Livraria Lello – 110 Years of History

20/01/2016

 Porto isn’t short of independent retailers, making it a joy for shoppers. There are lots of emporiums, markets and boutiques where you can pick up anything from handmade souvenirs and classic tomes to local cheeses and vintage ports.
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Livraria Lello is probably the most famous shop in Porto. The debate over the most beautiful bookstore continues, however this long listed bookstore was lately considered the third most beautiful in the world by Lonely Planet

I was totally seduce into seeing it for myself!

livraria lelloOnce inside this neo-gothic building, I was greeted with a bucket of Art Deco whimsy with the twisting, opulent red “staircase to heaven” leading up to the mezzanine. The ceilings and stairs are made with plaster imitating wood (tromp doeil)- it’s an impressive work of art! The walls and ceilings are heavily decorated, and the magnificent stained-glass skylight with Lello’s motto decus in labore will no doubt impress you. The pillars are ornamented with bronze bas-reliefs of Portuguese literature figures and there is a small track on the floor along which employees move carts filled with books.

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For years students have gathered to discuss politics and literature on its comfy seats and coffee tables, well before Starbucks made drinking coffee and hanging around a stylish pastime. Nowadays, one of the best-kept secrets in Porto is the four-table coffeeshop on the second floor of the Livraria Lello– there’s coffee and  port. It’s the perfect place to stop and spend a long time browsing a few books.

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Lello’s History

 
Lello’s history goes all the way back to 1894 when Jose Pinto de Sousa Lello took over the Chardron Bookshop, a prominent book editing and publishing business. Further acquisitions and expansions led to the building of the current Livraria Lello building in Carmelitas Street. The building was designed by Xavier Esteves in 1906, specifically for the purpose of a bookshop. The facade is an excellent neo-gothic design and the building has been classified as a National Monument, painted by José Bielman, features two figures representing Science and Art.  Livraria Lello  has been owned and managed by generations of the Lello family, from fathers to brothers, sons and son-in-law.
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A Well Kept Secret

 Under the wooden shelves along the walls of Lello’s bookstore you can spot very old lotto tickets glued. Different rumours about this exist but no one really knows the story behind this mystery.
 
 lello lotto tickets

For Harry Potter Fans

 Rumour has it that former Porto resident and frequent Lello & Irmão visitor J.K. Rowling was inspired by this bookstore when creating the Hogwarts School. She used to hung out at this gorgeous bookstore when she was teaching English in the city back in the 1990s. Apparently, the ornate bookcases, carved ceilings and sumptuous staircases inspired the Hogwarts Library in her Harry Potter books. It’s certainly like walking into a fantasy.
 

A Real Bookstore

livraria lelloBesides the wide array of Portuguese fiction and non-fiction titles, Lello sells many English, French  and Spanish books, including translations of Portuguese literature and poetry works. If you’re looking for books on Porto, Lello has the widest choice.

If you go, at the time of this blog post, admission is €3 but if you make a purchase, you have a €3 credit. Purchase tickets from a red, cloud looking kiosk across from the bookshop then proceed to the store.

It is open Monday to Friday: 10h00 – 19h30; Saturdays and Sundays 11h00 – 19h00

 

 
 
 

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