Do you know what the most visited place is in Porto? Many might think it’s the Cathedral, the wine cellars or Torre de Clerigos. But in actual fact the most popular tourist destination in Porto is Livraria Lello bookstore! It’s just a bookstore – it can’t be THAT amazing, I thought. But then I went to visit for myself and….WOW!
The full name of the bookshop is Livraria Lello & Irmao.
History of Livraria Lello Bookstore
Livraria Lello bookstore was opened in 1906 by Jose Lello. He had a dream about establishing a beautiful bookstore in Porto, and following a big Lotto win, he was able to make this dream come true. He had already opened another low key book store prior to Lello and so he did have some experience in this area. Internally and externally, Livraria Lello is an architectural delight. It is known as one of the most influential and beautiful bookstores in the world.
The establishment of so a beautiful and high profile bookstore placed Porto on the literary map and it now bring in thousands of visitors each year.
Inside Livraria Lello
The first thing that you think about when you think of Lello bookstore is its grand and ornate red staircase with winding carved bannisters. You’d think that the bannisters are carved from wood, but they are actually ornate painted plaster!
But the forked spiral staircase is not the only thing that is striking about the inside of this bookstore. You will also be impressed by its majestic bookshelves and the stunning art deco style stained glass ceiling.
JK Rowling and Harry Potter Connections
I first learnt about Livraria Lello on my Porto Harry Potter tour. It is rumoured that the spiral staircase of Livraria Lello is the inspiration behind the moving staircase in Harry Potter. In 2020, JK Rowling publicly denied that she had ever stepped foot in the bookstore on Twitter.
But Rowling had always dreamed of being a writer, and was living within walking distance of Livraria Lello. I’ve heard rumours the owners and staff of Lello bookstore saw her in there. Take a look at this picture and tell me that wasn’t the inspiration behind the moving staircase….I don’t believe her, do you?!?
Visiting Livraria Lello
You may feel put off by the long queues that you see – don’t be! Trust me, it’s worth it! If you want to visit Lello Bookstore then you will need to book a time slot in advance and pay for your ticket online here.
However, there are a few tricks on how you can get in for free. I was lucky enough to show up on 13th January which is Livraria Lellos birthday! I got cake and a free entrance ticket given to me on joining the queue!
Another way that you can get in for free is to order a book to purchase – show the order and this is your golden ticket. This, way you will also end up with a fabulous literary souvenir.