Lello Bookstore in Porto: All you need to know.

March 4, 2024Niry Fidelis
lello bookstore in Porto

Ok, let’s talk about one of Portugal’s oldest bookstores: Lello. Should it be visited? Probably! I’ll tell you all about its pros and cons so that you can decide if it is worth visiting the Lello Livraria (bookstore) in Porto.

My first visit to Porto took place in January 2024 and it immediately became one of my favorite cities in the world because it really offers a lot. From people, architecture, history, to food, wine and culture, Porto can be simply called perfect. This is exactly why, when I’m asked if Lello bookstore should be visited, my answer is not quick to explain because it’s complicated.

What is Lello Bookstore?

As the name suggests, Lello is a bookstore in Porto. With its neo-gothic and art nouveau design it is considered one of the most intricate bookstores in the world. Inaugurated in 1906, it’s also famous for its iconic central wooden staircase with its elegant curves and its large stained glass windows.

Therefore… it is a place that can be put on your Porto travel itinerary. Read more about Livraria Lello’s history here.

Admission fee to Lello Bookstore.

Due to the large number of visitors, you’ll need a timed ticket to enter. It costs € 8.00 per person and the ticket fee is deducted if you purchase a book at the store. This option is called SILVER VOUCHER TICKET.

Another entrance option to Lello bookstore is called GOLD VOUCHER TICKET. It gives you priority, meaning you can skip the line at the entrance by reserving a book of their edition (‘Romeo and Juliet’). The price of this ticket is €15.90 and at the time of purchase you must also schedule the day of your visit.

Tickets must be purchased in advance online. This means that you cannot simply show up at the bookshop and pay to enter. Whether you buy Gold or Silver Voucher Ticket you must present it at the entrance in printed or in a digital format. If you do not have your Ticket-Voucher with you, they won’t allow you to enter. To date there is no ticket office at Lello.

Know that children under age 3 are allowed to enter free. You still need to schedule the day and time of their visit and get the INFANT VOUCHER TICKET.

If I consider this aspect, I remain sceptical a moment when I’m asked if it is worth visiting Lello Bookstore in Porto. From my point of view, paying € 8.00 just to enter a bookstore is too much, especially in a city where there are so many other beautiful things to do. And even finding myself having to buy a book during a vacation in order to recover the price of entrance ticket sounds like too much.

At this point, I’d like to say to those who are visiting Porto for just a weekend or spending only 2 days in Porto, I wouldn’t suggest that you visit the Lello Livreria. Plus if you are travelling with a low cost flight such as Ryanair, you don’t find yourself with an extra book in your luggage that you chose to buy without taking enough time to think.

Lello Bookstore opening hours.

Lello Livraria opens at 9.30 am and closes at 7.30 pm.

Normally people begin queueing around an hour before its opening time to give them the greatest chance of being in first. And also because you are allowed to only stay for an hour inside, it’s better being on time since at the end of the time you will be invited to leave to respect the right capacity of the space.

If you arrive late, you risk not getting to visit the bookshop. As a matter of fact, it’s 100 % likely you’ll be denied at the door. That is because queues stretch down Rua das Carmelitas from the early morning hours well before its doors open at 9.30 am, and it is said that there are almost thousands visit every day.

So they have to control the space’s capacity to allow all those who previously booked.

To be punctual you normally arrive earlier and this way, on one hand you are wasting your time on queueing and on the other hand, risking that you won’t have enough time for something else nice such as visiting the meeting point between the River Douro and the Atlantic Ocean: Foz do Douro.

Also when considering this aspect, I remain sceptical a moment when I’m asked if it is worth visiting Lello Bookstore in Porto. Obviously this consideration is valid for short term visitors to Porto.

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11 Curiosities about the Lello Bookstore.

lello bookstore
  1. It is considered one of the most beautiful bookstore in the world by the worldwide community called “One thousand Libraries,” the largest online community of library and bookstore fans in the world.
  2. Even though it is known worldwide as Livraria Lello, its official name is Livraria Lello & Irmão. You can see both of these names on the facade of the building.
  3. The Lello bookstore was the city’s first architectural structures built with reinforced concrete.
  4. It is said that JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, wrote the first Harry Potter book inside the Lello bookstore. There are countless stories on the internet that say that this bookstore gave her the idea for the Harry Potter books. But… Rowling debunked these stories herself. In fact in several interviews she says she has never visited this bookshop. And she even said she was not aware of the bookshop’s existence.
  5. Until a few years ago the entrance was free of charge, but Lello bookstore was getting around 4000 visits a day and less than 5% would make any purchase. This is why nowadays, you pay to enter the Lello bookstore.
  6. At the Livraria Lello you will find both Portuguese and English books but know that the choice is not extremely large, most visitors come just to see the impressive architecture.
  7. The two women on the facade stand for Art and Science. 
  8. The name Chardron  written on the glass of the facade is the original owner who unfortunately died at a young age.
  9. In several parts of the bookstore there are traces of the bookstore’s history. On the ground floor, for example, there is a track for a transport cart that was used until the early 1990s to transport books from a warehouse to the entrance of the bookstore. 
  10. In the upper windows, on the left side, there is an artistic installation from 2018 called “O Rosto do Porto.” There are 400 clay busts that represent not only famous figures of the city but also citizens of Porto, such as vendors at the Mercado do Bolhão.
  11. Entry with suitcases and backpacks, or with a baby stroller, is prohibited. And also the entry of animals is prohibited.

Our experience at Lello Bookstore.

To visit Lello Bookstore, we went in the evening around 4 pm and we got scared of the huge queue we found. We didn’t have any tickets so we asked the lady at the entrance for the details. She said the only option to get the tickets was to buy them online.

We bought the Silver ticket-voucher on their website, the standard ticket that does not guarantee priority entry, with the entrance at 4,30 pm. We waited around twenty minutes to get in. The ticket had a date and time.

At the entrance they controlled it in order to keep track of the number of visitors which are too many anyway. Even though it’s difficult to get to see everything due to the large number of people inside the bookstore simultaneously, we liked it. We checked out the main highlights of Lello Bookstore, took a couple of pictures, leafed through some books, and we ended up leaving about an hour later.

Summing up, when is it truly worth visiting Livraria Lello?

Should visiting Lello bookstore be one of your top priorities for the best things to do in Porto? Use your judgment to decide what to do. When finding myself giving advice, I would suggest the Lello bookstore for those who are staying at least three days in Porto. And… without any doubt it is right that all those interested in architecture, engineering, art, and history put this at the top of their list of the things to do in Porto.

And what can I say… the bookstore is beautiful, so if you choose to visit it you won’t regret it. I mean even if you are staying only 2 days in Porto, and you decide to spend your time at Lello bookstore instead of visiting any other thing in Porto, this will be a good experience anyway. So, take your time to think about it.

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