Potter in Porto

You might be surprised to learn that a home to some Harry Potter gems is Portugal. It certainly was a pleasant shock to me when I traveled there for spring break, having no idea about it when I planned the trip. This is because J.K. Rowling lived and taught in Porto, a university city in northern Portugal, in the early 90s. There, she got in some inspiration as well as writing time, according to my tour guide. I had fallen in love with Porto before learning about this (Porto is now in my top five favorite cities and I recommend it over Lisbon), and learning about its Harry Potter connection made me love it even more.

Livrario Lello (Lello Bookstore)

Voted one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world (a title with which I agree), it is rumored that Livrario Lello’s stacked shelves supposedly inspired Ollivanders wand shop or Flourish and Blotts bookshop, both in Diagon Alley, while its sweeping red staircase inspired the grand staircase of Hogwarts. The shop includes a small room dedicated solely to Harry Potter brand books, as well as a display of signed books from famous authors – including, of course, Rowling.

You must purchase a €5 ticket to enter the shop, which can be used as a voucher for €5 off a book. I, naturally, used my ticket towards a copy of the Order of the Phoenix.

Fonte dos Leões (Lions Fountain)

A one-minute stroll west of the book shop, you will find the Gomes Teixeira square where a fountain with green winged lions (griffins) sit. The griffins were inspirations for Gryffindor House’s symbol, the lion.

Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas (Churches)

Kitty corner to the Lions Fountain are Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas churches, notable for their beautifully tiled facade. A law at the time of their constructions made it illegal to have two churches next to each other, so a very skinny house (one meter wide, to be exact) was built between to separate them. It’s the inspiration for 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black’s hidden family home that serves as the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix.

Student uniforms

The students of the University of Porto wear ceremony suits with black cloaks, a tradition dating back centuries. While it is not confirmed, it would make sense that these uniforms inspired the Hogwarts robes.

Slytherin’s namesake

Rowling confirmed that she based Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slytherin off of António de Oliveira Salazar, a fascist dictator who ruled Portugal in the 20th century. One of Salazar’s notorious policies was to maintain high levels of illiteracy, which is ironic to hear knowing the Harry Potter books are among the most popular of all time.

While you’re there…

Note a couple other British influences in Porto. Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) was designed by a man from London (doesn’t it look like Regent Street?). And there are red phone booths from London around the city; supposedly London didn’t need them anymore so it gave them to Porto.

Aside from these Harry Potter gems, there are so many more treasures in Porto, including stunning tiled buildings, beautiful sunsets, sandy beaches and port wine. I highly recommend visiting for a longer than a day trip from Lisbon.