Museu Abílio, Galeria Nova Ogiva, Mercado, Centro de Design de Interiores, Pedro e o Lobo, Edifício dos Correios and Histórias com Bicho.
For more information, visit the Óbidos Vila Literaria website.
Livraria de Santiago
Igreja de São Tiago
Phone: +351 262 103 180
Sunday to Thursday – 10:00 to 19:00
Friday & Saturday – 10:00 to 21:00
See our stories on other beautiful and unique spaces dedicated to books in Portugal.