Before I was a travel addict, I was a book lover. Strangely, that happened because of traveling because my mother would buy me a new book every single time we’d travel together and we did that often and not just in summer vacations.
You may not know this about me but I’m the biggest Harry Potter fan that I know of. The Harry Potter books came out at a time when I was very fond of reading. I waited for every new book in the series patiently and bought it as soon as it hit the bookstores.
So when I visited Porto and I heard that there was a “Harry Potter bookstore”, I obviously made it a point to visit. It is called Livraria Lello and let’s talk about it in detail.
Introducing Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is one of the most famous bookstores in Portugal and is situated in the city of Porto. It is a historic bookstore dating back to 1906.
The internet says that Livraria Lello is the second oldest bookstore in the world, and another website says it is the 6th oldest. You never know what’s right when it comes to finding information on the internet.
Why is Livraria Lello famous?
Livraria Lello’s fame started when was called the prettiest bookstore in the world by Enrique Vila-Matas a Spanish writer in an article published in El País. Over the years, it has been praised on different literary and travel publications.
After that, it was also mentioned in The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Time magazine, CNN, and National Geographic and most of these publications also called it one of the most beautiful bookstores.
Of course, its current fame was fuelled by Instagram where some influencers have spread misinformation that Liraria Lello was the inspiration for Harry Potter. We will talk about that later.
So, Livraria Lello attracts a lot of misinformed Harry Potter fans. I fell for this too!
Fun Fact: A collection of letters written by Bob Dylan to his high scool; girlfriend were sold in Livraria Lello for $670,000 in 2022.
The Bookstore History
Livraria Lello & Irmão is also known as Lello Bookstore. Let’s talk about how it came to its existance.
A frenchman named Ernesto Chardron moved to Porto and founded Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron in 1869 after winning lottery.
He isn’t the founder, but wait, I’m coming to that. Meanwhile brothers José Lello and António Lello operated José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão. The Lello brothers were notable members of Porto’s intellectual bourgeoisie and bought a big share in Chardon bookstore in 1894 and also the firm Livraria Lemos & Co in 1898.
The Lello brothers hired an architect Francisco Xavier Esteve for the construction of a bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas. That’s how the bookstore Livraria Lello was born. It was inaugerated on 13 January 1906 on 144, Rua das Carmelitas.
In 1919, the bookstore was simply Lello & Irmão, Lda but in 1930 it was known as Livraria Lello.
Livraria Lello Entry tickets
The tickets to enter Livraria Lello can be baught on their website for different time slots. The ticket price has gone up almost double from a year back when I visited it. The line was already very long in 2022 and I’m sure it is even longer today.
You can also buy a priority ticket to move up in the queue. The time I visited, it was so crowded that the priority entrance also had a small queue but of course it moved very fast.
Here’s the online ticket price for Livraria Lello for 2023 and 2024:
|Type of Ticket||Amount|
|Silver Ticket Voucher||8,00€|
|Gold Ticket Voucher (Priority Entry)||15,90€|
|Ticket for children below 3 (Mandatory online schedule)||Free|
Note that this isn’t a ticket price but a ticket voucher. Meaning, if you buy a book in the store then you can use your entry ticket as a voucher for the same amount. We wanted to buy also but the queue to buy the books was also frightenengly long.
We left without buying anything despite having the vouchers because we had wasted enough time already waiting in the long queue to enter the bookstore.
You need to reserve a time slot in advance, even for a child below three who will enter for free accompanied by parents or guardians.
The opening time of Livrairia Lello is 09:30 am and it closes at 7:00 pm every day. It is slightly less crowded at lunch hours and late afternoon.
I spent 3 days in Porto and I always saw a line outside Livraria Lello. I prebooked a slot at one of the leaner times and I thought I was being very smart. On my last day here, I arrived here as per the prebooked slot and I was shocked when I saw how big the line was.
While waiting in the line, we did notice the interesting architecture of this small bookstore from the outside – a mix of Art Nouveau and Neo Gothic.
Yes, the line was long and it didn’t take more than 20 minutes for us to stay in it, that wasn’t the problem. It was when I stepped inside that I was shocked.
I saw a little bookstore that was overflooded with visitors and there was almost no place to walk. I didn’t understand why they sold tickets as per particuylar time slot when they let as many people inside as possible.
