Last updated: 08/08/2022
Discover Lello Bookstore, the incredible and historic bookstore in the city of Porto, in Portugal, considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
THE LELLO BOOKSTORE
The “Livraria Lello & Irmão”, better known as Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore), is located in a beautiful neo-gothic building in the historic center of Porto. Opened in 1906, it is one of the oldest Portuguese bookstores and has an invaluable historical and artistic value. Self-declared the “most beautiful bookstore in the world”, its neo-Gothic facade, its striking red staircase and its huge stained glass window on the ceiling impress visitors. More than half a million people visit the bookstore every year, an average of 3,000 visitors every day!
A LITTLE OF HISTORY…
Its history began in 1869, when the “Ernesto Chardron International Bookstore” was founded by the Frenchman of the same name. In 1894, José Pinto de Sousa Lello, who had opened a book trade and edition three years earlier, bought Chardron Bookstore, forming a partnership with his brother António Lello, keeping the company name as “Sociedade José Pinto Sousa Lello & Brother". In 1906, the famous building was inaugurated, attracting great names in the literature of the time. In 1919, the company changed its name to “Livraria Lello e Irmão, Lda.”, when Raul Reis Lello, son of António Lello, became a partner. Other family members also joined the company in the following years.
In 1995, the bookstore was restored and modernized, also creating an art gallery space. In 2013, it became a National Heritage Site, classified as a Monument of Public Interest. Due to its success and numerous visitors every day, since 2015, a fee has been charged to enter the bookstore in order to assist in the maintenance of the building. Between 2017 and 2018, a new renovation was promoted, restoring the huge stained glass window, staircase and facade. Currently, in addition to visiting the bookstore in person, it is possible to buy items from its collection at online store. The bookstore timeline can be found in a summarized and fun way here.
HARRY POTTER AND THE LELLO BOOKSTORE
Lello's success is also due to fans of the Harry Potter saga. For many years, it was believed that the bookstore's beautiful red staircase had served as the inspiration for the bookstore where Harry Potter met Gilderoy Lockhart in the book "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (1998). Author JK Rowling came to live in Porto for a few years and, therefore, it was assumed that she had visited Lello Bookstore many times and ended up being inspired by its look. However, in 2020, she denied on her official Twitter account, saying that she had never entered the bookstore and did not even know about its existence.
TYPES OF TICKETS FOR LELLO BOOKSTORE
Entrance to Lello Bookstore is paid and tickets can be purchased at the official site. There are two basic types of vouchers (you need to select the day and time to buy them):
The Ticket Voucher allows entry to Lello Bookstore and the amount paid serves as a credit to purchase a book of your choice. This ticket does not save you from having to queue. Price: €5 per person | Free entry for children under 3 years old, although reservations are also required
>> TICKET-VOUCHER BOOK
Allows the priority entry at Lello Bookstore and includes the purchase of a book from the Bookstore Collection. The books are available in 4 different languages (French, Spanish, English and Portuguese). Title options are:
- “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare: €15.90
- “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu: €15.90
- “Os Lusíadas”, by Luís de Camões: € 16.90
- “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling: €16.90
- “The Wizard of Oz” (“The Wizard of Oz”, in Portugal): € 17.90
No need to show the paper ticket, just show the ticket on your cell phone or tablet. If you didn't buy the ticket in advance, you will have to buy it while you wait in line. There are several information boards on the street showing the step by step on how to purchase the ticket online. The best times to visit are at lunchtime or in the late afternoon.
>> FRIEND CARD
These are membership plans for those who want to visit Lello Bookstore several times a year, guaranteeing priority entry. The card is valid for 12 months and is sold in two ways: Personal card (holder + 1 companion) which costs €30 per year and the Family Card (2 adults + 2 minors) which costs €40.
HIGHLIGHTS OF LELLO BOOKSTORE
1. NEOGOTHIC BUILDING
Lello Bookstore is located in a iconic neo-gothic architecture building. The entrance door is accompanied by two side glass windows, decorated by an arch above. In the center, on the upper floor, there are three vertical glass windows and, on each side, there are two figures representing “Art” and “Science”. The decoration is complemented by plant motifs, geometric shapes and the company name “Lello e Irmão”. Inside the bookstore, the decoration is on account of worked arches and ceilings. There are also busts of Portuguese writers Antero de Quental, Eça de Queirós, Camilo Castelo Branco, Teófilo Braga, Tomás Ribeiro and Guerra Junqueiro.
The centerpiece of the bookstore is the staircase red which was originally made of reinforced concrete and not made of wood. Another curiosity is that, in the past, it was not painted red, but brown. It was only in 1993 that she received this crimson shade, due to a mistake made by the builder. Sculptor José Rodrigues saw the staircase and was delighted with the new color, which remains to this day.
4. STAINED GLASS
O stained glass 8 meters long by 3.5 meters wide, made up of 55 glass panels, designed by the Dutch architect Gerardus Samuel van Krieken and produced by Vidraria Antunes, in Porto. The huge stained glass window is on the ceiling of the bookstore and can best be seen going upstairs. It contains the Latin phrase “Decus in Labore”, which means “Dignity at Work”.
