I had never particularly considered a holiday in Porto with kids until I found really cheap return flights there over October half term. It was suddenly very appealing so we the flights and an airbnb apartment were booked. Now that we have been I think it is one of my favourite city breaks! With so much to do there for visitors of any age I was already thinking about how and when we could go back before we left. Here are the mini travel tribe top picks for things to do in Porto with kids.
1. Porto Beaches
Being close to the coast, if you are visiting Porto with kids you will definitely want to include a beach trip in your itinerary. We actually made it to 2 different beaches throughout our 5 day trip.
This is a beautiful long sandy beach North-west of central Porto. We weren’t there in the summer so we almost had the beach to ourselves. We found a bar on the beach which was perfect for us adults to sit and have a drink while the children played in front of us. The long, wide, promenade next to the beach is great for a stroll and the children to run around on. Matosinhos is famous as a fishing port and one of the best areas to eat fresh fish around Porto. After a drink and play on the beach we wandered to Rua Heróis de França for a delicious seafood dinner. This road, towards the port, is lined with seafood restaurants.
Mini Travel Tribe top tips:
- To get to Mastohinos from central Porto catch the blue metro line and get off at Matosinhos sul, which is the closest stop for the beach.
- If you are walking along the promenade look out for the impressive sculpture ‘She Changes’, known locally as ‘Anemone’. It is a huge net hung high in the air as an ode to the local fishing community and changes shape in the wind, hence the name.
- Look out for the ‘Lais de Guia’ bar which is right on the beach. It has a fab decked area with regular tables as well as deckchairs to lounge in and admire the view while having a drink or some food.
Foz do Douro
Foz do Douro is just north of where the Douro river meets the sea. We took the tram from Ribeira (see below) which dropped us by the Jardim do Passeio Alegre. This was a lovely garden, where the children had a run around. There are toilets and a crazy golf too. From there you can already see the sea and it was a short walk further along to reach the most visible icon in Foz do Douro, Farol Senhora de Luz. This lighthouse stands at the end of an esplanade and the children loved the walk out to it surrounded by crashing waves.
The other side of the lighthouse is the start of the beach. This end of the beach was mostly pebbles, of a kaleidoscope of colours. However, it did seem to become more sandy the further north you venture. Our children loved the pebbles and spent ages looking for pebbles of a multitude of colours. In my opinion Foz was possibly more pleasant for a stroll along the esplanade than Mastohinos (despite the weather being much less appealing for us than the day we were in Mastohinos). The small town had some lovely shops and restaurants too.
Mini Travel Tribe top tips:
- Having experienced the tram to get there we got an Uber back into Porto as this was much cheaper with five of us than getting a return tram ticket.
2. Ride the tram
Earlier in the year in Mallorca we took a vintage tram ride which the toddler in particular loved (he cried when we had to get off). This meant that we didn’t want to miss the opportunity for another vintage tram ride. If you are in Porto with kids they will love the tram journey. There are three vintage trams around Porto but the most popular one is line 1 from Ribeira to Foz do Douro. This is the tram we took and because it follows the river there are interesting views the whole way.
The trams leave every 30 minutes and do get really busy. There are often two trams that leave around the same time, with one of these reserved for tour groups so make sure you get on the correct one.
3. World of Discoveries
If you are in Porto with kids this is a great little museum, especially if like us you get some rainy weather. The whole theme is of the Portuguese explorers of the 14th to 16th century discovering parts of the world for the first time. It isn’t particularly cheap but the whole museum is completely interactive so the kids loved it. The highlight was the boat ride at the end that takes you around the world as discovered by the Portuguese. The world of discoveries website has all the up to date information on opening times and prices. You can also buy tickets there online if you want to avoid queuing to buy them when you get there.
Mini Travel Tribe Top Tips:
- Tickets are a bit cheaper if you buy online before you arrive.
- There is a cafe at the museum, although we didn’t eat there so can’t comment on the food.
4. Explore the alleyways and waterfront of Ribeira
A trip to Porto with kids or without them isn’t complete without a visit to the Ribeira area. It is a fantastic area to get lost in. Our children loved the twisting, narrow alleyways which mostly lead down towards the waterfront. This means that you can never get truly lost- if you keep going down you end up by the river! The riverside promenade is lined with restaurants and cafes, which is a great place for a coffee and a pastel de nata (amazing Portuguese custard tarts which we became addicted to!). From most places you get a fantastic view of the imposing bridge, Ponte de Dom Luis I as well as the port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.
It’s a UNESCO listed area (we always like to tick those off!). As well as being a lovely, atmospheric area to walk around it has palaces, churches and museums worth seeing. With the children we picked out the 2 main churches to visit. I would have liked to have also visited the Palácio da Bolsa but it was an extra cost that we didn’t want to stretch to at the end of a sightseeing day with the children. Besides we had to save some things for our next visit! Places we did visit in Ribeira were:
You can’t miss Porto’s cathedral sitting at the top of the Ribeira hill , near to the Dom Luis bridge. The cathedral itself is free to enter but there is a small fee to go in the cloister. I highly recommend doing this as we loved the cloisters adorned with the typical blue and white azulejos (hand-painted tiles) that you see all over Porto. There are also courtyards which the children enjoyed wandering around and don’t miss climbing the bell tower which gives fantastic views over Porto.
Igreja de São Francisco
Having read lots of reports about this being the most dazzling church in Porto we felt we had to go in and have a look. It was more expensive than getting into the cathedral but probably had more to look at. The entrance ticket includes the church museum and the catacombs which are just next door. The children weren’t too interested in the museum so it was a quick flit through there for us. They were fascinated by the catacombs though in a macabre way and the main church was very impressive. No photos are allowed in here so you have to sit and soak it in to your memory instead!
