Porto and the north of Portugal are perfect destinations for a family getaway. The kids will love the beaches, the mountains, places such as Sea Life or Santo Inácio Zoo, and they won’t even feel tired or complain about the programme you choose to do as a family.
In Porto, take them by tram or bicycle – downtown and in the historical centre there are several places where you can rent bicycles or tandems – to the beaches and to the City Park. Next to the Edifício Transparente there are surf schools where a healthy lifestyle is encouraged, while at the same time safety and self-confidence are instilled in students. Enrol your little ones in a one-off class. They will certainly spend a special morning or afternoon surfing the Atlantic waves. If you want, you may also join your children.
As an alternative, let them chase the wild ducks, the moorhens and the rabbits in the City Park, the biggest green “lung” in the city and the largest urban park in the country. Or meet the species populating our oceans and rivers at the Sea Life.
At the Sea Life, they will love the first underwater tunnel in the country, where visitors go across 500 thousand litres of water and see sharks swimming over their heads, but also the rays – Porto’s Oceanarium has the largest collection of raias-focinho-de-vaca in the country – and the most peculiar animals, such as the common eagle ray, the clown triggerfish, the sea cow, the seaweed pipefish or the leaf fish! In the rocky pools, let them pick up an urchin and touch a starfish.
If they like music, take them to visit Casa da Música, which has guided visits for tourists, seeking to promote and value the heritage of its reference cultural facilities.
Speaking of culture, the programme Families in Serralves – free and always on Sundays – puts children, parents and grandparents playing scientists, discovering the secrets of plants and doing handicrafts in the different spaces of the foundation. A lot of these activities take place in the luxuriant Park of Serralves. Take some time to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, and the house itself, a remarkable building in Art Deco style.
If your family is into history, go to the Museu Nacional da Imprensa and visit the exhibition “Living memories of the Press”, the greatest display of typographic relics in Europe. The interactive visit is an interesting way to gather generations and a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of the Press.
In Porto, stay at the brand new Hotel da Música. Integrated in the iconic building of Mercado do Bom Sucesso, it is located above the fresh market and the food court with gourmet products and signature restaurants. Dedicated to music, and with a direct access to the market, it can be a fun place to stay as a family.
In the outskirts of Porto
In Greater Porto, there are other attractions that may satisfy the young ones and worth visiting if you have the time.
Beyond the western part of the city, in Gondomar, the Lipor Adventure Park has a children’s playground, a radical park, a jogging and P.T. circuit, bicycles, foosball and also a space dedicated to reading… To enter, you have to drop off some packaging waste! That’s right, it is a different experience that will convince kids to separate the garbage at home.
In Matosinhos, you can have a mini picnic and spend the afternoon with the family by the swimming pool of Quinta da Conceição. The swimming pool, from 1958, was designed by Siza Vieira, who at the time was working for Fernando Távora, who designed this beautiful and idyllic municipal park.
In Gaia, feed the penguins at the Santo Inácio Zoo. During the week and in summer, these mammals eat at 11.30 am and 4.30 pm; at the weekend, the feeding hours are at 11 am and 4.30 pm. In winter, the schedules change to 11 am and 4 pm, during the week and at weekends. There are also daily demonstrations of birds of prey, reptiles and wild life and, from Tuesday to Saturday, guided tours to the Zoo’s House Museum.
Set up a research team with the kids and embark on one of the numerous adventures suggested to families by the Visionarium, in Santa Maria da Feira. One of the activities suggested by the Science Centre of the Europarque is the solving of a crime. There is a crime and a crime scene and the teams must gather all evidence and clues to be later analysed in the Laboratorium.
In Feira there is also the Lourosa Zoo, the only ornithological park in the country. It is a perfect setting for a different and special day.
In the North
Save one day of your stay to camp at Quinta de Pentieiros, in Arcos – Ponte de Lima. Children will love sleeping in a tent outdoors and a place where there are bugs of all shapes and sizes, and dive in the swimming pool of this idyllic location, in the middle of the Protected Landscape of the Lagoons of Bertiandos and S. Pedro d’Arcos.
Leave the third or fourth day of your getaway in the North of Portugal to visit the Natur Waterpark, the Fun Park of Douro. It is the first national ecological park offering, in the same space, a camping area, a water park, and adventure park, miniature golf, driving range, paintball and a pedagogical farm. It is located in Quinta do Barroco, Póvoa, Andrães – Vila Real.
If you can stay for the rest of the week, know that the Romanesque Route has a special 3-day tourist programme for families, inviting children and adults to visit, on the first day, in Felgueiras, the Monastery of Santa Maria de Pombeiro and the Villa Romana de Sendim, and to fresh paint a mural. On the second day, the families visit the water park of Amarante and the historical centre of the city. On the third and last day, the programme includes a visit to the Torre de Vilar, in Lousada, and an entertaining and educational activity for the young ones. Enrol your family and see how happy your children will be when they discover the Romanesque style while playing in a carefree way.
How to get there
There are flights to Porto, low cost , for example, London (Stansted and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly and Charles de Gaulle Vatry), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat , Tenerife, Valencia, Venice and Palma de Mallorca.
In the summer there are low cost companies flying from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.
With normal fares from London - Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris - Orly.
The best way to reach the center of Porto from the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro is by metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.