Peregrination in Porto

Driving up the Douro
Lisbon - First Impressions

On our third and last day in Porto, we decided, as we often do, to follow our trusty Rick Steves walking tour. Though not in depth, Rick’s guides give a good overview of a city, and are an excellent option if you are short on time.

First, here are some random photos from our walk through Porto. Check the captions for details.

One of the highlights of the day was a visit to Livraria Lello, a bookshop which has been described as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. This shop was built in 1906, and lives up to its reputation. It has become very popular as a tourist destination, but in recent years the popularity has skyrocketed because of its association with a certain magical wizard. A young JK Rowling spent 2 years in Porto teaching English, and in her own words “in those first weeks in Portugal I wrote what has become my favourite chapter in the Philosopher’s Stone, ‘The Mirror of Erised’”. Rumour has it that Flourish and Botts, the bookstore in Diagon Alley, was inspired by Livraria Lello. Maybe, maybe not, but the rumours are enough to make this small store one of the the most visited sites in Porto. So much so that you need to buy a ticket for 5 Euros from the nearby ticket office, and numbers are strictly limited. Nevertheless the interior was very crowded, but still worth seeing.

We ended our peregrination at the Ribeira, the rejuvenated riverfront area. Porto’s riverside quarter, known as the Ribeira, is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. The area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The waterfront is a long strip of cafes, restaurants and shops overlooking the river and the Port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank. Many of these businesses are housed in what would once have been single-storey warehouses whilst above and behind are a row of colourful, if not a little faded, houses.

Our time in Porto was sadly running out, so we strolled the length of the Ribeira and then headed back to the railway station to depart for Lisbon. The route back up the hill was rather steep, so we opted to ride up the Funicular dos Guindais. The railway was originally built in 1891 to facilitate the movement of cargo, particularly Port wine. However 2 years later there was an accident caused by excess velocity, and the railway was closed, remaining inactive for over a century. A new funicular and station were opened in 2004, following the same line as before. Due to the difference in slope along the line, the cars have self-leveling platforms, allowing the car floor to stay horizontal. It is only a three-minute journey but the view over the Douro and the spectacular bridge is well worth it. Plus the walk up that steep hill would be a lot less fun.


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