Mini Travel Tribe Top Tips:
- If you have babies or toddlers bring a sling rather than a stroller. There are lots of steps in the back streets. It probably would be possible to find a route on the more main roads that avoids steps but the smaller back streets were our children’s favourites.
- The river front is lined with bars and restaurants so is a good place for a meal or drink with a view.
5. Walk over the Dom Luis I bridge.
This is one of the most notable landmarks in Porto. It was built by one of Gustave Eiffel’s students and you can see the resemblance with the Paris landmark. There are two levels to the bridge with a road on the lower level and metro trains on the upper level. Pedestrians can walk across either level but the top level gives fantastic views along the river and the old town. Just keep an eye out for metro trains, although they do drive very slowly across the bridge and there is a pedestrian strip on either side of the bridge.
As soon as you get across to Vila Nova de Gaia there is a lovely small park, Jardim do Moro, which has a playground for the kids. There are also fabulous viewpoints there too over the river and old town of Porto.
6. Ride the cable car
The most fun way to get from the top of the bridge to the riverside on Vila Nova de Gaia is to ride on the cable car- ‘teleférico de Gaia’. You can do single or return trips (with the return ticket valid for 24 hours). The ride takes about 5 minutes and definitely saves time from walking up or down the winding roads that meander their way down to the riverside.
Despite the rainy weather when we did the trip the children were still super excited about it. The cabins have a maximum capacity of 8 but they didn’t try and fill them so each family tended to get their own which was great.
7. Explore a port cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia
Our airbnb was on the Gaia side of the river so we explored this area quite a bit. There are some lovely restaurants on the waterfront. In my opinion you also get a better view when on this side of the river as you can look out on the colourful buildings and churches of Ribeira across the water. Check out the fairground rides and small playground towards the far end of the riverfront (away from the bridge) if you’re in Porto with kids.
This area is where all the port houses are. Mr MTT and I both like Port but were unsure about dragging the kids around a port house tour! There were also so many to choose from that we weren’t quite sure where to start. After much deliberation and reading reviews we opted for a tour around the Taylor’s port cellar.
One of the reasons that we chose Taylor’s was that it is a self guided tour with an audio guide rather than being in a tour group. This was much better for the children as it meant that we could go at our own pace and weren’t disturbing others too much. The children, particularly the oldest Chloe, really loved the audio guide. She found learning about how the port was made fascinating and was still talking about it for the next couple of days. As well as wandering through the wine cellars there were displays and videos of how Port is made.
At the end of the tour it was on to the tasting room. Included in the adult ticket were 2 ports- one white and one red. The children got a glass of grape juice and some crackers, which went down very well!
Mini Travel Tribe Top Tips:
- The Mercado Beira-Rio is a fantastic covered food market by the river with all sorts of food options. These include pizza, seafood, ice cream as well as a bar for beer and wine. It is definitely worth checking out.
8. Visit Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.
Sitting on top of the hill these gardens were perfect for a wander around and for the children to let off some steam. As well as beautiful gardens, there are playgrounds and most excitingly for our children peacocks wandering around.
Mini Travel Tribe Top Tips:
- The Pavilhão Rosa Mota is a large domed pavilion towards the top end of the gardens. This hosts exhibitions as well as a cafe.
- Just outside this was one of the large Porto signs which is a great photo opportunity.
9. Check out the Porto street art
Porto has lots of vibrant street art to admire, often covering ancient walls when you least expect it. If our children were a bit older we would have considered one of the numerous street art tours that we saw advertised. The younger ones are a bit small to stand around in group tours at the moment so instead we made our own way to check out some of Porto’s fantastic street art.
Rua Miguel Bombarda
If you do visit the gardens of Palácio de Cristal this street is just up the road from the north entrance to the park. This little road has plenty of art galleries too but we just wandered along admiring the street art along the way- the children were fascinated by it.
One block back from the riverfront in Gaia is one of the most famous street art pieces in Porto. It is made from recycled materials and trash found around the city and I was amazed at how it was put together. My favourite piece of street art that I have seen I think. You can also spot this from the cable car but it is worth walking over to it to get a closer look. If you’re in Porto with kids and only check out one piece of street art this should be it in my opinion.
10. Discover the delights around the Avenida dos Aliadios. (Including churches and train stations adorned with beautiful tiles and the famous Lello Bookshop.)
We spent a good half day exploring this area, just north from Ribeira. The Avenida dos Aliados is a wide boulevard with grand buildings surrounding it. At the the top of the road is the Praça General Humberto Delgado with the Impressive town hall towering above it. The square was complete with a large Porto sign which was crying out for another photo opportunity! There are quite a few famous Porto landmarks within this area too.
This bookshop on Praça de Lisboa is said to have inspired one of the Harry Potter books. Whether that is true or not the swirling staircases are certainly reminiscent of Hogwarts. It is a beautiful place to look around but the enjoyment for us was slightly dampened by the crowds (which I believe is the norm). You now have to pay entry, make sure you purchase your ticket from the shop on the corner before joining the queue to get in.
São Bento Train Station
One of the best decorated train stations I have ever seen. Even if you are not taking a train here it is worth popping in to the font hall to admire the azulejo panels. These surround the room with tiled pictures depicting historic battles as well as the history of transport. The azulejo, glazed ceramic tiles, are found decorating all sorts of buildings around Porto and are one of the things that made the city so beautiful for me.
Igreja do Carmo
This church is just a round the corner from the Lello bookshop and is another stunning example of the Portuguese azulejo. We didn’t actually go inside the church but enjoyed admiring the outside of the building.
Mini Travel Tribe Top Tips:
- Backpacks and rear mounted babycarriers/ slings are not allowed in the Lello bookshop. There are free lockers available in the shop you buy the tickets from.