A stone’s throw from the Clerigos Tower, in the center of Porto, the Livraria Lello is unanimously considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world! JK Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter saga, was actually largely inspired by this mythical bookstore!
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💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
🧐 Want to know more about Porto’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
💤 Looking for an hotel in Porto? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Porto? Advice & recommendations
🏛 Planning your trip to Porto? Be sure to check out Captain Ulysses’ complete article on what to see and do in the city: a Guide to Porto
👶 Planning a family adventure to Porto? Discover all of the Captain’s top tips in the article: Exploring Porto with the Kids: Family-Friendly Activities
Brief history of the Livraria Lello in Porto
The origins of the Lello Bookstore
Let’s go back in time to the 19th century: Ernesto Chardron founded in 1869 the Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron.
Twenty-five years later, brothers José and António Pinto de Sousa Lello bought the business and renamed it Livraria Lello e Irmão (“Lello and Brother Bookstore”).
But the building which now houses the bookstore did not exist at the time. The Lello brothers entrusted the construction of the bookstire to the engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves, and the brand new Livraria Lello opened its doors to the public on January 13, 1906.
St Rowling, Harry Potter & the Livraria Lello
In the early 1990s, English author JK Rowling moved to Porto, where she taught English for two years. She gave English classes in the evenings, and spent most of her days writing… She was a regular at the Livraria Lello, as well as the Café Majestic, an historic café located at Rua de Santa Catarina (which Captain Ulysses definitely recommend checking out).
In 1993, JK Rowling left Porto with the first three chapters of Harry Potter in her suitcases. Her 2 years in Porto left her with a lasting impression, to such an extent that she drew inspiration from the “Northern Capital” to write her mythical saga. The Flourish and Blotts bookshop, located on Diagon Alley, as well are the moving stairs of Hogwarts, are inspired from the Livraria Lello in Porto!
From the bankruptcy to resounding success
In 2015, the Livraria Lello was on the verge of bankruptcy. In order to save the bookshop, the management decided to start charging an admission fee to visitors (5 €, convertible into a deductible voucher to purchase books).
The bet paid off! The Lello Bookshop welcomes some 4,000 visitors and sells an average of 1,200 books per day! The bookstore now counts 60 employees (only 9 in 2015) and has never been this profitable.
The other side of the coin: the queues are very long at the entrance and you will need to be patient to be able to enter the bookstore.
Visiting the Livraria Lello
The facade of the Livraria Lello
Before entering the bookstore, take some time to admire its immaculate facade blending neo-Gothic and art nouveau influences.
The two figures painted by the artist José Bielman on the facade represent Art (on the left) and Science (on the right).
Inside the Livraria Lello
While the facade of the building is beautiful, the interior of the bookshop is quite simply sumptuous.
The walls, lined with large bookcases from floor to ceiling, are filled with books of all kinds: heaven on earth for book lovers.
The busts of famous Portuguese writers (Antero de Quental, Eça de Queiroz, Camilo Castelo Branco, Teófilo Braga…) are also on display all over the bookstore.
Upstairs, don’t forget to look up to admire the stunning stained glass windows decorated with the monogram and the motto of the bookshop: Decus in Labore (dignity in work).
The highlight of the visit: the emblematic forked staircase with its lacquered red steps. While it may seem made of wood, the staircase is actually built of plaster: impressive!
Here again, you will have to be patient: the Livraria Lello is often packed and traffic jams on the stairs are common !
Getting to the Livraria Lello
The Lello Bookstore is located a stone’s throw from the Clérigos Tower and the University of Porto, at number 144 Rua das Carmelitas . The ticket office is located some twenty meters away, at the corner between the Rua das Carmelitas and the Praça de Gomes Teixeira.
If you haven’t purchased your tickets online, you will have to queue twice: first at the ticket office and then at the entrance to the bookstore.
To avoid wasting too much time, Captain Ulysses highly recommends:
- Either presenting yourself at the ticket office when it opens at 9:30 a.m.
- Or opting for a private or group guided tour including entry into the bookstore
The closest means of transport are:
- Metro: Aliados station (line D)
- Tram: Carmo stop (line 22)
- Bus: lines 6, 20, 35, 37, 52 and 78
Opening hours of the Livraria Lello
The bookstore is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed on Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, May 1st and June 24.
Admission to the Livraria Lello & guided tours
Access to the Livraria Lello is free for children under 3 years old, and is €5 for all other visitors. The entrance ticket can be converted into a €5 deductible voucher in the bookstore.
Precautions to take before visiting the Lello Bookstore
Oversized backpacks and bags are not permitted inside the Livraria Lello. You will therefore be asked to leave them in a locker, next to the ticket office. Remember to bring a 1 euro coin for the locker and to keep with you the essentials (wallet and camera).
Speaking of cameras, photos are allowed in the library, but with no flash!
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Porto!
👉 Looking for a place to stay in Porto?
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in Porto!
🛏️ Accommodation: When it comes to reserving your stay in Porto, Captain Ulysses wholeheartedly recommends using Booking.com. or Expedia. You’ll find a wide range of options, from cozy youth hostels to luxurious boutique hotels. Here are the Captain’s personal suggestions:
– Youth hostels: Gallery Hostel / The Passenger Hostel / Rivoli Cinema Hostel
– Budget-friendly hotels: Moov Hotel Porto Centro / Rex Hotel / Decanting Porto House
– 3 and 4-star hotels: Village Aparthotel By BOA / Mo House / Fontinha Porto
– Upscale hotels: Pestana Vintage Porto / Yeatman Hotel / InterContinental Porto
🎟️ Activities: museums, monuments, guided tours, boat tours, excursions… there’s plenty to do in Porto! To avoid wasting time in endless queues, especially during high season, the Captain strongly recommends that you opt for skip-the-line tickets and book your activities in advance. You can book all your tickets and tourist activities on GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
⛵ Cruises: Porto is undoubtedly synymous with Douro! It’d be a shame to leave the “Capital of the North” without embarking on a Douro river cruise. If you’re only staying in Porto for a long weekend, the Captain recommends the six bridges cruise. If you have more time, then he highly recommends the Douro Valley cruise with wine tasting & lunch.
🎫 Citypass: valid from 1 to 4 days, the Porto Card includes unlimited access to city transport (including to get to/from the airport), free entry to 6 museums and a selection of discounts in museums, attractions, Port wine cellars and shops.
🚐 Transfers: you can take the metro at the airport to get to the city center (1/2 hour). But if you prefer to avoid public transport, you can also book a transfer at very reasonable prices.
🚌 Local transport: you’ll propably quickly tire of Porto’s steeply sloping streets and might be tempted to take local transport instead of walking. The public transport network is convenient and easy to navigate. You can buy your tickets directly at metro stations and bus stops (be careful, you will need to take 1 Andante card per person).
You should also know that access to public transport is included in the Porto Card. Otherwise, the hop-on hop-off bus tours are great options to explore the city. You can also opt for a pass including access to hop-on hop-off buses, the funicular as well as tramways.
Among other means of transport, you can also try the bicycle, the electric bicycle, the segway, the tuk-tuk, the small train …
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.