Staying at The Literary Man, Portugal

Zoe Macfarlane checks in to Portugal’s library hotel, The Literary Man.


An hour from Lisbon, The Literary Man is outside the fortified walls of the sleepy medieval town of Obidos, Portugal.

Check-in experience: Rows of books in the small lobby distracted me and I forgot all the standard check-in procedures, though the friendly female receptionist prompted me for my documents. Attention to detail was on-point with clever embellishments like an old-school typewriter displaying the rack rates.

Room: I was in a suite, with a hotel first for me — in-room bookshelves! A small reading area and wooden desk rounded out the space. It was once a convent, and the walls are so thick in this wing no one would be any wiser if you threw a book club meeting for 20.

My room was a little dark as there were only shutters at one end. This worked out well in the night when not a sliver of light crept in (I don’t recommend reading a horror novel before lights out). Though the rooms may be old, the amenities are standard, including safe, hairdryer and iron.

Price: Very affordable, with room rates starting from $150.

What’s so good about the place? The books! This boutique hotel is a book lover’s dream with 65,000 books filling every imaginable space. High ceilings and large corridors stop this from feeling imposing or cluttered. Every turn reveals a potential new book to be added to your TBR (to be read) pile.

And the bad? I couldn’t fault the property itself but a lot of the books are Dan Brown rejects. The Literary Man receives shipments of secondhand books from the UK, with many titles duplicated. The measure of a good book should not be whether it is a best seller, but whether it’s a best keeper. Wandering the shelves here, you can see which authors are a little more throwaway than the rest.

The bed: My extremely comfortable and very large mattress was on a raised marble platform, inviting a deep sleep. The platform required some focus for night-time bathroom visits, however.
Bathroom: The bathroom was spacious and relatively standard. Some rooms have a bath if you like to soak and read.

A room with a view? No, my room looked on to the courtyard, though some have views of the pretty town.

Facilities: As you might expect at a dedicated library hotel, the facilities relate to reading, with the literary-inspired Gin Bar filled with novels and classics, and an upstairs reading room-cum-event space that houses vintage books (it smelt divinely like libraries used to).

Book ahead and you can head down to the wine cellar for a massage.

Food and drink: The Book and Cook restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is included in the room rate and offers simple fare like bread, cheese, ham, and eggs. A fruit bowl and juicer is set up for DIY juicing and gluten-free bread is available on request. Curl up on the sofa next to the fire after dinner with one of the thousands of books that fill the restaurants.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes

Noise: The thick walls of this former nunnery kept all noise at bay, though the town seemed to shut down around 9pm anyway.

What’s in the neighbourhood? If you can tear yourself away from the bookshelves, walk the cobbled streets of this 700-year-old town. It’s only small so go without a map to maximise random Instagram opportunities such as whitewashed walls with falling bougainvillea. The literary fascination doesn’t end at the hotel; there are two secondhand bookshops within the city walls. For those with a sweet tooth, enjoy sampling the chocolate boutique treats or time your visit with the annual chocolate festival in February.

Would I return? Absolutely! Next time, I’m leaving the laptop and work behind and curling up with a fabulous book.

Perfect for: Solo book lovers, couples who love reading, and book club friends.


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