Though there are many things worth shouting about Porto’s dilapidated yet charming exterior architecture, the experience will come full circle once you decided to enter the many churches, museums and even the train station that occupies the city.
The interiors of this noteworthy establishment are not only beautiful, but historically and culturally important too, they are landmarks that will provide context for understanding the story of this remarkable European city. The interiors are unique, exquisite and definitely Inspirational, no wonder J.K Rowling on her teaching days as an English as a foreign language instructor at Porto was significantly influenced by the city, on her early development of the Harry Potter book series.
There are three places in Porto that are worth visiting and in a way worth paying for a small entrance fee- the Livraria Lello, Estação Ferroviária de São Bento (São Bento Railway Station), and the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral).
Considered as one of the world’s most beautiful bookshop, operating since 1906, the Lello bookshop, in recent times has been popular as ever due to its association with the Harry Potter book series. An initial fee of 3 Euro is needed to enter the bookshop, but the fee will be deducted from the purchase bill in case you buy any books.
It is believed that J.K Rowling used the Lelllo bookshop as the inspiration behind Potters’ Diagon’s Alley very own bookstore, Flourish and Blotts. The most popular area inside Livraria Lello is certainly the red spiral staircase, for its ambiance seems to be taken directly out from the images of Hogwarts. Harry Potter mania is truly celebrated at Livraria Lello, there is a dedicated corner decorated with Platform 9 3/4 in the background, with visitors queuing up for some souvenir photos.
I would say that for those who are looking for some quiet time inside the bookshop, perhaps, either visit early in the morning or late in the evening, as the Lello bookshop at daytime is populated mostly by visitors with no intentions of purchasing any books, but just to take photographs and find similarity with the fictional world of Potter.
Ask any one of the places to see in Porto, and everyone will point you in the direction of São Bento Railway Station. Located at the historic city center, built on the site of what once a 16th century Benedectine monastery, the “U” shaped train station is not only the main terminus of the Porto’s suburban railway lines, but most importantly, contains one of the most remarkable work of art in the city.
The interior of the railway station, is where you will find a distinctive Portuguese form of art, the azulejo. These painted tin-glazed ceramic tileworks are deep-rooted in Portuguese architecture and found in almost all establishments around the country.
At São Bento Railway Station , there are approximately 20,000 elaborately painted azulejo ceramic tiles on its interior walls, dating back to 1905.
Every blue azulejo decorated wall facade are composed not only to depict significant events in Portuguese history, like the scenes from the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez, but to also show images of the life on the countryside. Above the blue tiles, on the upper part of the frieze are multi-colored azulejo showing the form of transports used in Portugal.
With natural light entering the station hallways through the tinted glass window, one particular thing that I love the most about São Bento Railway Station is how it exudes the ambiance of nostalgia and romance, as if this is the place where promises are made and broken, where lovers come and go.
Visiting Porto means entering the many churches around the city, it can be for religious reason, but for many, it is mostly to admire the architectural styles. One of the most recommended church to visit is none other than the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral).
Located at Morro da Sé, the oldest district in Porto and what remains to be the most genuine part of the city till this day, the Porto Cathedral is a historic landmark. Though initially of 12th century Romanesque style, the church transforms aesthetically over the years, now it has evidence of both Gothic and Baroque influence too.
Entering the cathedral is for free, though a 3 Euro entrance fee is required to enter the Cloisters and the Sacred Art Museum. Entering the Gothic cloister area is worth the fee, here is another place to admire the church architecture and the azulejo decorated wall depicting scenes from the Song of Solomon, while the museum is mostly showing antiquated religious artifacts.