Harry Potter and the Portuguese Background

Who hasn't heard of the famous wizard, Harry Potter? It's almost impossible for him to have escaped your notice - this boy of wizarding fame is worshipped and adored the world over. When I think of Harry Potter, amongst the first things to come to mind are Hogwarts school, Platform 9¾ and, above all, London! England is the homeland of the young Harry, born at the hand of the famous British writer, J. K. Rowling.

Maybe you don't know this but Harry Potter is Portuguese. Yes, really!

In the 1990s Rowling moved to Porto to teach English and, between lessons, write the first chapter of the saga. Rowling used many Portuguese places and traditions as her inspiration, giving shape to the wondrous world of magic where the series is set.

Below are some of the places and customs from which the author drew inspiration.

  1. The School Uniform

    Most of us, at least once in our lives, will have dreamed of putting on the school uniform of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts' long, elegant, black robes were inspired by the "traje", the official uniform of Portuguese university students. Students wear them especially for events, but they are allowed to wear them all the time, even away from university. At the weekends local bars and pubs are packed with students in uniform; for them it is completely normal, and is in fact something to be proud of. The "traje" is black and consists of a coat, waistcoat and trousers, roughly the same for boys and girls. The famous "capa" - a long, black cloak - finishes off the uniform strikingly. The cloak can be worn in different ways, depending on whether the student is in class, at mass, at an academic event, the Serenata or even in mourning.

    During my year abroad in Coimbra I couldn't help but be reminded of the Hogwarts school uniform every time I saw a student of Coimbra University in their traditional clothing. I snapped photos of the students at every opportunity, such as this one:


    The uniform has regional variations, each one unique to their own part of Portugal. For example, some uniforms include a hat, such as the one in this photo:


    Isn't it very similar to the uniform worn by Hogwarts students?

    If you want to see the students in their traditional uniforms, you are best visiting Portugal during the school semester, better still during the Queima (the traditional fiesta organised by university students).

  2. House colours

    I consider myself a Gryffindor, although there are those who see me as a Slytherin! What house are you?

    J. K. Rowling assigned a colour to each house. In Portugal, each faculty is given a colour: yellow for Medicine, red for Law, purple for Pharmaceutics, red and white for Economics, orange for Psychology, blue for Literature, sky blue and white for Science and Technology, brown for Sports Science and green and yellow for Earth Science.

    The students often hang a coloured "fita" or ribbon representing their faculty from their hat or their "pasta", the black writing case that goes everywhere with them, tucked under their arms. During the Queima and Latada and other academic fiestas, the faculty colours are accentuated and played to, with students wearing coloured hats, painting their faces and carnival floats... Now tell me that this doesn't happen at Hogwarts too, during important events or Quidditch matches?

    These are the carnival floats that paraded the streets from this year's Queima in Coimbra.


    You might notice that each float is coloured the same as the faculty it represents.

  3. Diagon Alley

    Who amongst us has never wanted to pay a visit to Mr Ollivander to buy a magic wand? Who hasn't dreamed of wandering around Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to buy a real magic trick? Diagon Alley, the secret, magical corner of London, was inspired by the warren of narrow alleys in Porto.

    Harry Potter and the Portuguese Background


    It seems that Rowling took her inspiration for the narrow, antiquated streets of Diagon Alley from streets just like this...


    .. whilst Diagon Alley's buildings might be based on those found in Porto's city centre; low, colourful and historical, like these:



    Walking through the streets of Porto, I soon noticed a certain similarity with Diagon Alley, especially in streets such as this:


    Colourful buildings, large wooden doors and old windows weathered by time.

  4. Lello & Irmão Bookshop

    Lello & Irmão Bookshop in Porto seems to have been a great source of inspiration for the young writer. I visited the bookshop with my brother, both of us being huge fans of the series.

    Harry Potter and the Portuguese Background


    With its beautiful wooden interiors, detailed decorative carvings, stained glass windows and shelves full of old books, the bookshop is very reminiscent of the elegant office of Albus Dumbledore or the Hogwarts library, don't you think?

Photo gallery

Comments (1 comments)

  • flag- Carlos Fonseca 8 months ago

    Even you can find a Salazar in HP books that might have been isnpired by the portuguese dictator.
    There is also a hiden house between two buildings (churches) in Porto

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