Travelling with kids usually involves lots of short bursts of fun activities interspersed with plenty of refuelling. Porto is perfect for this – there’s plenty to see and do, plus lots of welcoming cafes, bakeries, and ice-cream shops to be enjoyed along the way.
- Porto is perfect for travelling with kids. From great parks to family-friendly attractions, there is plenty to keep them amused.
Views to Sigh
For Get your bearings in the city on day one by getting some scenic views of Porto.
The river Douro cuts through Porto on its way to the Atlantic Ocean and a cruise to see six of its bridges is a sure-fire way to keep the kids amused while taking in some beautiful vistas. Buy the tickets on the quayside; you can set off on a 50-minute tour from Ribeira or Vila Nova de Gaia’s quay, depending on which riverboat cruise company you choose.
Crossing the Douro on foot affords some equally impressive views. If your kids are well disposed to a decent amount of walking, crossing the top tier of the Dom Luís I bridge from Porto over Vila Nova de Gaia affords wonderful views of Porto, Gaia and the river. On the Gaia side, walk a little further uphill to the Jardim do Morro for more beautiful views over the city before heading down to the river and crossing back on the lower tier of Dom Luís I bridge. Younger kids will love the ride back up on the Porto side on the funicular railway.
The 250-year-old Torre dos Clérigos offers some of the best views of the city. The kids might not be so interested in the beautiful collection of sacred art, or the exhibitions about the Brotherhood of the Clerics and the tower’s Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, but they’ll love counting the 240 steps to the top of the baroque 76-metre tower. The renovated tower now boasts a landscape reader so you can pick out Porto’s landmarks in the magnificent 360° panoramas over Porto and its environs afforded from the top. Book online in advance to save yourself queueing time.
Porto is awash with family-friendly green spaces.
The Serralves Villa and Museum of Contemporary Art sit in extensive and beautiful gardens. Depending on their ages, you may struggle to keep the kids’ attention in the museums, but their extensive collections and contemporary exhibitions make it tempting to try. When boredom finally strikes, head outdoors into Serralves’s manicured formal gardens and fountains, and discover lily-strewn ponds and outdoor art exhibits amongst the trees and foliage – a perfect antidote to any wilful parent’s art gallery ambitions.
Jardim do Palácio de Cristal, or Crystal Palace garden, is another wonderful park in the city with breathtaking views over Porto, Gaia and the Douro. Its paths meander beside the lush landscaped lawns, shady trees, fountains, peacocks and a variety of themed gardens with plenty of space for little ones to relax, play or stretch their legs.
Or try Parque da Cidade, ‘city park’, the biggest urban park in Portugal. It stretches from the western end of Avenida da Boavista to the oceanfront at Praia do Castelo do Queijo. It’s the perfect place for some downtime in beautiful green surroundings, birdwatching or enjoying a picnic, especially if you are planning to explore the Castelo do Queijo, aka Forte de São Francisco Xavier, a turreted 17th-century fort perched above the ocean at the far end of the park. Porto’s Sea Life centre also at this end of Parque da Cidade, and while SeaLife might be guaranteed to keep the kids amused, for a more memorable local adventure, we recommend heading over the road to the cannons and beautiful sea views of Forte de São Francisco Xavier to fight imaginary gun battles with pirates.
You will like
- The City Park
- Serralves gardens
- The Douro river
- Crystal Palace garden
- Porto seen from Gaia riverbank
A trip down to the waterfront at Foz do Douro, where the river Douro meets the ocean, is another diverting family-friendly excursion. This is a scenic spot in which to enjoy an ice-cream as you walk along the seafront and Foz’s pergola, or enjoy a paddle in the ocean.
Or, on sunny days, head to the beachfront Piscina das Marés, just north of the harbour at Matosinhos. These tidal swimming pools were designed by Siza Vieira and carved out of the rocks. There’s a large pool for swimming plus a smaller one for kids and plenty of rocky spots for sunbathing.
There are many museums from which to choose in Porto, but the first stop if you are visiting the city with kids has to be World of Discoveries. This museum full of kid-friendly interactive exhibits is down on the waterfront at Cais de Ribeira. It charts the odyssey of the early Portuguese navigators, famous explorers who include Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral, and celebrates their crossing of the oceans and discovery of new worlds. It’s a brilliant introduction to Portugal’s rich and fascinating naval history told in a way that will keep children engaged and enraptured.
A trip to the zoo is also another sure-fire way to keep the kids amused and, in Porto, you can choose from two. Head to the Gaia side of the Douro to feed the penguins at the Santo Inácio Zoo. Or stay on the Porto side to visit Zoo da Maia, home to an equally vast array of animals in green surroundings, including bears, tigers, leopards, and flamingos.
What to do
- A Douro cruise to see six of its bridges
- Crossing the top tier of the Dom Luís I bridge
- The funicular railway
- Visit the 250-year-old Clérigos Tower
- Visit Futebol Clube do Porto Museum
- Visit World of Discoveries, Interactive Museum
Museu Futebol Clube do Porto
Great choice for the kids who love football. At the Estadio Dragão Stadium, the FC Porto Museum by BMG givesthe kids and adults an excellent opportunity to meet the “Draco Constellation” with a vast collection of trophies and record number of exclusive objects. Here you will travel through the history of FC Porto successes and will find such world acclaimed and desired objects as the Intercontinental Cup, the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup.
Sneak in some Shopping
Before you head home, make time do some serious window shopping and take the opportunity to pick up a few mementos.
The Livraria Lello Bookshop in Rua das Carmelitas is a fabulous bookshop with an amazing interior that is said to have inspired J.K Rowling’s depiction of Hogwart’s library. She lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990s and, although the bookshop staff might not be that welcoming to tourists who want to snap souvenir photos, if any of your kids are Harry Potter fans it is worth a visit to enjoy the unique but strangely familiar architecture.
Rua de Santa Catarina is Porto’s main shopping street. You can walk its length – around 1.5km – pottering off down little side streets as they take your fancy; discovering little restaurants, bakeries, cake shops, high-street names, and little boutiques that will entice you in or have you pencilling in a return visit before you leave! But will you be bringing the kids with you next time?
What you need to know
- The City Park opening hours: 1oct-31mar: 8:00-22:00 | 1apr-30sep: 8:00-24:00
- The Cristal Palace opening hours: 1apr-30sep 8:00-21:00 | 1oct-31mar 8:00-19:00
- There are many companies that organise Douro River tours.
3 Days in Porto suggested Plan
Day 1: Walk the Dom Luís I bridge to Gaia and back, then make a visit to World of Discoveries on your return.
Day 2: Take the bus towards Matosinhos along Avenida da Boavista and a light at the entrance of Parque da Cidade to spend a morning wandering its paths in a westerly direction towards the ocean. Enjoy a picnic on its lawns before an afternoon exploring Forte de São Francisco Xavier and an oceanfront dinner in Foz do Douro as the sun sets over the ocean.
Day 3: Time for some souvenir shopping before heading home? Start with one last glorious view of the city from the top of Torre dos Clérigos before mooching your way along Rua de Santa Catarina via Livraria Lello.