The most beautiful bookstore in the world?
Lonely Planet considered Lello & Irmão Bookstore as the third most beautiful library in the world. The store has an excellent neo-gothic façade, where you can see two figures painted by José Bielman, representing the Science and the Art. This facade is only surpassed by its stunning interior, designed by Xavier Esteves.
The building was inaugurated on January 13th, 1906, in an important social event for both Portuguese and Brazilian societies, attended by famous people from different spheres – among them Guerra Junqueiro, a renowned Portuguese writer.
As you walk through the doors of this bookstore you’ll notice that there is a marvelous stairway and the wooden walls are also very exquisite. The stained glass ceiling adds an amazing detail with Lello’s motto “vecus in labore”.
Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling’s inspiration to write Harry Potter has begun in Porto, particularly at this library. The well-known writer lived in Porto for 10 years working as an English teacher in the early 1990s and she used to drink a cup of coffee at the second floor of Lello’s bookstore. There are indeed great similarities between Lello’s bookstore staircase and the one described in Hogwarts.
It is also believed that the Hogwarts’ costume was inspired by the costumes of college students in Portugal, composed of a black suit and a black coat – these students are very likely to be found around this area, as the headquarters of the Porto University are located at Praça Gomes Teixeira (up ahead, where you can find a Lion’s fountain, hence the nickname “Praça dos Leões” – Lions’ Square, as the locals call it).
The policy is very strict concerning photography inside the library, and for a reason: this is a private space which is full of people all the time, but a minority end buying a book. However, you can still enter for free and enjoy the magnificence of the building and there are great postcards that you can buy and take home to complete your photo album. However, I strongly advise to buy a book here, as it becomes an unique experience, connecting all senses.
Around the same area, you’ll find Clérigos Tower and Carmo and Carmelitas’ churches. These are totally worth a visit.