Whilst almost every Harry Potter fan knows about J.K. Rowling’s connection with Edinburgh and the parallels between Harry’s magical world and Scotland’s capital, little know about the special tie Joanne had with Porto: In 1991, after her mother’s death, Rowling moved to Porto and started to teach English at a local school. During this time, she started planning and writing the first HP novel.
Even though the sunny, always warm Porto might not seem to fit into one box with the grey and gloomy setting of the Harry Potter books, one might be surprised by how similar they in fact are. So if you want to follow the tracks of Harry Potter, stick to this Porto travel itinerary:
1. Livraria Lello
Rua das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto
This is probably the best-known Harry Potter location in Porto. Livraria Lello is a bookshop which apparently inspired Flourish & Blotts. Admittedly, Lello is a beautiful bookshop, if not one of the most beautiful book stores existing, but there are a few disappointments.
First of all, the entry fee is now set at 5,50€, which really is a lot. Often times, the queues are very long and once you are inside, the place is too crowded for you to move about freely. If you buy a book, the 5,50€ are subtracted from the book’s price, however Livraria Lello has the weirdest collection of books – no bestsellers, very limited English books, and most of them are about Portugal’s history. If you are looking for novels or any other book you would find in a typical bookstore, I can almost guarantee you that Livraria Lello won’t have it.
Furthermore, the wood carvings on the ceiling and the stairs are in fact made out of plaster, not wood.
If you are a book lover, you probably know the feeling you get once you enter a bookstore – the tranquility, the peacefulness, … – none of this exists in Livraria Lello: it feels like what it is: a tourist spot.
2. Café Majestic
Rua Santa Catarina 112, 4000-442 Porto
Even if you’re not a fan of Harry Potter (shame on you), Café Majestic is worth a visit. This café is – you guessed it – majestic: high ceilings, beautiful stucco on the walls and the ceiling, huge chandeliers, and exclusive food. Apparently, this is where J.K. Rowling sat while writing her first Harry Potter draft, even scribbling down some notes on a napkin. All in all, the Portuguese Elephant House.
3. Student Uniforms
This is not a location – who would have guessed – but in fact something you can notice everywhere in Porto. All the university students are wearing long, black coats (even in summer) and scarfs as part of their uniform. If you weren’t sure before, once you’ve seen these cloaks, you will be convinced that this is where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration from.
4. Escovaria de Belomonte
Rua de Belomonte 34, 4050-096 Porto
You always wanted to fan-girl/boy in a brush shop? Then this is your place. Escovaria de Belomonte is after all just a normal brush shop, however apparently it is also the store that inspired the broom shop in the Diagon Alley – the one where Harry first laid eyes on the Nimbus 2000.
All the brushes are handcrafted and admittedly do look pretty impressive.