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Updated: 10 November 2022
Porto is, without a doubt, a literary destination. As someone who graduated with a MA in English Literature, I am a huge nerd when it comes to destinations that have a deep bookish history.
So, when I traveled solo to Porto, one of my major goals was to see the famous “Harry Potter bookstore.” It was crowded and intense, but oh my goodness, Livraria Lello Bookstore was one of the most beautiful bookshops that I’ve ever seen on my adventures around the world.
Welcome to the Porto Bookstore of Your Dreams
Livraria Lello Bookstore is a “must-see” for book lovers.
Time for a little confession. In many ways, I’m a walking cliche of an ex-literature student. For example, bookstores fascinate me. If the opportunity presented itself, all lit. nerds would reside in an adorable and independent bookshop, especially if they didn’t get busted for illegal loitering, and I am no exception to the rule.
As I’ve mentioned in my reflections of the second city of Portugal (aka Porto), I didn’t research the city very much.
Therefore I had no idea about the bookish treats that awaited me in this gritty medieval city. Hell, even a huge Potter fan like me, was oblivious to the fact that JK Rowling once called Porto “home.”
Lello Livraria IS the Harry Potter Bookstore. Truer words have never been spoken.
My Adventure to Livraria Lello Bookstore
Here are two literary sites that impacted my weekend trip to Porto: Cafe Majestic and Livraria Lello.
I still can’t believe either existed. How did I find out about them? After my free walking tour of Porto. At this point, I was down in the dumps, because my hostel was boring. I got lucky the people on the tour were so stinkin’ cool. We were off a grand adventure!
“We need to find this bookstore.”
My German companions repeated this statement again and again. I was baffled. What bookstore? What was so amazing about it? Was it the playground of rebellious Portuguese poets? Did they give you a free coffee with your purchase? Was there a rare collection of first editions on display? What was it?
After trekking another hill, my out of shape thighs sobbing for a break, one of the group let out a triumphant cry and gestured me to follow her. I stepped into every literature student’s dream.
Welcome to Livraria Lello Bookstore. Also known as “Porto’s Ultimate Literary Gem.” Also known as the “World’s Most Beautiful Bookshop.” Honestly, Livraria Lello is my favorite bookstore alongside The Strand in New York City.
It. Is. AWESOME.
History of Livraria Lello Bookstore in Porto
The neo-Gothic architecture reminded me of churches and palaces, not bookstores. Selling books since 1881, Livraria Lello is a historical attraction in and of itself, and the pillars are decorated with images of Portugal’s greatest writers.
José and António Lello opened this shop dedicated to books. They probably never would have guessed how famous it would become in the future. January 13th of 1906 – engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves – transformed Lello’s building into the stunning images we see in modern day Porto.
Open for more than a century, Livraria Lello bookstore is now an essential part of the fabric of Porto. No visit is complete without it. Refurbishments in 2016 and 2017 have made it even more spectacular than ever. Depending on the time of your visit, you can even go to the basement and see cultural events put on by Portuguese writers and other creative types. Awesome, huh?
And, as Porto’s tourism industry booms, more and more attention and appreciation comes Livraria Lello’s way. It’s easy to see why.
Livraria Lello Harry Potter: A Match Made in Heaven
Really? Livraria Lello is related to Harry Potter? Of course!
This place was so astounding that it came as no surprise that it may have inspired JK Rowling herself! I mean, c’mon, this bookstore is so the Hogwarts library. Or Flourish and Botts bookshop. If you never received your Hogwarts letter, then book a trip to Porto to discover a real life Harry Potter experience.
How do we know Livraria Lello inspired Harry Potter? Well, apparently, J.K. Rowling was a regular customer when she lived in Porto. We all know writers consciously (or sub-consciously) absorb their surroundings and transfer them into the wonders of their imagination.
Livraria Lello was definitely the best surprise that Porto gave me. Incredible.
This beautiful bookshop reminded me that magic exists outside the pages of books themselves. I was in silent wonder for the duration of my visit.
Harry Potter Porto Tour
Honestly, while you can visit Livraria Lello all alone, you can also book yourself on a specialized Harry Potter tour. These Harry Potter guided tours will offer a lot of unique and fascinating insights that you might not have otherwise learned alone. So, definitely consider a tour if you’re truly interested in Porto’s Harry Potter history!
Going to Cafe Majestic in Porto
So are you a Happy Potter fan like me? Your adventure in Porto isn’t done yet, my friend! If you’re a sucker for J.K. Rowling’s magical world, then you MUST check out Cafe Majestic in addition to Livraria Lello.
In 1993, Rowling moved to Porto to teach. She frequented Cafe Majestic, a place where “art nouveau” seeps from its wall’s crevices, and wrote a bit there. After our long day, my newfound friends and I sat down to delicious lemonade and pastries. I briefly pretended that JK Rowling, sipping coffee and jotting in a notebook, sat at the table next to us.
Obviously, Cafe Majestic was not the cheapest place in Porto (most expensive lemonade ever), but it was so worth the price. Budget some money aside just to go here. You won’t regret spending a single euro, I promise you.
You can find Cafe Majestic at Rua Santa Catarina 112. It opens at 9:30 am. so come early to avoid waiting for a table!
Livraria Lello Bookstore: Practical Tips for Visitors
- Livraria Lello (and Its Beauty) is located at R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal.
- Livraria Lello Bookstore opens at 10:00 am every single day with the exception of major holidays.
- Come to the bookstore early to avoid crowds! It’s gorgeous, but not very big inside. You want to be able to take pictures and sort through the merchandise.
- Be respectful taking pictures. Some people are, in fact, here to shop and don’t appreciate cameras shoved in their faces.
- Buy a book! You want to support this independent bookstore for years into the future.
- Come again in the future. I already want to do this, haha. I miss Livraria Lello like crazy, my friends, like crazy.
Have you ever visited Livraria Lello Bookstore? What did you think of it? Have you ever gone to Porto? Share all your thoughts and opinions in the comments! Thanks for visiting!