Where to Go Next in Portugal: Exploring Porto with Kids

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
Things to Do in Porto with Kids

Nestled along the Douro River in northern Portugal, Porto is a historic city that blends old-world charm with a cosmopolitan and youthful modern environment. It’s known for its towering bridges as well as its world-famous port wine, and it makes an ideal destination for families seeking a mix of culture, adventure and relaxation.

Very different from the Algarve’s dramatic cliffs and stunning beaches and Lisbon’s bustling urban expanse, this city features a cooler climate and moodier hues. While younger travelers may not appreciate the viticultural history, there are plenty of things to do in Porto with kids. You can see much of it in less than three days, and it’s a fantastic pairing with Lisbon or a diversion from visiting the Douro Valley, with destination resorts and vineyards filled with family-friendly activities. Pop into Porto and give the kids a peek at its vibrant atmosphere and rich cultural heritage.

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
The lively Ribeira district sits at the heart of Porto’s bustle. Photo by Nick Karvounis

Best Things to Do in Porto with Kids

Day 1: Explore the Heart of Porto

Begin your day in the Ribeira District, which rests along the banks of the Douro River. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the area is characterized by its narrow, winding streets and colorful buildings that date back to medieval times. The maze of alleyways and staircases (which could prove troublesome if you’re thinking of bringing a stroller) reveals hidden cafes, traditional Portuguese restaurants and quaint shops.

The promenade along the river is a lively hub where most tourists gather to enjoy the picturesque views, particularly the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge — designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame — that connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. By day, the Ribiera buzzes with activity as visitors explore historic landmarks like Sao Francisco Church and the Palacio da Bolsa; at night, it transforms into a dining and social haven. Will you find the best local food in this area? Surely not, but it’s still the first place visitors head.

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Be sure to make your way to the church, which was constructed in the 14th century and is adorned with intricate gilded woodwork and ornate carvings. So much of the church is covered in gold leaf, including the altars, columns and ceilings, that it’s nicknamed “the Golden Church.”

Following this church, head to Clerigos Tower and Church to climb the 225 steps to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city. The church itself is a small Baroque-style structure that, while it doesn’t compare to Sao Francisco, is still charming.

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
The double red staircase at Livraria Lello, said to have inspired Harry Potter

Book a time slot well in advance to visit the nearby Livraria Lello, with a double spiraling red staircase and shop so lovely it is said J.K. Rowling was inspired to write the Harry Potter series while sipping coffee amid its upper floors. Admittedly, the crowds can be so horrendous that you cannot even shop for a book in comfort, but if you can score a visit when it’s less packed, your family may also find inspiration.

When it comes to dining, spend lunchtime at Mercado do Bolhao. This historic market dates back to 1914 and is located within a two-story neoclassical building with an open-air courtyard and wrought-iron balconies. Browse the fresh produce, meats, fish and spices along with traditional Portuguese delicacies. In the evening, you’ll find a plethora of places along the river with gorgeous sunsets, so grab a bite there and take it all in.

In Porto, you can also get about on one of the city’s historic trams. The vintage wooden trams not only provide a charming way to see the city, but also give little ones a break from the city’s cobbled sidewalks and steep hills. Tram Line 22 travels the city center and passes landmarks such as Clerigos Tower and Livraria Lello, while Tram Line 1 runs from Infante to Passeio Alegre along the riverside. You can also try Tram Line 18, which operates between Massarelos and Carmo for a glimpse into the city’s less touristed neighborhoods.

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
Kids will love riding a traditional tram around town

Day 2: Cultural Immersion

Start your day with a visit to the enchanting Crystal Palace Gardens (Jardins do Palacio de Cristal). The stunning gardens designed in the 19th century feature peacocks roaming freely through the gardens, delighting children with their colorful plumage. The gardens also feature well-maintained playgrounds for kids to play. But for adults, it’s the breathtaking views of the city that are most magical.

