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Magical bookshop

Harry Potter author creates magic for Portugal's most popular bookshop

Porto is Portugal's second-largest city. Here people are lining up in long queues to gain entry to the city's most popular attraction. But this is not a museum or historic residence. These people are queuing to get into a bookshop: the 112-year-old Livraria Lello.

Livraria Lello, a bookshop, attracts more than a million visitors annually. The book shop is located in a small white building covered with delicate wooden carvings.

The shop is dubbed the "cathedral of books" due to its decor and style with colourful stained glass windows and delicate woodwork. It is so popular that visitors are willing to pay an entrance fee of 4 euros (4.8 US dollars or 3.5 British pounds) just to get inside.

The Livraria Lello does not, however, owe its success only to its books, but also to Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who taught English in the Portuguese coastal city in the early 1990s and reportedly liked to visit the bookshop.

"If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you need to come here at least once," says Jan, a 23-year-old German visitor.

But the bookshop saw tougher times not long ago. Only four years back, the Livraria Lello almost went bankrupt. That was when someone suggested that it start charging an entry fee to people coming to admire the interior.

This proofed to be an excellent idea. Visitor numbers rose by 20 per cent to 1.2 million in 2017 and more than 280,000 books were sold. In 2015, they had only sold about 50,000 books! Staff numbers have also increased - from seven to 45 employees.

About half of the books sold in the shop are in foreign languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. Harry Potter's adventures are available in all the five languages. Those who buy books get the entrance fee knocked off the price. The Livraria Lello now also sells postcards, soaps, perfume and other souvenirs.

image: Emilio Rappold/dpa


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