In the early 1990s, JK Rowling designed the framework and wrote the first three chapters of what became the world-famous Harry Potter series, while living in Porto – and the connection is unmistakable. Here are a few places that have been cited as inspiration for Rowling’s magical world as well as a few extras that we threw in for the fun of it. Why not design your own magical tour through Portugal?
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When you enter the Majestic Café, try to imagine Rowling scribbling away at one of the tables, periodically looking up to sip a Portuguese coffee or find inspiration from the lovely Belle Époque decor. In fact, the Mirror of Erised was one of the chapters Rowling wrote in Porto… maybe the beautiful mirrors lining the Majestic Cafés walls sparked some creativity? First opened in 1921, the Majestic Café quickly became a favored coffee and snack spot for Porto’s elite, in addition to its local artists and writers (and a few expats, apparently).
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Livraria Lello & Irmão
Among Potterheads, the most recognizable landmark is easily the Livraria Lello & Irmão, a beautiful Art Nouveau bookshop in the heart of the city that first opened in 1881. Believed to have inspired Flourish and Blotts, where Hogwarts students purchase their school books, it also stands out due to the elaborately designed grand staircase, similar to the staircases in the school (except for the fact that it doesn’t move). Livraria Lello may be much more organized than its counterpart in Diagon Alley but the line standing outside may make you wonder if Professor Gilderoy Lockhart is signing books inside.
Biblioteca Joanina, Portugal
Ancient books sitting side-by-side and stacked floor-to-ceiling inside dark-paneled bookshelves (and rolling ladders) only begin to describe how Coimbra University’s Baroque Joanina Library resembles the Hogwarts Library, and although you won’t see Madam Pince scolding any students, it’s easy enough to imagine. The library even has an “academic prison” in the dungeons below that hasn’t been used since the late 1800s (we’re sure Argus Filch would love to put it to use again).
The tower of the 18th-century Clérigos Church is one of Porto’s standout attractions, viewable from much of downtown, and it wouldn’t be too far off to suggest that it resembles the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower, where Hogwarts students got a birds-eye view of many key moments (like when Professor McGonagall got hit with four stunning spells). One moment no Potter fan will ever forget, however, is the first time they read The Lightning-Struck Tower in The Half-blood Prince when Albus Dumbledore got hit with the fatal curse that blew him from the top of the Astronomy Tower. Try not to allow sad feelings prevent you from enjoying the fantastic views of Porto from the top.
University of Coimbra
Students at the University of Coimbra (and other Portuguese universities) are required to wear traditional uniforms including a cape (sound familiar?). Founded in 1290, the University of Coimbra is the oldest institution of higher learning in the country (and one of the oldest in the world) making it an extra unique attraction to check off to-see lists.
The Porto Cathedral, also known as the Sé do Porto is one of the oldest and most important monument buildings in the city. As is the case with other medieval buildings in the country (in this case, post-medieval), the Sé do Porto is characterized by high vaulted ceilings and Gothic arches. Doesn’t it make you think of certain rooms and corridors in Hogwarts, like the Great Hall?
Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
“Bill and Fleur’s cottage stood alone on a cliff overlooking the sea… it was a lonely and beautiful place.” Located in Portugal’s Alentejo region, the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park (also known as Costa Vicentina) may not have had a chance to cast its spell on JK Rowling but it is a beautiful, rugged, and peaceful spot where we can imagine Bill and Fleur’s shell cottage sitting and looking over a cliff-rimmed sea. A few local fishing towns have become popular among surfers, including Aljezur and Odeceixe and we’re sure they’ll also welcome Harry Potter fans looking to stretch their imaginations a bit.
Escovaria de Belomonte
Escovaria de Belomonte is a shop in Porto that sells handmade brushes and brooms; perhaps it inspired Rowling’s description of the riding brooms in the series? You won’t find an actual Firebolt in this store but you may find lots of old-fashioned brushes and brooms and even a miniature Harry Potter-inspired broom on display, due to the shop’s popularity since Potter fans began adding Porto on their bucket lists.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Set in the middle of a lush forested park is the Sintra-Cascais National Park, one of Portugal’s 13 natural parks, and with a little imagination, parts may resemble The Forbidden Forest. There are even beautiful castles all around (instead of just one).
Mysterious expanses of flat, plateau lands tucked away behind mountains help make the Tras-os-Montes region in northeast Portugal the perfect remote place to hold the Quidditch World Cup. Incredibly rural and dotted with small towns and hamlets, a few concealment charms are all that would be needed to keep the excitement from the ears of the locals and occasional passersby.
Cemitério dos Prazeres
The Cemitério dos Prazeres in Lisbon was built after a cholera epidemic broke out in 1833 and consists of the private family burials and crypts, including the famous and wealthy. Peaceful and ancient, filled with mausoleums owned by prominent Portuguese families, it’s easy to compare it to the kirkyard in Godric’s Hollow (a final resting place of some notable and famous wizarding families).
*Extra tip: It’s curious that JK Rowling chose the name Salazar as the founder of Slytherin House, perhaps another Harry Potter connection to Portugal, since this was also the surname of Portugal’s infamous dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.
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