Visiting Porto, we certainly couldn’t help dropping into the famous Lello Bookstore. Not only is it famous due to its connection to the creation of the Harry Potter books, but also because it’s one of the oldest bookshops in the country.
A magnificent facade, sophisticated interior design, a bright-red staircase, pelmets, a coloured stained glass ceiling… It’s a very impressive place, but we expected something different. From our point of view, a bookshop or a library is an area of total silence and reverence for books. It’s different here. Almost every tourist considers it necessary to visit Lello, so it’s always packed with people. In fact, there are so many people that it’s sometimes really hard just to move around the shop, to say nothing of taking a photo of something interesting, which is not possible at all.
Satellite City, Monastery, and Port Wine
Like Lisbon, Porto is situated on a bank of a large river, over which several bridges are built – the world-renowned Luís I Bridge starting right from the Old Town, the Infante Dom Henrique Bridge (a highway bridge), the Maria Pia Bridge (an old railway bridge that is out of service now), and the Ponte de São João that replaced the latter one. There are two more highway bridges: the Freixo Bridge (Ponte do Freixo) and the Arrábida Bridge (Ponte de Arrábida).
Despite the common perception, Porto occupies the right bank of the river only, while the opposite one is occupied by another municipality – a satellite city of Vila Nova de Gaia. That’s where the vast majority of wineries making the famous port wine are situated.
Vila Nova de Gaia is an interesting place similar to Porto in the atmosphere and the way of life, but also having its own one-of-a-kind features. There are monuments, cultural landmarks, churches, monasteries. For instance, there’s the Monastery of Serra do Pilar by the river built in the 16th century. Like many other similar buildings, it’s located on an elevation almost opposite the district of Ribeira. There’s an observation point near the monastery that has a fabulous view of the river, sunsets, the lace Luís I Bridge, and colourful houses in the historic centre of Porto.
Nightlife, Street Musicians and AeroFest
Porto’s nightlife is worthy of a special mention. The cultural centre and riverfront seem to come alive in the evening. Tourists are walking admiring the beautifully illuminated buildings and bridges; the streets and riverfront get filled with various performers – fire performers, magicians, puppeteers, pantomime masters, live sculptures, dancers, and, of course, street musicians.
Some of the performances were so good that we remembered them for a long time. Sometimes we even chose the route for an evening walk so that we could watch the performances of the musicians that we and our children especially liked again.
An air show took place on one of the days we stayed in the city. We didn’t know about it, so we were confused when we were woken up by an increasing hum. As soon as we found out what it was, we went for a walk.