Don’t get me wrong, this bookstore is very beautiful. I did notice the beautiful architecture instantly.
As soon as I got over how crowded it was, I saw the iconic red staircase that I had noticed in the photos of this bookstore already on Instagram. It is a central staircase where I wanted to stand for a photo but I had to laugh at that thought.
This staircase was so full that my friend and I had a big laugh because there would be a traffic jam if one would even stop here. Just to showcase that I still stood here for a photo.
One of the prettiest things that I noticed about Livraria Lello was the stained-glass skylight. It was really so pretty and I love how the light was filtered through it. There are two floors in this bookshop and the groundfloor was the busiest.
The Art Deco interiours were very visually appealing even though we were uncomfortable in this place because it was more full than we could handle.
It did have kind of a striking resemblence to the Gryffindor common room and also the hogwarts library from the Harry Potter series. I could see why many people would call it one of the most beautiful bookstops in the world.
My personal experience was one of those expectations versus reality kind of a situation. In my openion, Bucharest’s Cărturești Carusel is a more beautiful bookstore than this and is massive, so it didn’t feel crowded.
If you are a book lover, then visit Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, it is actually the oldest bookstore in the world as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011.
“What Makes a Nobel?” Exhibit
Livraria Lello has had an exhibit since 2021 called “What Makes a Nobel?” in collaboration with TIME to showcase Nobel Prize winners featured on TIME magazine covers and many more. It also featured the writers who could have received this award.
In total, this exhibit features 143 authors of multiple genres, writing in many different languages of various nationalities.
Was it really JK Rowling’s inspiration for Harry Potter
No, it wasn’t. This is a rumor started by an influencer. Yes, author J.K. Rowling did spend a lot of time in Porto while she was writing the Harry Potter book series but she clarified it in a tweet that she didn’t visit Livraria Lello.
J.K. Rowling mentioned in her tweet that she spent most of her time in Majestic Cafe, so if any place had to be the inspiration it would be that cafe instead.
(Yes as a big fan of Harry Potter, I did dress up in my Hogwarts uniform for Gryffindor and visited the bookstore.)
Is Livraria Lello worth it?
Yes and no.
No, during the peak seasons, it isn’t worth it to visit Livraria Lello.
If you are visiting Porto in high season (July and August), there will be a long queue outside. I saw a line outside this bookstore many times during the day. If there is a long line then it makes no sense visiting it.
It isn’t just about waiting but you won’t even enjoy your visit when it is so full and it would feel like a tourist trap even though it isn’t.
If you’re in Portugal during the high season, there isn’t a best time to visit it. I thought I was visiting during leaner visiting hours in the late afternoon but it was a madhouse.
During peak hours, just skip this otherwise stunning bookstore and head to café majestic instead. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, then you should know that majestic café is where J.K. Rowling spent a lot of her time.
Livraria Lello is worth visiting only if there isn’t a long line outside.
If you are visiting Porto when it isn’t crowded in winter, spring, or autumn months, then you may just be able to enjoy this stunning bookstore in a way that does justice to it.
Where is Livraria Lello Located?
Livraria Lello is located on Rua das Carmelitas near its intersection with Rua da Galeria de Paris in Porto’s historical center.
How to Reach Livraria Lello?
You can walk to Livraria Lello from São Bento train station. You can also get on the bus or tram from many parts of Porto to reach this bookstore.
The nearest tram stop to Livraria Lello is “Carmo” and the nearest bus stop is “Cordoaria”.
Livraria Lello is in Porto’s historical quarter and I wouldn’t suggest arriving here on car because of limited parking areas and narrow streets. It is near Igreja dos Clerigos, and you will see the Clérigos tower from far away as you walk to it.
Can you skip the line at Livraria Lello?
Yes you can. You just have to buy the “Gold ticket voucher” for priority entry on their website in order to skip the line. The prioroty ticket voucher costs 15,90€.
What does livraria mean in English
The word livraria is Portuguese and means Bookstore or a Library in English.
What neighborhood is Livraria Lello in?
Livraria Lello is in Porto’s historical quarter in civil parish of Cedofeita, Santo Ildefonso, Sé, Miragaia, São Nicolau e Vitória in Porto.
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