Royal Portuguese Reading Room


Considered by Architecture & Design in 2015 to be the world’s third most majestic library, and by TIME magazine in 2014 to be the fourth most beautiful, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Reading Room) can be found in downtown Rio. The latter magazine described it as such:

“A group of far-from-home Portuguese immigrants banded together to create a Portuguese library in 1837, although construction on the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura didn’t get going until 1880. The neo-Manueline building’s limestone façade showcases Portuguese explorers like Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Pedro Álvares Cabral in sculpture. The cathedral-like reading room has a stained-glass dome and wooden galleries. Its ornate bookshelves hold the largest collection of Portuguese literature” outside of Portugal.

It is even said that Dom Pedro II set the cornerstone and that Princesa Isabel inaugurated the location.


Open to the public since 1900, the library has a collection of around 350,000 volumes. In addition to its collection of books, the institution acts as a kind of curator of Portuguese-Brazilian cultural and social relations, developing activities through the Centro Cultural, Centro de Estudos, and the Pólo de Pesquisa Sobre as Relações Luso-brasileiras (Research Center on Portuguese-Brazilian Relations). And via the Artistic Collection that it preserves, like its façade, works of art and the furniture that composes the space. You’ll also catch the library in the Brazilian films like O Xangô de Baker Street and O Primo Basílio. The library itself has a website and can be located near Campo de Santana Park at: R. Luís de Camões, 30 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20051-020, Brazil.

Check out the video (PT) below, and its synopsis below that, to learn more, or some beautiful images here.

“The imposing building of the Royal Portuguese Reading Room hides among its rooms and its corridors a wealth of rich and diverse literary treasures. “They say that there are also ghosts …”, warns director Gilda Santos, with whom we go through the library. In an enveloping atmosphere of historical mystery, we discover the secrets off limits to the public: old manuscripts such as “Amor de Perdição” by Camilo Castelo Branco and “Tu, só tu, puro amor” by Machado de Assis, as well as paintings by great classic Portuguese painters and even a first edition of the Lusíadas from 1572.” (14 min)


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