Have you ever been to Porto, Portugal ? If not, please let me introduce you to one of the most well-known and wonderful places of the city : Livraria Lello, located on Rua das Carmelitas, near the University of Porto. Now take a seat, grab a book and let yourself be carried away into the magical story of Lello.
The Lello and Brother bookstore (in Portuguese : Livraria Lello e Irmão) is one of the oldest and most visited bookshops in Portugal. Opened in 1906 by the two brothers José and António Lello, who both belonged to Porto’s bourgeoisie and intellectual circles at that time, the bookstore is now regarded as a monument dedicated to culture.
The whole story of the bookshop began in the late 19th century, when José Lello, whose main interests were literature and music, decided to move to Porto to become a bookseller. In 1881, José Lello fulfilled his dream thanks to the support of his brother-in-law and opened his first bookshop and publishing house. After that, António Lello eventually joined his brother José to create and run their own company, José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão. At that time, the city of Porto was going through a brand new commercial, cultural and industrial development, which helped the two brothers grow their business.
Crédits photo : EnvieVoyages
As a consequence, the popularity of the bookshop rapidly increased as José and António Lello decided to make every endeavor to maintain a good relationship between booksellers, authors and publishers. While some people think it was a very smart way to run this business, others strongly believe that it was mainly a matter of sharing their passion for culture. In order to improve the quality of their bookstore and to share at best this enthusiasm, the two brothers, thanks to their belonging to artistic and cultural circles, initiated special editions of books in collaboration with painters and illustrators.
A few years later, the booksellers bought Livraria Chardron (the other name of Livraria Lello), which belonged to the French publisher Ernesto Chardron, and moved to Rua das Carmelitas, a street located in the centre of Porto, in order to better spread their intellectual influence. They chose the engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves to be in charge of the building’s construction. The impressive project from Xavier Esteves finally resulted in the outstanding neo-gothic architecture of the bookstore that we know today. The place is also decorated with magnificent Art Deco patterns.
As a reward for their hard work, the two brothers then received sincere support from famous Portuguese writers, such as Guerra Junqueiro. In the end, José and António Lello achieved their ambition : they promoted culture throughout the town by creating a place where authors, publishers and booksellers could meet, exchange advice and talk about the newest literary works.
Today, Livraria Lello remains a place dedicated to books, social gatherings, culture and performances. Thousands of tourists visit it daily and have the opportunity to admire its awesome architecture. The bookshop looks actually so magical that it is said it has inspired J.K. Rowling for a description in one of her Harry Potter books… It’s a kind of magic !