Skip to Content

Livraria Lello Porto – The World’s Most Magical Bookstore (2024)! 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Livraria Lello is one of the most stunning bookshops in the world and is a must-visit for reading lovers. 

Stepping inside this library is like taking a journey back in time with its Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau design.

You can browse their collection of beautiful books on their dark wood shelves and take a journey up their winding staircase under a colourful stained glass skylight. 

It’s been on my literary bucket list for years and it was a dream come true to finally make it happen.

Despite being a magical experience, you should know that it’s one of the most popular attractions in Porto and you can expect this place to be crowded throughout the day.

You do have to buy a ticket to go inside and there will still be a long line before you go in. However, there are ways to skip the queue which I will explain in this post. 

Despite the relentless crowds, this is a literary experience like no other and I think it’s well worth your time and money.

Here is how to visit Livraria Lello Porto, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world!

Livraria Lello Porto

Livraria Lello history

The amazing tale of the Lello Bookshop begins before the store was even constructed.

Once upon a time in 1869, a French man named Enesto Chardron founded the Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron on Rua dos Clérigos after winning the lottery. 

He had over 600 books in his collection and was passionate about making reading accessible for everyone. 

In the meantime, Josè Lello opened his first bookstore in 1881. Lello and his brother-in-law Antonio Irmão had a dream of creating a temple of art and science and were searching for the right property.

After Chardron died in 1885, his bookstore was taken over by Lugan & Genelioux and they expanded it. In 1894, the Lello brothers purchased Chardron’s extensive collection of works for their literary temple. 

Livraria Lello Porto

The current bookstore on 144 Rua das Carmelitas started construction in 1904 and was inaugurated in 1906. On opening, it became an instant success with the Porto bourgeoisie.

It’s one of the oldest continuously run bookstores in Portugal and has had many renovations made to it over time.

In 2006, it was referred to as the “prettiest bookshop in the world” by the Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas in an article published by El País.

Ever since this bookshop has only gotten more notoriety from popular culture and from going viral on social media. 

It’s now one of the most popular bookshops on the planet and sees over 5000 visitors every single day!

Livraria Lello Porto

Why is Livraria Lello so popular? 

Livraria Lello is known as the most beautiful bookshop in the world and so it’s very popular with international tourists visiting Porto. 

Although it has since been dispelled, this bookstore was long thought to be an inspiration for the Hogwarts staircases and/or Flourish & Blotts in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. 

She has since denied ever setting foot in this bookshop but did say she visited Café Majestic on Rua Santa Catarina to write some of her early drafts.

Despite all this, it doesn’t stop bibliophiles and Potterheads from queuing up for hours to step inside this magical bookshop that looks like it belongs in Diagon Alley! 

Although this fan theory created a surge in popularity and photo takers, it didn’t convert into book sales for the store. So, it reported a loss and was at risk of shutting down. 

Livraria Lello has since introduced a ticket system for visitors to encourage reading and ensure its survival for years to come.

Livraria Lello Porto

How to visit Livraria Lello in Porto 

Livraria Lello can be found in the historical centre of Porto, a popular city in Portugal.

It can easily be accessed on foot and you’ll find the bookstore entrance on Rua das Carmelitas which is close to the Instagrammable Ingreja do Carmo and the popular Clérigos Tower.

As one of the most visited attractions in the city, you’ll most likely spot the long lines before you see the bookshop itself.

The bookstore is located on a steep street so there are no metro stops near here. But, you can easily alight at the beautiful São Bento Station and walk to the bookshop in around 10 minutes on an uphill climb. 

If you want to avoid the steep walk, you can take a bus to the ‘Cardoaria’ stop nearby. The 900 bus service stops here that’s headed to Santo Ovidio. 

Uber and Bolt also work in the city and journeys are very affordable. Or, the Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus stops near here if you plan to use them for sightseeing. 

Are you using your phone to direct you on Google Maps? Click here for a Google Pin!

Livraria Lello Porto

Do you need a ticket to visit Livraria Lello?

