Ever wished you could step into a Harry Potter book and walk around the bespectacled young wizard’s fantastical world? It doesn’t require magic, you know? Just a plane ticket to Porto, the hip coastal city in northern Portugal famed for its 19th-century port houses, where JK Rowling fell for an old-fashioned bookshop.

Magic incantations. Tripleheaded hounds. A judgmental talking hat. There’s plenty in J.K. Rowling’s world-dominating 1997 debut, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that’s far-fetched and divorced from normal life.

But a short browse around Livraria Lello bookshop in the heart of Porto should convince you at least some of Harry Potter’s wizarding universe is sturdily rooted in reality.

A magical place

A magical place
JK Rowling visited Livraria Lello regularly in the early 1990s / Image: Alamy

Author J.K. Rowling lived in Porto while working as an English teacher in the early 1990s and was a regular customer here.

Does the theatrical, kinda-Gothic interior and serpentine central stairway remind you of anywhere, I don’t know, Hogwartsy? Or does the floor-to-ceiling shelving put you in mind of a certain Flourish and Blotts on Diagon Alley?

For those not fluent in wizard – Flourish and Blotts is the bookseller where most Hogwarts students purchase their schoolbooks. It’s described as having “shelves stacked to the ceiling with books as large as paving stones and books the size of postage stamps”.

Livraria Lello was founded in 1906 and has long been a Mecca for the Portuguese intelligentsia, although in recent years the global popularity of Harry Potter has forced overwhelmed staff to charge tourists an entrance fee, redeemable against any book purchased in store.

This hasn’t deterred the many hundreds of Potterheads who descend on the shop each day. So, basically, we’re saying forget Expecto Patronum – you should probably just Expecto Some Queues.


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