Portugal seems to have a thing for books; there's the Harry Potter-esque Livraria Lello book shop in Porto, the iconic Ler Devagar bookstore in Lisbon, and the impossibly grand Biblioteca Joanina (Joanina Library) in Coimbra. This unique and ornate Baroque-style library is one of Coimbra's most intriguing and photogenic attractions (and, if you ask us, it looks uncannily like the library from Beauty and the Beast.)
The library was built in the 18th century under the reign of King João V as part of his efforts to increase the artistic, cultural and scientific heritages of his country. As part of the University of Coimbra General Library, it consists of three large salons adorned with intricate woodwork and painted ceilings. Large desks were carved from exotic Brazilian wood, and decorative motifs painted onto the shelves were done by artist Manuel da Silva. Each of these exquisite rooms is filled floor-to-ceiling with more than 250,000 books. Have a browse and you'll see tomes from the 15th to the 19th centuries, on topics including medicine, philosophy, geography and history.
Fun fact: Joanina is one of the only libraries in the world where its books are known to be protected from insects thanks to a colony of bats that patrols the bookshelves at night. The only problem? Bat guano (poo)! A team of workers cleans up the library every morning.
January 2nd to March 18th
March 19th to October 31st
November 1st to December 30th
December 24th to December 25th
Entry to Biblioteca Joanina