The capital of Northern Portugal, Porto, has long since been a destination for wine lovers due to its world-renowned Port wine. This charming and romantic riverside city is often overlooked as a top family travel destination in Europe. However, there is so much to see and explore in and around the city for families, it’s an ideal destination for a Portugal family vacation or a European city break. Here are 15 amazing things to do in Porto with kids.
We were part of a customized tour with Epic Travel that took us through Porto, the Douro Valley, and Alentejo. If your family wants to explore these regions and have someone else do all of the work, Epic is the company to choose!
What to do in Porto Portugal with kids
1. Porto sightseeing
This activity is perfect for adults and children alike. While central Porto is pretty compact and easy to explore on foot, the city has steep streets leading down to the riverfront.
What better way to see the city than by hopping onto a city sightseeing bus? Kids will love exploring Porto on an open-top bus, taking in all the sights and sounds of the city. There are several operators who offer sightseeing bus tours, each covering different routes. Passes are usually valid for one or two days, and may include a river cruise and/or additional discounts.
If your family prefers to explore Porto by foot, we highly recommend Explore Sideways, a Portuguese company that offers luxury experiences and private tours. Our tour guide Marcel took us to the Golden Church (Igreja de São Francisco), the São Bento railway station (a must see for it’s stunning azulejo tiles), the Porto Cathedral, and through the narrow alleyways of the Ribeira district.
It was the perfect tour for a first time visit to the city. Be sure to sample the local dishes: pasteis de nata (custard tarts) at a local bakery, Francesinha at Restaurante a Regaleira, and the gelato ice cream at 1927 Gelateria Portuense.
2. Douro River cruise
Another Porto family friendly activity that everyone loves is taking a river cruise along the Douro river. This wine region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the unique history of the port industry in Portugal. This boat ride offers a completely different perspective of the city and the surrounding regions.
There are both short and longer cruise options available. These include a shorter 2-hour half-day excursion that explores the area immediately surrounding Porto.
Alternatively, you can take a comprehensive full-day river cruise that travels deeper into the Douro Valley wine region and its stunning scenery. The full-day Douro river cruise usually also includes a lunch-stop in the Douro Valley too.
This will no doubt be a fun-filled family day out exploring the beautiful Douro landscape and sights.
If your family prefers to book a driver to explore the Douro Valley, we would highly recommend LAB Portugal Tours. They can design a custom tour for your family to explore the vineyards and enjoy an amazing lunch along the way. Be sure to ask for Miguel, the “best driver in the world”. Read our Douro Valley Portugal article to learn more.
3. Spend Your Day Exploring WOW – World of Wine
Don’t let the name fool you, WOW is a great place for families. Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, WOW is an entertainment complex with seven museums, twelve bars and restaurants, and a wine school. It is something you must do in Porto.
Kids will love The Chocolate Story that tells the history of chocolate around the world with interactive exhibits. There’s even a chance to sample the chocolate and buy your own to take home in the gift shop. Downstairs is a classroom where mom and dad can enjoy a port and chocolate pairing or kids can take a cake pop making class.
Other WOW museums perfect for families are: Planet Cork – all about the cork industry in Portugal, Porto Region Across the Ages – all about the history of Porto, and Porto Fashion and Fabric Museum – showing the influence of Portugal’s textile industry and its designers. Older teens can enjoy The Pink Palace where they learn about rosé wine and can take selfies with unique backgrounds (ages 18 and above).
If you’re traveling with older children, you can let them explore the museum while you visit the Taylor port cellars for a tour and tasting. Don’t miss the sunset view from WOW where you will see the Dom Luis Bridge, Clérigos Tower, and the opposite bank of the Douro River.
4. Visit the Harry Potter bookstore, Livraria Lello
Yes, it’s true! Why not take the kids to visit the beautiful one of the most beautiful bookstores in Porto, Livraria Lello? Although the bookstore dates to 1880, it moved to its current location in 1906. As you browse through this tiny shop, you can admire the incredibly detailed wooden interiors as well as the gorgeous spiral staircase which has become somewhat of an Instagram photo sensation.
What really propelled this bookstore into the limelight is its connection to J.K. Rowling. It was claimed that the bookstore was the inspiration for her Harry Potter books. She once lived in Porto, but as it turns out, she never visited this bookstore. Nonetheless, the book store is worth a visit.
Tip: You need to purchase your entrance tickets in advance. There are two types of ticket vouchers, standard or priority (essentially a ticket to skip the line). Each ticket serves as a credit towards a book purchase.