5. TRACES OF THE HISTORY OF LELLO BOOKSTORE
In several parts of the bookstore there are traces of the bookstore's history. On the ground floor, there is a track for a transport cart that was used until the early 1990s to transport books from a warehouse to the entrance to the bookstore. The cart that can be seen today is a replica of the original. During restoration works between 2017 and 2018, several historical remains were found, including old lottery tickets, as Ernesto Chardron used a lottery prize to open his bookstore. Since 2018, a special lottery edition has been held to celebrate Lello's anniversary and new tickets are also displayed at the counter.
6. JOSÉ SARAMAGO ROOM
It is living room, in honor of the only Portuguese-language writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, is a partnership between the bookstore and the Saramago Foundation. Here are the first editions of Saramago's books, works translated into several languages and also personal objects of the famous writer, who died in 2010. When the room was inaugurated, Lello Bookstore launched a new collection with four important works by the author: “Memorial do Convent” (1982), “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” (1991), “Essay on Blindness” (1995), and “The Intermittences of Death” (2005).
7. ARTISTIC INSTALLATION “O ROSTO DO PORTO”
In the upper windows, on the left side, there is a artistic installation 2018 called “O Rosto do Porto”. There are 400 clay busts that represent not only famous figures of the city but also citizens of Porto, such as vendors at the Mercado do Bolhão.
8. LIFESTYLE THEME ROOM
This room brings together some of the best books on topics related to Lifestyle, including gastronomy, fashion, art, tourism and more. The selection of works is interesting and of great quality.
9. TEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS
In addition to several books of all different themes, there are some temporary exhibitions scattered around the bookstore. They are presented in a glass showcase that displays gems of world literature by renowned writers. When we were visiting the bookstore in 2022, the exhibition “Lello Bookstore x Time: Amuse Bouche” featured 6 rare books by three Nobel Prize-winning authors (“Just So Stories” (1907), by Rudyard Kipling; “East of Eden” (1962) by John Steinbeck; “Land of Sin” (1947), by José Saramago) and three other names that have marked world literature (“Pride and Prejudice” (1813), by Jane Austen; “35 Sonnets” (1918), by Fernando Pessoa; “1984” (1949), by George Orwell).
Previously, the exhibition “115 Golden Years” celebrated the 115th anniversary of Lello Bookstore with the signature of important personalities who passed through there, such as Guerra Junqueiro, Abel Botelho, Bento Carqueja and, more recently, Suzy Menkes, Eduardo Lourenço, Harrison Ford and Edgar Morin.
10. ENCHANTED FOREST
Enchanted Forest is a room dedicated to the universe of children's literature. In addition to hosting various activities, the place is visited by the Fairy from Lello Bookstore, who tells stories to children.
OUR EXPERIENCE AT LELLO BOOKSTORE
We bought the ticket-voucher to visit Lello Bookstore, the standard ticket that does not guarantee priority entry. We went in the morning and were scared of the huge queue we found at the door. We decided to try our luck and visit other places, coming back later to see if the queue would be shorter. Was not! So, we decided to face the challenge and wait in line. We waited around half an hour to get in.
Although the ticket is bought with a date and time, we didn't see anyone looking at the time, because the queue prevents you from knowing exactly what time you will be able to enter. I believe that being for the right day, there is no problem. The entrance is controlled due to the number of visitors, and even so, the interior was very crowded, with people everywhere.
The bookstore is really beautiful, with solid wood furniture, a stunning colored stained glass window, many titles in many languages and interesting exhibits. We got to know the main highlights of Lello Bookstore mentioned above, took pictures, leafed through some books and ended up leaving about half an hour later.
We really liked what we saw, as there are many details to observe, but at the same time, it is difficult to notice everything due to the large number of people inside the bookstore simultaneously. Although we are immunized with 3 doses of vaccine, we are still wary of staying for a long time in closed places with many people talking about the risks of contamination.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO VISIT LELLO BOOKSTORE
- Lello Bookstore is right in the center of Porto, close to the Clérigos Church, the University of Porto and the Carmelite and Carmo Churches. It's an 8-minute walk from São Bento metro station.
- Smoking is prohibited inside Lello Bookstore
- The entry of animals is prohibited
- Entry with suitcases and backpacks, or with a baby stroller is prohibited.
It is mandatory that children under 12 are permanently accompanied by an adult
- It is recommended that the cell phone sound is turned off and that no calls are made during the visit.
- When purchasing the ticket, register on the website. If you need to change the date of your visit, you can change the date subject to availability. It is possible to return the voucher within 14 days of purchase, without the need to justify it. Just send an email to email@example.com with your name, email, telephone and information about the ticket purchased. The refund will be made through the payment method used for the purchase.
- Address: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
- Schedules: daily from 9 am to 7 pm
- Entrance: from €5 | buy on the official website in this link
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