Why is Porto so Captivating?

Porto, Portugal

My welcome to Porto
My welcome to Porto

I got out of Porto’s underground Metro and was instantly blinded by the sun. It was the first time I’d seen that kind of blue sky and sunlight – the kind that held no promise of rain – in almost a week.

I was so taken by the change in scenery I crossed an intersection on a red light and almost got run. But I didn’t care. After days of grey skies and rain, I was deliriously happy to be out in the sunlight.

As you will soon see, Porto blew me away. After the Los Picos in Northern Spain, I have to say that Porto is my second favorite discovery on this Europe trip.

After I dropped my bag in the hostel and set out to explore immediately. Excited to leave my umbrella behind for the first time in a long time.

My first stop was Livraria Lello, dubbed the “most beautiful bookstore in the world”. It’s been said that this is where JK Rowling got the inspiration for Hogwards from. I’m not sure if the rumor is true, but after seeing this bookstore, sure – I’ll buy it.

The underside of the staircase in Livraria Lello, Porto
Looking up from underneath the staircase in Livraria Lello, Porto
2nd Floor
2nd Floor

Livraria Lello an fashioned bookstore with carved ceilings and balustrades. It has a weird, circular, winding staircase leading to the 2nd floor. The colors inside was of rich dark wood and deep red.

Looking down from the 2nd floor
Looking down from the 2nd floor of Livraria Lello

Looking straight at the staircase
Looking straight at the staircase

Beautiful? Very. But I always imagine that a bookstore needs hidden nooks and crannies with overstuffed chairs where you can sit and read uninterrupted. (And I wonder why all of my fave bookstores ran out of business). Livraria Lello was too small and crowded to have those.

After browsing the books and taking pictures, I just kind of meandered around. I walked pass leafy plazas, maybe about a gazillian pastelerias selling delicious egg tarts, and stately buildings. It was just the perfect day for a stroll.

Neighborhood kitty in Porto
Neighborhood kitty in Porto

Highlight of Porto

Until I finally found myself at the waterfront.

Porto hands down had the most attractive waterfront I’d ever seen. There were old fashioned boats going up and down the river with colorful buildings on the riverside and the rest of Porto rising up behind them forming the backdrop.

A striking bridge connects both sides of the river. I saw plenty of local kids daring each other to jump from the bridge to the green water below much to the delight of the watching tourists.

Porto waterfront
Porto waterfront
Porto waterfront
Porto waterfront
Why are you so pretty, Porto?
Why are you so pretty, Porto?

A few blocks inland, the atmosphere is residential. Stepping carefully around dog poops on the sidewalk, I walked on cobbled-stone streets lined with 3-4 story buildings with cracked tiled walls and hanging clotheslines.

There were these neighborhood stores the kind of which I hadn’t seen in decades: the store selling stationaries and craft papers complete with a photocopier at the back, and that one neighborhood store that sells EVERYTHING from insecticides to religious figurines, from plastic stools to cooking oil – all from a 16 square feet hole in the wall. If you grew up in Asia, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It got me all nostalgic.

For me, exploring these cobbled-stone backstreets was one of Porto’s highlights. Safe to say that after Northern Spain, Porto is the close 2nd of my favorite discoveries on this trip.

Residential streets of Porto
Residential streets of Porto
The back streets of Porto
The back streets of Porto

I’m not sure if it was the perfect weather, or the light, or just my mood at the time but I was so captivated by Porto just within the first few hours.

After over a month traipsing through France’s Brittany and Northern Spain, I was feeling a little tired of traveling, but Porto a refreshing change. It felt rejuvenating and I couldn’t wait to explore more.

3 Replies to “Why is Porto so Captivating?”

  1. Oh wow, anywhere that’s said to have the “most beautiful bookstore in the world” is somewhere I need to visit – that staircase is enough to make me want to go! Porto’s actually somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a while, ever since my friend went earlier this year, so I’m officially adding it to my 2015 list. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Jill, your photo of Porto’s waterfront with two traditional boats at the foreground is particularly stunning! I’m glad the weather was perfect when you visited the city.

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