Next, embark on a Douro River boat tour for the best views of the city and its iconic bridges. You can catch a boat in the Ribeira district, gliding beneath the Dom Luis I Bridge and by some of the city’s most notable landmarks, including the Palacio da Blasa and the Se Cathedral perched above on a hill.

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
Porto as seen from the Gaia waterfront

The boats also pass the Vila Nova de Gaia waterfront, which is opposite Ribeira. This area is home to the world-famous port wine cellars, as the vineyards would ship their grapes down to the cool and humid caves found here. It’s also lined with tourist-filled restaurants and cafes, and offers a better view than Riberia for lunch or dinner as you can see Porto best from this side of the river.

Alas, you won’t be able to tour the caves and sample the port with children unless they are 16 and older. But within steps of the caves is the Chocolate Story Museum, which provides a similar journey through chocolate; kids can learn about its history and sample it. And, of course, you can sample plenty of port in the city’s restaurants.

Finally, visit Palacio da Bolsa, a neoclassical landmark showcasing Porto’s original wealth. Stroll through the Arab Room for a glimpse at Moorish architecture, as well as the Golden Room, which is adorned in gold lead from its chandeliers to its furnishings.

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
Showstopping golden detail highlights Palacio Bolsa’s Golden Room

Day 3: Downtime on the Beach

While there are plenty of parks and historic places to explore, one thing many people forget is that Porto is not only situated on the Douro River but on the Atlantic Ocean as well. A bus ride can take you to the newer parts of Porto, and you’ll feel the history strip away as you make your way to the shoreline.

Head toward Foz do Douro, where the river meets the Atlantic, and you’ll find a picturesque promenade as well as elegant mansions. Nearby is the quiet Praia dos Ingleses, with calm waters and ample space for kids. Lined with charming seaside cafes, these golden beaches are a favorite with families. One of the most popular is Matoshinhos Beach, which has a wide, sandy shore. The waters here can be a little rough, making it a prime surf spot, but it’s also full of restaurants and cafes serving fresh seafood and gives you a glimpse at a different side of Porto.

Praia do Carneiro is another great spot located near Castelo do Queijo, a 16th-century fortress that you can add to your Insta presence while kids build sandcastles. The beach here is wide and the water is suitable for wading, so young swimmers are all set. During the summer months, it also offers lifeguards.

Things to Do in Porto with Kids
The waterfront promenade at Foz do Douro

Where to Stay in Porto with Kids

The Yeatman

For fantastic views of Porto from the Gaia district, the five-star Yeatman is one of the best hotels not just in Porto, but in the world. Home to two Michelin-starred restaurants and a member of Relais & Chateaux, the hotel is perfect for hot summer days with an outdoor swimming pool on its seven acres. (There is an indoor pool if you’re visiting in the cooler months.) Suites have views over the city of Porto and the Douro, with the Wine Suite providing space for two adults and two children, including  a living area.

TIP: Our Family Travel Advisors can book Porto accommodations for our clients, often with exclusive perks and amenities to pass. Reach out for more information and booking help.

Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel

For a charming boutique stay in the heart of Porto, Porto A.S. 1829 hotel features original stone walls, wooden beams and vintage décor to foster a historic mood. Then again, it also features air conditioning, free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, so it has all the modern features a family needs. Covered in the blue and white tiles (azulejos) found across Portugal but especially in Porto, the hotel is comprised of just 41 rooms and is in walking distance of Ribeira without being in the thick of it. (Translation: less noise and lower crowds.) The family room offers two beds, with one in a lofted area to tuck the kids away safely at night and give you some privacy.

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly accommodations and things to do in Portugal on Ciao Bambino

The perfect Portugal road trip with kids

The Yeatman: Luxury with stellar views in Porto, Portugal

Best things to do in Lisbon with kids

Cascais, Portugal: A beach haven perfect for young kids

Off-the-grid adventure during an Azores vacation in Portugal

Editor’s Note: Photos by Lissa Poirot except where noted.

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