Monday, August 5, 2019

The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

And First . . . More Stairs

I like book stores, and its nice to drop into interesting book shops in any place I visit. That little cafe inside the Art District fort in Cascais had a lovely book shop above it. One of the popular attractions here in Porto is a unique book store, but you cannot just drop into the “Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World”; you must first buy an admission ticket down the street at their gift shop/voucher counter. You have to line up to buy a ticket and then line up again to get admission to the shop. If you just go to the door of the actual bookshop you will be turned away. Now that sounds a bit much, but it is all true.

The Livraria Lello is a bookshop in Porto, Portugal. It was originally opened as a publishing house in 1881, and was known as a quality book binder, publishing works by Portuguese authors. The entire business was purchased by Jose Lello in 1894, renovated, and opened as a book store in 1906. Recently it was named by many travel books and
The Bookshop
newspapers as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and at least one publication named it as THE number one bookshop in the world. This sort of positive press would have generated interest in the spot, and brought additional tourist visitors, but it was J. K. Rowling who really pushed it into the stratosphere of book stores. In 1999 when she was writing the first Harry Potter book, she was living and working (teaching English) in Porto and frequented the book store. Apparently she loved the place and took inspiration for the library at Hogworts from the bookshop and its unique and spectacular crimson staircase. Once the Harry Potter books became a smash hit, the bookshop became a must-see destination in Porto. So now you have to buy a admission ticket just to visit.
The Famous Staircase

The shop really is an amazing book store. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful, but gets better once you enter. It looks and feels more like a vintage library than a book store with shelves of books stretching to the high ceilings. The shop has two levels and a spectacular curving stairway painted bright red connects the two levels in the middle of the shop. Overhead is a huge stained glass skylight providing a gentle illumination to the entire shop. I have been in many book stores and this really is one of the most beautiful I've seen.

However, it was hard to actually enjoy it. It was packed with people and the stairway was constantly crowded with people trying to get the perfect picture. It was hard even to browse the selection of books because of the crowds. I was surprised at the number of books in English, but I
suppose the tourist trade demands this. People were buying books and there was a constant line up to pay for your purchases. You do get the price of admission off your bill if you buy a book so that does encourage people to make a purchase. And if you do not buy anything, you can exchange your
The Sky;ight
admission ticket for a little book about the bookshop as you leave.

And I could not even find a book I wanted to buy . . .

A Busy Bookshop

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