Yes, you must buy a ticket to enter Livraria Lello in Porto. There are a few different categories you can buy;

  • Ticket Voucher Silver – this is the most popular option and costs €8. You will need to join the regular queue at your allocated time slot and then you get to deduct the cost of this voucher on any book purchases.
  • Ticket Voucher Gold – This costs €15.90 and gets you priority entry into the store, almost like a skip-the-line ticket and this includes a free book reserve. I would suggest this ticket if you want to get empty photos first thing or just don’t want to wait for hours. 
  • Ticket Voucher Infant – Under 3-year-olds get to enter the bookshop for free assisted by a parent or guardian. So, make sure to add this voucher to your purchase if you’re bringing toddlers.

You can book your tickets online in advance and I would highly recommend doing this to guarantee entry.

In low tourist seasons, you can book your tickets online on the day. However, this may not be possible in summer as the crowd levels are higher.

Livraria Lello Porto

Can you skip the line at Livraria Lello?

The Lello bookshop is extremely popular and you can expect to wait up to 3 hours to go inside in peak summer.

There really isn’t a way to skip the line completely to enter Livraria Lello but you can reduce your wait time massively with their Gold Ticket Voucher. 

This is a priority entrance ticket that will allow you to skip the long lines and go inside (almost) straight away. 

It is quite pricey at €16 but you do get a book reserve included with your purchase. This can either be Romeo and Juliet or The Art of War

However, if you would prefer a different book you can swap it for another volume in-store and pay the difference. 

If you buy the skip-the-line for opening time, you’ll be one of the first people inside so you can get some empty photos of the staircase and bookshop without all the people.

But, be warned you’ll probably only have a few seconds before everyone piles in and it becomes crowded.

Livraria Lello Porto

Things to see in the Lello Bookshop

Livraria Lello has been consistently voted as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and for good reason! 

The entire library with its Gothic facade, red winding staircase and stained glass skylight is utterly magical and will take your breath away.

Here’s what you can expect to see on a visit to Livraria Lello in Porto;

Livraria Lello bookshop Porto

1. Neo-Gothic facade 

Whilst you’re waiting in the queue to go inside, you can admire the beautiful Neo-Gothic facade of Livraria Lello which almost appears like a chapel.

The two Lello brothers had a vision of building a temple of art and science. So, you’ll find two ladies on the fresco painted by José Bielman that symbolise this.

The bookstore was designed and constructed by Francisco Xavier Esteves and it took him just over two years to complete. 

He used a mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles which were fashionable in the city at the time.

Livraria Lello Facade

2. The stunning interior 

If you thought that the facade was impressive, just wait until you see the magnificent interiors! 

When you walk through the front doors, you can’t help but gasp. It feels like you’ve stepped back in time or have travelled through a portal to another world. 

You’ll find ornate carved details, patterns on the ceiling, stained glass windows, gothic bookshelves and the famous winding staircase all designed by Esteves.

Although the entire place looks like it has been built with dark wood, it’s actually made of reinforced concrete and had a woodgrain effect added to it. It’s so clever.

Livraria Lello Bookshop

3. The famous red winding staircase 

The bookshop is set over two floors and is connected by a magnificent grand staircase that appears like an altar in the centre of the room. 

This was a vision of the Lello brothers who had a dream of building a literary temple.

Funnily enough, this staircase was originally entirely brown. But, someone accidentally painted it red during the renovations in the 1990s. 

It was going to be fixed but José Rodrigues, the sculptor in charge of renovating it, loved it so much they decided to keep it.

This scarlet staircase is now an icon of the bookshop and has become a bit of a social media superstar. 

Livraria Lello Bookshop

All day, every day visitors to the Lello Bookshop will be snapping photos of this incredible staircase on the top and bottom. It’s one of the highlights of any visit.

But, I wouldn’t expect to be alone here. It’s crowded at all times of the day and is like an endless pedestrian traffic jam.

If you want to get photos by yourself you can either be the very first person to enter when they open or stick around until the very end of the day just before they close. 

Livraria Lello Porto
Livraria Lello Porto

4. Stained glass window skylight

Another feature that I loved was the stained glass window skylight at the top of the store.

It has gorgeous colourful patterns with the motto “Decus in Labore” meaning ‘Dignity at Work’ in Latin. This is a golden rule for anyone who works in the shop.

It was created by a Dutch master craftsman Samuel Van Krieken and has 55 glass panels that create the skylight.

During the renovations of the store, the staff placed a smiley face in the artwork which is now like a mascot of joy for them. See if you can spot it on your visit! 

