Masses of tourists are visiting the Portuguese city of Porto, which is becoming an emerging tourist destination for all the right reasons: Gorgeous medieval architecture, a devotion to its cultural roots, and an iconic alcoholic beverage, all in a truly chilled out atmosphere.
There’s a saying in Portuguese that goes “Coimbra sings; Braga prays; Lisbon shows off; and Porto works.” It says a lot, especially about Porto, a city of nearly 3 million people and Portugal’s second-largest city, which sits on the Iberian peninsula. It is the most important city in the northwest of the country, an area where industry is important. That’s why “Porto works.”
Multi-tasking: explore and exercise
But Porto also “works” for a number of reasons, and that’s why it’s become such a hit with international travellers. Portugal’s second city is a perfect place both to unwind and get your legs toned, meaning it’s a hilly place, but one that you can navigate on foot and explore, given the gorgeous medieval-era buildings that line the city’s hills.
Of tiles and Harry Potter tales
As for the must-sees, make sure you view the iconic (and ubiquitous) blue and white Portuguese tiles of Porto. Although you can run into these yourself by exploring the winding streets of the old neighborhoods, you can actually see 20,000 of them (!) in Porto’s São Bento Railway Station; alternatively, check out 11,000 of them, give or take a few, in the Saint Ildefonso Church.
Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, there are some interesting and spectacular places/things that have become very popular due to the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote chapters of one of her famous books in the early 1990s in Porto at a time when she was living and working there as an English teacher. Supposedly, her time in the city made a huge impression, both on her and the famous books she would eventually put out.
For one, Ms. Rowling frequented an ornate Portuguese coffee shop in Porto, the century-old Majestic Cafe, whose furnishings are likely to rub off on you and make you feel like royalty.
Best bookstore on earth?
Another of her favorites – a bookstore – is alleged to be one of the best bookstores in the world, and is one of the oldest booksellers in Portugal. It’s called Livraria Lello and its art nouveau decor is supposedly the inspiration for the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter series. Let’s just say Lello is very ornate, with intricately-carved bookshelves, dramatic balustrades and winding staircases. The real book shop’s origins go back to the 19th century, but the present location has existed since 1906. These days, so many tourists show up there – not to buy any books, but to gawk at the place – that the shop now charges an entrance fee. It’s still worth it, and so is a visit to Porto.
Are you still wondering what to do in Porto? I hope not. Maybe it’s time to sip from a glass of port wine.