A red carpeted floor and ornate bookcases in Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra
Photo by Vitor Murta, University of Coimbra  –  Link

Biblioteca Joanina

Portugal > Coimbra

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.

Books to look out for:

  • A Latin Bible dating back to 1462
  • Illustrations from the Rutters of Dom João de Castro (16th century)
  • The Chronicle of Dom Alfonso Henriques from 15th century
  • A 1644 edition of Bandarra's Ballads

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.

Need to know

  • Expect to climb some steep streets to get to the library, which is perched on a hill
  • Arrive early to get a ticket and avoid the queues
  • Visit the library as part of an overall tour of the university (You can see the library, dungeons, church and great meeting hall for €12)
  • There are no pictures allowed inside
Opening Times

January 2nd to March 18th

  • Sunday: 10:00 AM to 04:00 PM
  • Monday to Friday: 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM to 04:00 PM

March 19th to October 31st

  • Open Daily: 08:30 AM to 07:00 PM

November 1st to December 30th

  • Sunday: 10:00 AM to 04:00 PM
  • Monday to Friday: 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM
  • Friday to Saturday: 10:00 AM to 04:00 PM

December 24th to December 25th

  • Closed

December 31st

  • Closed

January 1st

  • Closed
Price Information

Entry to Biblioteca Joanina

  • General : 7.00 EUR
  • Student : 5.50 EUR
  • Senior Citizen : 5.50 EUR

Biblioteca Joanina



Portugal 3004-531