Uninformed Comment

Livraria Lello

Posted in Architecture, Art, Geography, Old but cool by uninformedcomment on April 5, 2010

I’d love to go to Portugal one day. Not only is it nice and warm down there, but the language is lovely to the ear. I don’t speak Portuguese, but I’ve listened to enough Bossa Nova to know that it’s one of the sexiest-sounding languages going. And I certainly can’t afford to go to Brazil. So there you have it: “Portugal – it’s nearly Brazil!”.

But Portugal is also home to what must be the most gorgeous bookshop on the Earth’s crust. Bookshops are magical places anyway, but this one, Livraria Lello, in the city of Oporto (Porto), is simply breathtaking:

Lello bookshop, from the street

The facade’s beautiful enough, but that’s only the beginning. Step inside, and marvel at the interior:

Lello - general interior

OK, so most of the books would probably be incomprehensible to me, but I’m sure many of them have pictures in that I could look at.

Built in 1906 by one Xavier Esteves, it was apparently inspired by the contemporary Galleries Lafayette in Paris, and embodies the Portuguese second eclecticism style of Art Nouveau.

Lello - interior and ceiling

A few points about etymology:

  • Portugal is named after Porto, the location of Livraria Lello, which was once the principal city of the country.
  • Porto is called “Oporto” by the English because the Latin name contained the definite article: o Porto, or “the Porto”.
  • Nobody is sure whether port wine (commonly called “port”) is named after the city or the country, but it is certain that it was named after one or the other.
  • Citizens of Porto are referred to colloquially as tripeiros, supposedly because they ate tripe while better cuts of meat were exported; tripe is still a local dish.

Back to the bookshop. Apparently, there’s even a coffee-shop somewhere upstairs, although I’ve not been able to track down any images of it. It sounds pretty small, with only four tables, but apparently serves port (well, naturally) and cigars as well as coffee. An oasis within an oasis, surely.

But without doubt the centrepiece of the shop is the staircase, and it was a photograph of this exquisite feature that first drew my attention to Livraria Lello:

Lello - staircase

A staircase like that must make walking up and down stairs a pleasure in itself.

But for the moment I’m a long way from being able to afford a visit to Portugal, so in the meantime all I have are pictures like these, and above all this  360-degree panorama – follow that link to see for yourself.

See also the follow-up post, “Livraria Lello revisited“.

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7 Responses

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  1. Golden Brown said, on April 26, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I hope you manage to come to Porto and visit Lello. That bookshop is really beautifull. And don’t worry, there are some books in English for you to read!

  2. uninformedcomment said, on April 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Many thanks, GB. I really would love to visit Porto, for all sorts of reasons.

    Does the coffee shop in Lello exist? And do you know of a photograph of it I could add here?

  3. Golden Brown said, on April 27, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I never noticed a coffe shop in there but I will verify if it exists. I have two photos in the bookshop but they don’t show much. I’ll go there soon and take care of the photos and the coffe shop info for you.

  4. Golden Brown said, on May 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I already have some photos of the bookshop.:) The coffe shop exists indeed. 3 tables, some chairs and a coffe machine in the upper floor(nothing fancy). My photos aren’t great but if you want I can send them my email.

  5. […] previously wrote about Livrario Lello, the stunning bookshop in Oporto (Porto), Portugal, and that post sparked a […]


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