Livraria Lello: one of the most beautiful libraries in the world
Livraria Lello traces its roots back to the 20th century when it was originally inaugurated in 1906 on Rua das Carmelitas by the brothers José and António Lello. Today, it stands as one of the most iconic and frequently visited landmarks in the city of Porto, renowned for its status as one of the most beautiful bookstores worldwide. The architectural masterpiece was designed by Portuguese engineer, professor, and politician Xavier Esteves, who imparted a distinctive style to the bookstore, even by the standards of that era. The façade showcases a neo-Gothic style, a departure from the prevalent architecture in the city, featuring two prominent figures on either side: on the left, a figure holding a sculpture representing Art, and on the right, another figure holding a symbol associated with anthropology, representing Science.
Internally, Livraria Lello captivates visitors with its intricate and elaborate design. Upon entering, busts of significant Portuguese writers, including Eça de Queiros, Camilo Castelo Branco, and Teófilo Braga, are scattered throughout the space. As you explore the bookstore, the bookcases lining both sides, the renowned staircase, and the breathtaking stained glass ceiling capture your attention.
The experience of being inside Livraria Lello is overwhelming, creating a sense that time has momentarily come to a standstill due to the abundance of stimuli. Among the most emblematic features are the iconic staircase and the expansive stained glass window. The staircase, frequently photographed, is a visual illusion as it is constructed from reinforced concrete, not wood, as commonly believed. Notably, its crimson color, a result of an error during restoration, differs from the original brown. The spectacular stained glass ceiling, measuring 8 meters in length and 3.5 meters in width, was crafted by Dutchman Samuel Van Krieken and executed by Vidraria Antunes, the country’s foremost stained glass workshop. The vivid colors and natural luminosity of the stained glass immediately capture attention. Observers will notice a Latin inscription, “Decus in Labore” (Dignity at Work), adding an intriguing touch. Additionally, each restoration introduces a subtle detail indicating the time of the intervention.
Livraria Lello boasts an extensive collection encompassing various genres such as literature, art, and travel, with a diverse selection of Portuguese and international titles. It holds a special place in the hearts of Harry Potter enthusiasts who believe it served as inspiration for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry library.
Undoubtedly, Livraria Lello stands as one of Porto’s most popular and frequented attractions. Its captivating beauty, coupled with a welcoming ambiance, makes it an indispensable stop on your itinerary.