Livraria Lello stained glass ceiling

5. Beautiful books

Just as you would expect, the Lello bookshop is filled with only the most beautiful volumes of classic works. 

Livraria Lello has their own printing press and aims to make every book a tiny piece of treasure for your book collection. Many come with gorgeous covers and gold-sprayed edges.

As they know most of their customers will be travellers, the books are printed smaller so they can easily be packed away in a suitcase or backpack.

They had lots of books to buy in exchange for your ticket vouchers. There were works by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Victor Hugo, Jane Austen, and Oscar Wilde etc.

As Poe’s Scarlett Letter was sold out in English, I ended up buying a very cute copy of Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie. 

Like all of Lello’s books, it had a stunning front cover with colourful forwarding pages and had been stamped by the bookshop. 

Livraria Lello books

Does Livraria Lello sell English books?

Yes, Livraria Lello has English, Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, Japanese and German books for customers on sale.

This magical bookshop has always been a temple of the written word and champions great authors from all over the world and over time.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter they sell the series in all different languages. It was so cool to see all the different covers. There were also fairytales and notebooks by MinaLima. 

I’m a huge fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses by S. J. Maas and it was cool to see these books in Portuguese. 

They know that they receive global travellers every single day in their store and so they shelve books that their customers will love!

Don’t forget: the cost of your entrance ticket voucher will be deducted from any books you purchase.

Livraria Lello Harry Potter section

6. Livraria Lello X Time: ’What is a Nobel?’

On my visit, there was an artistic installation called ‘What is a Nobel’. It’s a collaboration with Time Magazine that brings light to Nobel Prizes in Literature.

143 authors have been highlighted of all genres, nationalities, and ages. They have provided over 650 books from famous authors that have won or could have won the prize before it was created by Alfred Nobel in 1895. 

José Saramago is currently the only Portuguese language author to have received a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998. So, they dedicated an entire room at the bookstore to his life and works. 

Here, you can find special printed editions of his books, a timeline of his life and some of his personal artefacts in the centre cabinet.

Livraria Lello What is a Nobel Prize of Literature room
José Saramago room

7. The Little Prince Room 

The Little Prince, or Le Petit Prince, is a classic novella that has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers around the world.

It was first written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French writer who mysteriously disappeared during World War II. His famous story has been published in many different languages since.

Livraria Lello has a collaboration with FASEJ, the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry foundation, and has created a ‘Little Prince Room’ in honour of the tale’s 80th anniversary. 

The Lello Press has created unique editions of this timeless classic and has launched all sorts of Little Prince merchandise that you can buy.

The Little Prince Room Livraria Lello

8. Livraria Lello hidden gems 

Although it can be quite hard to admire the small details through the crowds, there are some really cool hidden gems in Livraria Lello you can check out.

  • Train tracks – if you look in the centre of the ground floor, you’ll find a set of train tracks that lead to a book trolley. This was how the librarians were able to transfer the books through the store. 
  • Lottery tickets – look out for the mirrors on the bottom of the bookshelves on the ground floor. If you look at the reflection, you’ll see lottery tickets. This is a nod to Ernesto Chardron and his lottery win that allowed him to open his magical bookstore. 
  • Faces of Porto – On the ground floor, make sure to look above the bookshelves. Here, you’ll find miniature busts of famous Portuguese writers such as Antero de Quental, Eça de Queirós, Camilo Castelo Branco and others.
  • Old cash registers – on the top floor, you can find some of the old cash registers that were used in the bookshop when it first opened.
  • Gemma Room – this locked room is home to the bookshop’s oldest and most precious books. Their oldest tome is a law book from 1476!
Livraria Lello Porto

How long do you need to visit Livraria Lello

I would say you need to allow at least 1-3 hours to visit Livraria Lello Porto. Most of this time will be spent waiting in the queue to go inside. 

Once you’re inside the store, you could easily spend an hour or so wandering around the bookshop taking photos of the famous staircase and browsing all the beautiful books. 

I visited in March so the crowd levels were pretty low. But, in summer you can expect to wait a long time to go inside.

The queues often go all the way down the street and it’s not uncommon for there to be a 3-hour queue. 

