A letter to the Lello Livraria, the most precious bookstore of them all.
Last summer, I visited your hometown: Porto. Besides consuming a tremendous amount of Port, I have seen a lot of the historical center. None of the buildings match you in beauty and elegance.
On the very last day of my stay, I visited you, the Lello bookstore. Words fall short, trying to describe you. From the moment I walked in, I knew this was something special: there is something magical about this place, I thought.
Eat your heart out, Harry Potter
I never was fond of the adventures of that nerdy little kid, riding a broom while waving his magic wand. Nevertheless, you – the Lello bookstore – look like you are taken right out of one of those Harry Potter books.
You are incredibly compact in size, but at the same time you have all the grandeur of an ancient library. Once I stepped inside, onto the decorated wooden floor, you took me into a completely different world.
Your central hallway is surrounded by into detail decorated wooden tables, completely covered with stacks of crispy new books. I wanted to browse them, feel the virgin pages on my finger tips.
But no! There was no time to be wasted in the Lello bookstore, I shouted to myself.
It was time to explore!
Let the rail track be my guide
On the far left- and right-side, your walls are covered by tall bookcases, reaching out to the wood-cut ceilings.
On the top shelves, right underneath the ceiling, the oldest books are placed behind glass – out of reach for nosy tourists like myself. I would have loved to browse your literal wonders of ancient times. Alas, it was not possible. I continue my path.
In the middle of your wooden hallway, I noticed a metal rail track integrated in the floor.
‘Where does it lead to?!’ I asked myself hysterically.
‘Let this track be my guide!’
And so I followed the metal track. It lead me past your majestic wood carved stairs, taking me to the left with an elegant curve, right to the back of the store.
Following this track until the bitter end, I found an old wooden cart. It was resting on the tracks, filled from top to bottom with books. In your glory days, the cart must have been used to drag heavy books from the front of the store, all the way to the back.
The metal track, integrated in the wooden floor
Majestic stairway to heaven
Back to the majestic stairs I went, located in the middle of the bookstore.
Oh Lello, such beauty you excel in.
Climbing your blood-red steps, sliding my right hand elegantly onto the wood-carved railing, I went onwards to the first floor. Halfway I found myself on a balcony, looking over the back of the store – where the book cart was still resting on its tracks, peacefully.
From that balcony, the stairs continue to the first floor. Almost there, I thought.
Looking up, I could already see the stained glass in the ceiling. It reads ‘decus in labore’ (translation: there is honour in work), showing an iron smith hammering the anvil. And honour there is: such a majestic building you are!
From that very first balcony, your stairs split in two, one on the right side of the balcony, and one on the left. With an elegant curve they come together on a second balcony, looking over the front of the store.
(Can you imagine?!)
Time to get on top
Enchanting lanterns are hanging over the opening of the stairway, welcoming me to the balustrade of the first floor.
Once again, you have me surrounded by books. In the front, your check out desk is located, no longer in use. It baths in the fresh rays of sunlight, coming from the tall classical windows behind it. There I found your original register, reminding one of a time without bar codes and digital displays. Comfortable stairs are placed where one could have read in peace.
But no longer, because my poor compact Lello is overcrowded with bloody tourists.
Oh, it must have been magical times to visit you in your glory days. I would read there forever.
Thank you for the great times we had and the sweet memories we shared, Lello, oh Lello.
I will never forget about you.
Majestic greetings, Wesley.
There ain’t no bookstore like the Lello bookstore
The Lello bookstore (locally known as the Lello Livraria) was not on my bucket list, simply because I had never heard of it.
Take my advice. When in Porto, spare some time to visit it. The place makes me wish the e-reader was never invented.
This bookstore is like no other bookstore I have ever seen.
Tips for visiting the Lello bookstore
As I mentioned, the Lello bookstore is small and the number of people who want to visit it is big. The bookstore opens at ten, so make sure to arrive 9.45 the latest. I arrived around 9.40 and I was second in line. This gives you approximately 10 minutes to wonder around the bookstore, without getting annoyed by other tourists. You will need no longer than 20 minutes to explore the whole thing.
The entrance fee is paid at a check out desk across the street. The ticket to enter the Lello bookstore will cost you six euro, which you can spend as a six euro coupon on books inside the store.
You will find this precious bookstore of mine on Rua das Carmelitas 144.