Harry Potter fans, you’re going to love this in-depth Livraria Lello Harry Potter guide! Exploring Porto, Portugal is beyond magical, especially through the eyes of a wizard. 😉
J.K. Rowling lived in Portugal in the early 1990s, during the time that she started the first pages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
There are so many places in Porto that inspired the creation of the wildly popular wizarding world—be sure to peep my Harry Potter Porto Spots post for a list!
One of the most famous spots though is Livraria Lello—and it’s beyond beautiful!
Livraria Lello Porto is much more than just an inspiration for the Harry Potter bookstore. It has a rich history and architectural significance that’s fascinating in its own right.
Let’s get into the story behind the Livraria Lello and how it became the huge attraction that it is today.
Pssst, heading to Porto? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
Livraria Lello Harry Potter Bookstore
Livraria Lello History
The Livraria Lello, as it sits on Rua dos Clérigos in Porto today, was inaugurated in 1906 by brothers, Jose and Antonio Lello.
But the book shop has been in business since 1869 when it was founded by French publisher, Ernesto Chardron, making it the oldest operating bookstore in Porto.
Livraria Lello has been a big deal since the beginning. Jose and Antonio rubbed elbows with Porto’s most influential politicians and intellectuals and were really involved in local public affairs.
So when Livraria Lello opened its doors under new management in 1906, it was a grand social event—diplomats, writers, artists, and anyone who was anyone in Porto was there.
In 1930 the bookstore was known as Livraria Lello but in 1935 was renamed Lello & Irmão (which is Antonio in Portuguese).
The building project was actually not assigned to an architect but to an engineer named Francisco Xavier Esteves. As a lover of literature, Francisco brought his vision of the world’s most beautiful bookstore to life with a Neo-Gothic design that’s become the most iconic of its kind in Porto.
Livraria Lello Architecture and Design
Let’s face it, the way this place looks is what makes it so amazing! Already from the outside, there’s something castle-y and spellbinding about the place.
From the outside of the two-story bookstore, you’ll see two large windows with the front door in the middle with the words “Livraria Chardon” written on the glass above it. Above that on the building facade, you’ll see bigger Gothic letters that read the shop’s current name, “Lello & Irmão.”
On the second floor, there are three rectangular paned windows flanked by two painted female figures: the one on the left represents Art and the one on the right represents Science. The whole facade is topped by a series of gothic-style pinnacles that really make that magical statement.
But Livraria Lello’s real wow factor comes from its interior.
Greeting you on the ground floor is a set of bas-reliefs of the Lello brothers and other busts of famous Portuguese literary figures that were sculpted by artist Romão Junior.
And then there’s the staircase. Oh, that staircase!
Crimson red steps spiral up to the second floor in a design that seems like it’s floating. Kind of like it’s been enchanted by a levitation spell?
It’s actually all from the engineering genius of Francisco Xavier Esteves and the effect is divine!
Another marvel awaits up on the chiseled ceiling: a colorful 26-foot long by 12-foot wide stained glass window by the Dutch artist Samuel Van Krieken. The glass aptly reads the Lello brothers’ motto: Decus in labore (Dignity in work).
The Books of Livraria Lello
Let’s not forget the shop’s star residents—the books! On both floors, solid wood bookshelves are fully stocked with magnificent books from floor to ceiling.
Their inventory includes classic Portuguese books and a mass collection of authors translated into a variety of languages (to cater to the influx of tourists) including English, Spanish, Russian and Italian. Rare works, ancient texts, magazines, and historical periodicals also line the shelves.
Besides some gorgeous hardcover classics and collectively first editions, you’ll also find lots of current novels, cookbooks, self-help books…and yes, definitely the Harry Potter books too!
Livraria Lello and Harry Potter
As I mentioned earlier, J.K. Rowling lived in Porto between 1991 and 1993 where she worked as an English teacher. Rowling visited Livraria Lello often while she lived there—as an aspiring author, wouldn’t you?
And when you think about her wandering through that art nouveau interior, browsing books, and meandering up and down that surreal staircase, the connections become clear.
One, it’s easy to see how Livraria Lello would have inspired Flourish and Blotts, that enchanting bookshop in Diagon Alley where Harry and his Hogwarts pals went for all of their magic school books.
And then there’s the Grand Staircase at Hogwarts, the massive stairway in the castle that included 142 staircases in various shapes and sizes—some that moved and led to different destinations on any given day.
Given the staircase’s prominence in Hogwarts, it’s hard not to imagine that Livraria Lello’s phenomenal staircase didn’t inspire Rowling’s magical version.
As it turns out, claiming this inspiration has been very beneficial for Livraria Lello! At least now it does, after they figured out that Harry Potter fans were mostly non-paying customers and needed to charge an entrance fee to enter.
Clearly, fans and tourists have no problem paying for this, as the place is always packed!
To visit, you can purchase a ticket online before your visit. You can also use your ticket as a €5 voucher for book purchase.
A regular ticket costs 5 Euros, but you’ll still have to wait in line, which can be 1 – 2 hours long. Instead, I’d recommend buying the priority entrance ticket for 10 Euros more.
There are also guided walking tours that include a skip-the-line entrance to Livraria Lello, which I’d highly recommend. I love a good walking tour!
So, if you’re thinking about visiting Livraria Lello during a Porto trip and making the Harry Potter connections for yourself, do it!
It’s a really impressive place and one of the coolest things I’ve done during my Europe travels. And with that 5€ coupon, might as well take your time browsing the merchandise and coming home with an amazing souvenir!
Heading to Porto? Check out my other Porto guides here.
What to See in Porto: 4-day Travel Guide
Top 20 Things to Do in Porto Portugal
Boutique Hotels in Porto
The 14 Most Beautiful Places in Portugal
Azulejos in Porto: The Best Places to See Blue Tiles in Porto
Top 20 Porto Instagram Spots
Harry Potter Porto Spots Fans Will Love
Porto Food Guide: The Best Porto Restaurants
The Best Rooftop Bars Lisbon Has to Offer
Yes, Livraria Lello did inspire some of Harry Potter.
Yes, Harry Potter has some inspiration from Portugal.
Yes, there is a small entrance fee.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.