Royal Portuguese Reading Room: A Book Lover’s Dream

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the bookworm in your life? Why not take them to the Royal Portuguese Reading Room!

This is the perfect reading heaven for the biggest bookworm in your life. The Royal Portuguese Reading Room, also known as the Royal Portuguese Reading Cabinet, knocks any local library out of the water.

Here’s seven questions about this gorgeous library – answered!

1. When Was the Portuguese Reading Room Built?

Located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Reading Room’s location was founded in 1837. However, construction of the building didn’t begin until 43 years later in 1880. The library officially opened in 1887. 

2. Why Was the Reading Room Built?

The goal of constructing such a beautiful library stemmed from a group of 43 Portugues immigrants. They built the library as a way to spread and preserve culture and literature throughout Portuguese communities. The books are stacked floor to ceiling with the shelves going up three stories.

3. What Can You Expect When Visiting the Reading Room?

The library has an average of 150 visitors per day and showcases a collection of 400,000 books – ranging from unique and rare manuscripts, to national and foreign books. It holds the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal. The collection continues to grow each year, with 6,000 new titles added to the Reading Room. 

Due to its collection of Portuguese culture, Portugal recognizes its value and importance to Portuguese communities by giving it “legal deposit” status. This status means it receives a copy of the literature works that are published in Portugal. 

Portuguese Reading Room, Photo Source: Vanessa Rung/Shutterstock
Photo Source: Vanessa Rung/Shutterstock

4. Can You Access the Books in the Portuguese Reading Room?

The Royal Portuguese Reading Room may seem like architecture that deserves to be on display in a museum and preserved forever. I’d be worried about so many people coming in and out that something would get ruined! But, this Reading Room operates the same as any library. Open, free to the public for anyone to visit to work, research, read, or just stare at the beauty of the building’s details. Only rule? Always ask the librarian before you touch or open any of the books. 

5. What Else Is in the Reading Room Besides Books?

Beyond just an extensive collection of books, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room has incredibly stunning sculptures, artwork, paintings and structural designs. This gives visitors so many aspects to be in awe of and study during each visit. 

Portuguese Reading Room, Photo Source: Felipe Restrepo Acosta
Photo Source: Felipe Restrepo Acosta

6. How Has the Reading Room Survived For So Long?

The Reading Room holds vital pieces of Portuguese history, art, and literature that have been collected for years and years. And even though it has been open and operating since the late 1880s and early 1900s, the library has taken great strides to not just be a dusty relic of the past. 

It has intertwined with modern mainstream history buffs and bookworms by publishing a magazine, as well as a Portuguese literature and culture journal. They also offer visitors a college-level class on all things from literature, to history, to atrophy, arts, and the opportunity to learn the Portuguese language.

Portuguese Reading Room, Photo courtesy of Donatas Dabravolskas/Shutterstock.
Photo Source: Donatas Dabravolskas/Shutterstock.

7. How Does The Portuguese Reading Room Compare to Other Famous Libraries?

The Portuguese Reading Room is also recognized as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. TIME Magazine ranked it number four on their list of “The 20 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World”. Falling behind the George Peabody Library at John Hopkins University, The Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Clemenitum in Prague.

And thanks to the internet, you don’t even have to travel to Brazil to see the Royal Portuguese Reading Room ! A lot of travel vloggers and history channels have filmed tours and captured footage of the library. Watch here to learn more and see the Reading Room’s beauty for yourself. Or get an in-depth guided tour of the library right from the comfort of your own home.

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