Culture

Lello is open, entrance is free and yes, you can judge this bookshop by its cover: it is as amazing as it looks like

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The New York Times described Lello as a “shop crowded on a daily basis with various nationalities”, in its “Temples for the Literary Pilgrim" category, in 2016. Now, the centennial bookshop that combines books and a magic scenario, reopens to the public, following the easing of the confinement restrictions, as announced by the Government. As of 15th March, doors are open and, for now, entrance is free. Take time to appreciate the new colours that deck the amazing staircase: the lavish red has been temporarily replaced by yellow and grey.

Lello is open between 10.30 am and 1 pm, and between 2 pm and 5.30 pm. The Bookstore celebrated its 115th anniversary on 13th January this year. It then closed doors, in compliance with the restrictive measures to fight Covid-19. Usually, entrance costs 5 euros (amount deductible when purchasing a book), but for now, entrance is free of charge. This landmark monument of the city of Porto normally receives thousands of visitors from all over the world. In 2017 alone, about 1.235.472 people have visited Lello.

In the years 2016 and 2017, the Bookshop underwent renovation works, in a total investment of €2 million, making it possible to open to the public hitherto reserved rooms, namely a bookbinding and handwriting atelier as well as showing the public deluxe editions and rare books.

The first phase of the rehabilitation works comprised the roof, façade and stained glass restauration. The second phase involved refurbishing the building interior, namely wood and stucco refinishing, electrical system recasting, lighting and the installation of new air-conditioning equipment. All works have been performed with the bookshop open to the public.

Now, Lello Bookstore will be woven through with a new concept: no other than a cultural site, under the label of Pritzker Siza Vieira. The project will be shaped at the Rua das Carmelitas, 148, which will enable a direct connection to Lello Bookstore.

According to an official source at Lello, Porto will be granted “a building with its own soul, devoted to culture and with various facets, adding to the cultural offer in the city, with books as starting points and with own programmes”.

Lello is one of the most ornate bookstores in the world, mixing Neo-Gothic and Art Dec elements, carved wood ceilings, a stain-glassed roof, and an undulating, opulent red staircase. The bookstore building has been classified as a Public Interest Monument. The Bookstore was built in 1906 in Porto by The Lello Brothers (Antonio and Jose). The inauguration day, 115 years ago, in 1906, was captured by Aurélio Paz dos Reis photography: it features a ballerina dancing to the sound of a waltz composed by Alfredo Keil, children listening to stories by Beatrix Potter and a photographer with a bowler hat. Talk about magic, right?