Hi there! Are you a fan of Harry Potter? It’s very likely that I’m the only person on planet Earth who didn’t follow the series. In fact, I only read the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) ten years after it was first published, and I have to say that I almost got hooked. So I can understand why the books and the movies were so successful.


Even on a sunny day, Porto’s old town feels quite mysterious

Even though the whole Harry Potter saga takes place in the UK, I think most of you know that the author J.K. Rowling took inspiration from many other stories, myths and places. One of these places is Portugal and I was intrigued to discover the relationship between the city of Porto and the Harry Potter series. So on my most recent visit to Portugal’s second largest city, I made sure to get some inside on a few facts that may have inspired J.K. Rowling to write the story of the young wizard.


In the early 1990s, after her mother passed away, Rowling replied to an ad on the The Guardian and was selected for a position as an English teacher in the city of Porto. As a way to relief the pain and the symptoms of depression, she was writing the scraps of what would be the first book in the Harry Potter series.

Harry Potter e a Cidade do Porto, Portugal

She used to teach late afternoon and early evening, so she had the whole day to explore the city and write in many of the city’s cafes. One of these cafes was the beautiful Café Majestic, on Santa Catarina street. Despite the many tourists that fill its main room, Café Majestic stills keeps all the historic glamour of its Belle Époque interiors, with huge mirrors decorating the walls, chandeliers and the well preserved 1920s vibe.

Harry Potter e a Cidade do Porto, Portugal

As you drink there sipping your cappuccino, you can imagine J.K. Rowling there, writing some chapters of her first book, unaware that she was writing one of the most successful book series of modern times. I can definitely see myself there getting some inspiration to write a big post about the city! 🙂

Another place people say she used to visit often was Lello Bookstore (pictured below). This century old bookstore seems perfect to host Harry Potter and his wizard friends. Apparently, J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time there reading, writing and, again, looking for inspiration. Some people say that this place was an inspiration for the book’s Flourish & Blotts bookstore, while others compare it to Ollivanders, the shop where all wizards bought their wands.

Harry Potter e a Cidade do Porto, Portugal

Other people also say that the bookstore’s stairs were an inspiration for Hogwarts’ grand staircase, with the difference that one is circular and the other straight. Difference in shape aside, there’s no denying that both stairs are very majestic, and one could have easily inspired the (then) reader Joanne Kathleen Rowling to create the other.

If you read one of the books or saw one of the films, you’ll probably remember the uniform the students of Hogwarts used to wear. Those black uniforms with long black cloaks, seem to have been inspired by the ones worn by the students of the University of Porto. Yes, it’s true! When you walk around the streets of Porto, you will see many students wearing an all-black uniform (apart from the white shirt), including the black cloak, a tradition broguth to Porto from the University of Coimbra.

Harry Potter e a Cidade do Porto Portugal

A group of musicians from the University of Porto, wearing a shorter cloak.

There are also some theories that the Black Lake was inspired by the River Douro. But isn’t a river just too big to inspire a fictitious lake? Well, sometimes, early morning, a thick fog stands over the mouth of the river, giving the river an air of mystery. What do you think?

J.K. Rowling married a Portuguese journalist, with whom she had a troubled marriage. Her daughter was born in Porto, but today the writer rarely talks about her time in Portugal.

Whether it’s true or not, it’s hard to deny that Porto’s cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, its gothic churches and rich history inspired J.K. Rowling create the whole Potter universe. The city was very inspired back then, and today it still inspires tourists, photographers, journalists and bloggers. I can guarantee!

Cover Picture Credit: By Mike Norton (CC BY 2.0)

Other Posts:
Sun, Sea and San Sebastian, Spain
Is Cadaqués the Most Romantic City in Spain?
– 5 Interesting Places in Brussels, Belgium
– Morbihan and the South of Brittany, France

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4 Responses

    • Pedro

      That made curious as for what other places may have influenced the author. But hey, as I said, I didn’t follow the whole series, so I’d have to read/watch everything before any further research.

      Thanks for your visit!


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