Mellow Lello

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Tibor Bognar / Corbis

Lello's interior is dominated by curvaceous red stairs that uncoil like some literary dragon amid the volumes

If tempted to put more reading on a Kindle, first pay a visit to the Livraria Lello, tel: (351-22) 200 2037. Located in Porto, a Portuguese city known as a virtual museum of Art Deco storefronts, this veritable shrine to bound print tops all other eccentric remnants of fin de siècle design. "Going to Porto without seeing Lello," declares proud owner Antero Braga from behind the register, "is like going to Rome without seeing the Pope."

A spectacular evocation of the neo-Gothic built to show off local wealth in 1906, with a churchlike facade looking across at the city's iconic Torre dos Clérigos, Lello's interior is dominated by wood carvings, Byzantine bookcases, trompe l'oeil and curvaceous red stairs that uncoil like some literary dragon amid 120,000 volumes. There's even an ancient wheelbarrow on tracks that once carried heavy tomes from the front door to the shelves.

Rescued from dereliction by a restoration project completed in 1995, the Lello packs in tour groups who aren't necessarily interested in the symbolist poetry, but snatch up a great selection of Lusitania-evoking photo books, as well as fancy soaps and sips of port wine served in an upper-level three-table café. Fado music plays to aid the browsing, but it's hard for even the most sumptuous coffee-table item to upstage the surroundings.