The best time to avoid crowds at Livraria Lello is later in the afternoon. But, they do start stopping entry around 45 minutes before they close so make sure to be inside before that!

Livraria Lello Porto

Is visiting Livraria Lello worth it?

Yes, I think that a visit to the Lello Bookshop is a must for anyone visiting Porto. It’s truly one of the most beautiful bookshops I’ve ever visited. 

Sure, it is really crowded and you do have to pay to go inside. But, it’s well worth the price and the time waiting. 

Seeing the impressive red staircase for the first time took my breath away and it’s such a magical experience to go book shopping here.

Don’t miss a visit to Livraria Lello in Porto. It’s one of the best experiences for readers and you won’t regret a thing!

Livraria Lello Bookshop
Livraria Lello Porto

My top tips for visiting Livraria Lello 

  • Book tickets online – this makes your wait time shorter, especially in the summer months.
  • Go early or late – I would suggest getting there first thing in the morning or sticking around in the evening for fewer crowds. I found later in the afternoon it was much quieter. 
  • Consider fast-track tickets – if you are limited on time, I would suggest buying a Gold fast-track ticket for the shop. Your fee is completely transferable for one of their beautiful books. 
  • Be prepared for crowds – you will not avoid them, all year. It’s a tiny bookshop that’s very popular so expect to be packed in like sardines. Also, buying books inside can take a while due to check-out queues.
  • Don’t forget to stamp your books – most of the Livraria Lello Press books are stamped by default but they will stamp any books you buy as a keepsake!
Livraria Lello Porto

Looking for more magical things to do in Porto? 

Porto is a wonderful city that has a charm like no other in Portugal. As you’re in the historical centre, there are many more incredible places to see.

Just nearby, you can visit the incredible Ingreja do Carmo with its gorgeous blue and white Azulejo tiles.

Ingreja do Carmo Porto
Ingreja do Carmo

If you want to see even more Azulejos, I would recommend the Chapel of Souls, São Bento Station and Church of Saint Ildefonso.

Porto Cathedral and its Gothic Cloisters are also worth seeing and the staircase of the Bishop’s Palace next door was spectacular.

Sé Porto Cathedral
Sé de Porto
Bishop's Palace
Bishop’s Palace

A guided tour of Palacio da Bolsa is a must to see the stunning Arabian Room and I would highly recommend stopping by the Church of St Francis or the Gold Church next door.

There are plenty of Miradouros (viewpoints) surrounding the iconic Luis I Bridge. Jardim de Morro and Miradouro do teleférico was a personal favourite.

Plus, you can visit the many gardens dotted around the city like Jardins do Palácio de Cristal and the secret torre.

Cafe Majestic Porto
Café Majestic
Palacio de Bolsa Porto
Palacio de Bolsa

Majestic Café is an institution in the city and you can go there for a coffee and French toast in their magnificent restaurant.

Or, why not head down the Douro River to see both sides of Cais de Ribeira and Gaia? You can try Port wine and fresh codfish or take a scenic Six Bridges River Cruise!

Dom Luis I bridge Porto
Luis I Bridge from Miradouro do teleférico

Where to stay in Porto

There are many amazing places to stay in Porto but if you want to stay somewhere really special I would recommend the majestic Palácio do Freixo.

It’s an 18th-century Baroque palace that has been restored and is now a luxurious 5-star property on the Douro River.

It has sumptuous interiors and a fine-dining restaurant to enjoy as well as fabulous planned grounds to explore.

It’s a little far from the centre of the city but they have shuttle buses that can take you to the historic centre daily. I loved my stay here and would go back in a heartbeat!

Click here to book your stay at Pestana Palacio do Freixo

Pestana Palacio de Freixo
Pestana Palacio do Freixo

Read more of my Portugal guides

Livraria Ler Devagar – magical LX Factory Bookshop

Livraria Bertrand – visit the oldest bookshop in the world

Why you must visit Café A Brasileira do Chiado in Lisbon

The very best things to do in Sintra

Why you shouldn’t skip Monserrate Palace in Sintra

The mysterious Initiation Well in Quinta de Regaleira

Save Livraria Lello Porto for later!

How to visit Livraria Lello Porto

With thanks to Livraria Lello for inviting me into your beautiful bookstore and allowing me to take photos out of hours. Although I was a guest, all photos and opinions are my own.