Place. Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, best known for for its port wine and the unofficial birth place of Harry Potter. Plus, it's just a really cool city to walk up and down the really old streets.
Where: Portugal is on the southwest corner of Europe, and Porto is a good 3 hour train ride from Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.
Postcard shots: The waterfront, the Porto wine makers, street life, Livraria Lello book store, Clerigos Tower, the rare guitars and all those old buildings.
Why Porto. "There's a great rivalry between Lisbon and Porto. One is the capital, the other could be the capital. Here you feel free without the stress of a big city." Street performer Luis Reis.
On paper, this is a 30 minute walk around town. It's that small, and everything is close by. But plan on it taking eight hours or so to complete. There's that much to see.
If you just walked straight without stopping, yes, that would be a half-hour.
But let’s face it–you came to Europe to explore. right?
start at Lisboa Plaza, home to the Clerigos church tower, for the best overhead view in town. (It’s just 225 steps up, but who’s counting?)
We'll begin in the center of town, and bring you directly to the Livraria Lello bookstore, where the inspiration for the Harry Potter series first hatched. As she was beginning to write the series, J.K. Rowling was living in Porto, and used to visit the bookstore. Now word has spread, and there’s always a long line to get in —and a 5 Euro charge to enter. Pro tip: the key shot is of the staircase, which has been described one of the most beautiful staircases in the world. You want to get it without people all over it. You can help the cause by arriving at 6:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the store closes, when it’s less crowded. The staircase was designed in 1906 by engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves. Said the store in its 1930 catalog: "“Thou who walked the room, shall then see a staircase which is a piece of surprising allure, for its apparent lightness which masks the audacity of its design. One feels the urge to climb it yet fears one’s weight may make it crumble.”
3. Next: the Sao Bento train station is one of the great stations, and is a great place to discover Portugal’s love of tiles. There are some 20,000 of them devoted to Portugal history on the walls.
4. Now head down to the Ribeira, the dynamic waterfront, home to cafes, street performers and a killer view.
5. Cross the bridge to the other side of the Douro River, and visit the local wineries, and the famous Port wine.
Bonus: if you get a chance, stop into Casa da Guitarra where local instruments are offered for sale. Referred to as "violas" there, but in the shape of guitars, they have different looks to represent different regions. For instance, the Brago Viola, is used in the Douro and Minho regions, while the Viola Toeira is popular in Coimbra.
My favorite, the Viola de Amarante, is from the Douro Litoral region, and the two hearts on the body, according to Casa de Guitarra, "are believed to be linked to a love story involving a medieval troubadour."