The century-old Lello & Irmão bookstore, in Portugal, would have been one of JK Rowling's inspirations to create the Harry Potter universe
A hall occupied by several books, wooden walls, an opulent stained glass window occupying the ceiling and a suspended red staircase, connecting one side to the other. This, perhaps, could be a simplified description of the interior of Hogwarts school narrated in the Harry Potter books.
It could, but it is not: it is the century-old bookstore Lello & Brother, located in the city of Porto, in Portugal, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The resemblance to Hogwarts – on a much smaller scale, of course – is no coincidence. The author of the little wizard saga, J.K. Rowling, lived in the Portuguese city in the 90s – and the bookstore would have been one of his inspirations to create the fictional universe of magic.
The Story of the Bookstore That Inspired Harry Potter
the building of Livraria Lello does not go unnoticed by those who walk through the central region of Porto. Although narrow, the details of its beautiful neo-Gothic facade stand out among the other buildings.
The bookstore was built in 1906 by the book lover and engineer Xavier Esteves. Its interior mixes art nouveau and art deco styles with busts of famous Portuguese writers scattered across the shelves.
However, what makes visitors' eyes sparkle, in addition to its wonderfully stained glass ceiling, is the iconic red spiral staircase. Getting a photo alone there, nowadays, is practically impossible.
Livraria Lello: a little piece of Harry Potter in Portugal
There is no evidence that Rowling was, in fact, inspired by the Livraria Lello to create the spectacular backdrops for Hogwarts – the author never claimed that. However, the coincidences are many. The famous writer lived for 10 years in the city, where she worked as an English teacher.
According to reports, she used to have a coffee on the second floor of the bookstore and it was there that she would have started writing the first book in the saga of Harry Potter. And there is a lot in common with the wizarding universe: the main evidence is the beautiful spiral staircases in the bookstore, which are very reminiscent of those of the school of magic and witchcraft. The imposing shelves, the aisles, the decoration details and the skylight in the center of the ceiling also remind many of the scenarios where the characters of the saga passed.
In fact, Lello would not have been his only inspiration in Portugal: it is also believed that the uniform used by the wizards at Hogwarts was based on the costumes of students from the University of Porto, which is very close to the bookstore. The clothes are made up of long black capes, just like those described in the best seller.
How to visit Livraria Lello in Porto
Despite bringing together some of the most interesting titles and true literary rarities, Lello is not usually visited by those who want to buy books. The place receives thousands of tourists annually who seek to know the place that inspired the books of Harry Potter or just to photograph its beautiful interior.
Because of this, the old bookstore charges €5 entry – which can be deducted from the value of any book. Children up to three years old accompanied by an adult are free of charge. It is possible to secure the ticket at the box office of the space or online, clicking here.
THE Livraria Lello open every day of the week, except for specific dates, such as Christmas and Easter Sunday. Depending on the season, the lines to get in can be huge – as the bookstore is small, people enter slowly. Currently, photography is allowed in the bookstore, but filming is prohibited.
How to get to Lello bookshop in Porto
It's very easy to get to Livraria Lello in Port. It is located in the historic center of the city, a 5-minute walk from the Clérigos Tower. You can go up Rua Doutor Ferreira da Silva, passing through the University of Porto, and turn right until reaching Rua das Carmelitas number 144, where the old bookstore is located.
Where to stay in Porto
Still don't know where to stay in Porto? To further enhance your historical experience in the city, a tip is the hotel Freixo Palace, a huge 18th century palace. Located on the banks of the Douro River and in Baroque style, the space also offers gardens full of statues and fountains, providing a scenic atmosphere to the guest.
Despite being old, the Palácio do Freixo has been restored and has very comfortable suites, like those of a brand new modern hotel. Currently, the hotel is part of the The Leading Hotels of The World, an award that ranks the most exclusive accommodations in the world.
Walking through the common areas of this 5-star hotel is like taking a trip back in time, passing through environments adorned with classic paintings, works of art and furniture worthy of nobility. Despite being a little far from the historic center of the city, the Freixo Palace offers a free shuttle service daily.
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