Livraria Lello: Peak Into The World of Harry Potter In This Porto Bookshop

As you peer through the window of the famous Livraria Lello, you could be forgiven for expecting to see a copy of ‘The Monster Book of Monsters’ staring back out at you. Whilst the exterior of the bookshop looks relatively standard for the streets of Porto, get inside and you will soon feel like you’ve apparated into ‘Flourish and Blotts’, the wizarding bookshop frequented by all Hogwarts students. 

The ceiling of Porto bookshop
The ceiling downstairs will have you staring up in wonder as you quickly realise that this is no ordinary bookshop.

Not only has Livraria Lello been repeatedly heralded as one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops but you’ve probably already gathered that is has a surprising connection to the creator of Harry Potter; J.K. Rowling. Before we delve too deep into the world of witchcraft and wizardry and I really get the opportunity to nerd out, let’s first explore the history behind this magnificent bookstore. 

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Livraria Lello: A brief history

Livrario Lello shelves.
Livrario Lello combines a blend of architectural styles which sees the merging of Neo-Gothic with both Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

The bookshop was a labour of love for brothers José and António Lello and opened in 1906. José, who was passionate about literature, originally got into the bookselling business with his brother-in-law, David Lourenço Pereira. However, after his death, José partnered with his younger brother António and they began the motions for building a new bookstore from scratch. Throughout the years, the bookshop has withstood huge social change within the country of Portugal and now welcomes more visitors through its doors than ever before. This increase in popularity means that Livraria Lello requires a great deal more maintenance than your average bookshop and its famous stairs are repainted regularly to preserve its opulent look. 

The ceiling of Livraria Lello bookshop
The stained glass ceiling reads ‘Decus in labore’, which was the motto of the Lello brothers. It translates to ‘Honour in work’.

Why is this place known as the Harry Potter bookshop? 

During her twenties, J. K. Rowling lived and worked in Porto teaching English. This was during the early nineties which encompasses some of the most formative times for Harry Potter. It has been suggested that during her time living in Porto, Rowling frequented the bookshop often and took inspiration for both ‘Flourish and Blotts’ as well as the moving staircases of Hogwarts from the lavish architecture inside. 

Staircase at Harry Potter bookstore, Porto
The crimson staircase is the bookstores’ most notable feature and forms a bridge across the top floor. The steps are regularly repainted to cope with the masses of visitors.

This famed link with the world of Harry Potter and his creator has provided the ultimate golden ticket for Livraria Lello. Since the rumour went mainstream, the number of visitors to the store has exploded but sadly, not everyone who stepped into the shop became a paying customer. In order to preserve their income, Livraria Lello introduced an entrance fee which means that the bookshop is always packed and still making money. 

Girl pushing Harry Potter trolley
For all of you Potter-heads there is even the option to run away to platform 9¾!

Livraria Lello Tickets

A ticket into the bookstore costs €5 per person and these can be purchased either online in advance or from the bookshop add-on around the corner. It is forbidden to take big bags into Livraria Lello but there are lockers that can be rented in the box office. There is usually a fairly long queue but it goes down very quickly. Your ticket into the store doubles up as a book voucher and can be redeemed for a discount of the same value from your book of choice. Be aware that this is not a budget bookshop, although it showcases some beautiful editions.

Harry Potter bookshop interior from above
The top shelves of the windowed cabinets are home to some of the oldest and rarest books in the store. Many of these are notable first editions.

The reality of a visit to Livraria Lello bookshop

Make sure that you have dedicated enough time to visit Livraria Lello. Regardless of which time you visit, there will be a very long queue outside of the bookshop and coupled with the ticket purchasing, you are probably looking at spending a couple of hours there in total. 

Hanging books
The extension of the bookshop where tickets can be purchased is much more modern in style but still a place where you can get lost in your imagination.

If you are visiting the bookstore with the sole purpose of getting some good photographs, be warned that you are more likely to learn to become an Animagus than achieve this goal. The lighting inside the shop is not conducive to sharp images and it will be near on impossible to get that perfect snap without it being plagued by the back of someone’s head.

Old-fashioned lamp
Old-fashioned lamps provide the main source of lighting throughout the top floor of the building.

Be aware that the store is crowded at all times and if you are claustrophobic, you may not enjoy the experience all that much. Tim felt that our visit was hugely marred by the swarms of people and therefore didn’t really enjoy this part of our trip. However, for me as a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I relished every moment of being inside the bookshop (except maybe waiting for annoying people to pose for photos on the stairs!). Tim and I represent visitors on either end of the spectrum so be aware that this visit can be polarising.

Harry Potter Porto
Livraria Lello capitalises on its link with the creator of Harry Potter.

How do I get to the famous Porto bookstore? 

We chose the easiest way to travel to Livraria Lello and booked an Uber. These are a good budget option if you are staying far away or have a lot of luggage with you. 

The nearest metro stop to the bookshop is Trindade which is on line E and bus 602 also drops off nearby. 

Livraria Lello opening hours

Monday10am – 7.30pm
Tuesday10am – 7.30pm
Wednesday10am – 7.30pm
Thursday10am – 7.30pm
Friday10am – 7.30pm
Saturday10am – 7pm
Sunday 10am – 7pm

Where should I stay in Porto?

Porto has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. This is my top pick of what is on offer!

Selina Porto

A backpacker/flashpacker favourite, the Selina chain is well known for quality in a budget world. As well as offering comfortable private rooms, they also have dorms for those watching their wallets. A bed in a dorm room costs as little as $25USD a night so is sure to be a popular option!

Porto Deluxe Guesthouse

Rated for it’s convenient location next to one of Porto’s metro stops, the Porto Deluxe Guesthouse is a great place to explore the city from. The host Tiago is great at recommending places to visit in the local area and the accommodation itself is clean and comfortable.

Nations Porto II

Stay in the heart of Porto at this beautiful guesthouse close to the river. This modern retreat offers the perfect place to stay, close to all of the city’s attractions. A highly rated breakfast is included in the price.

*Transport, opening hours and price correct as of August 2018.

Would you visit Livraria Lello?

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