5. Paint your own tiles workshop
Everyone who visits Portugal instantly falls in love with the traditional Portuguese tilework. These decorative tiles, known as Azulejos, are used to decorate both the interiors and exteriors of many homes and buildings throughout the country.
Tiles come in an array of styles and colors, ranging from the traditional white and blue motifs to the more colorful Moorish inspired designs. What better way to learn about the art of Portuguese tile making than a painting workshop? Guests can paint their own tiles to take home as a wonderful keepsake of their family trip to Portugal!
6. FC Porto Stadium Tour
Does your family love soccer (football)? If so, then a visit and tour of the FC Porto Stadium would be a great addition to your Porto trip.
FC Porto, the resident Porto soccer club, is currently ranked as the top football club in Portugal and ranked among the top 20 clubs in Europe too.
A visit to the FC Porto Museum and stadium tours last between 90 minutes to 2 hours. Visitors learn all about the club’s history, their awards and wins as well as the Dragão Stadium (Dragon Stadium), the home of FC Porto. This will no doubt be a highlight for any football fanatic kids and adults alike.
7. Gaia cable car – Teleférico de Gaia
One of the most popular and prettiest parts of Porto is the buzzing riverfront, set at the foot of the Douro River. However, make time to cross the famous Dom Luís I Bridge to the opposite riverbank in Gaia. From here you can admire incredible views of Porto.
To make the most of these views, take the Gaia cable car upward from the Gaia waterfront. At the top, you’ll exit and arrive at a viewing platform that offers breathtaking views out over the city.
Take advantage of this view point and walk back to downtown Porto by crossing back over the top of the bridge. There’s simply no better way to enjoy a sunset in Porto.
Tip: There is a third way to cross the river if you don’t want to use the cable car or walk. The Douro River taxis are rabelos, modeled after the boats that used to carry port wine to Porto from the Douro Valley. Taxis run every 15 minutes during the day, but if you stay in Vila Nova de Gaia (Gaia) for sunset, you’ll need to walk back to Porto when finished.
8. Visit a palace – Palacio da Bolsa
What kid doesn’t like visiting a palace? Palacio da Bolsa, the old stock exchange palace in Porto, is one of the most stunning buildings in the city. The only way to visit is through a guided tour, but it’s well worth it.
Palacio da Bolsa features exceptional attention to detail and dramatic design. The show stopper is the Arabian room, a room that can is enchanting beyond imagination. Featuring Arabic inspired interiors, this stunning masterpiece is still used today to host official state dinners and other events.
9. Explore Porto by tram
Travel back in time and jump onboard an old and beautifully restored tram to see all the sights and sounds of the city. The Porto tram tours have 3 different tram lines (line 1, 18 and 22) that interconnect with each other and cover different areas of the city. It is a charming and unique way to see Porto. At a mere €3.50 per trip, it’s also a fairly inexpensive alternative to the city sightseeing bus tours.
After the tram ride, you could also head to the very informative Tramcar Museum. It highlights over 100 years of tram history and the evolution of the tram network in Porto.
10. Try surfing lessons
Porto has some of the best surfing in Portugal, and it would be a shame not to try it. Several companies offer surfing lessons and if your kids are interested, it’s a great place to learn the basics.
11. Bridge climb
If your kids are daredevils, don’t miss an opportunity to climb the Arrábida Bridge. When it was built in 1963 it was the largest concrete arch in the world. Today it is perfect for adventure lovers who want to climb 65 meters above the Douro River for stellar views of Porto.
12. Visit the Zoo Santo Inácio
Only a short 10-minute drive from downtown Porto, a visit to the Santo Inácio Zoo is a must. This is one of the top-rated family attractions in Porto and it won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2019.
The Zoo houses over 600 animals and promotes Wildlife Conservation, working to bring the community closer to the animals through education and regular informative events. Open year round (except Christmas and New Years Day), there is lots to see and discover. Don’t miss the Asian Lion Tunnel, the Reptile House or the Tropical World. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bite to eat at one of the Zoo restaurants.
13. Climb the Clérigos Tower
There are many overlooks throughout Porto, but the Clérigos Tower might be the best. This bell tower is the tallest in Portugal, measuring 249 feet tall. It’s a steep climb to the top, but you will rewarded with breathtaking views of Porto.
14. Explore the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal
If you need a space for the kids to run around and burn off some steam, head to the Palacio de Cristal gardens. With plant mazes, peacocks, and beautiful city views, kids will love exploring. Pack a picnic and spend a couple of hours enjoying the peaceful gardens.
15. Embark on a day trip from Porto
Does hopping on a train and discovering the birth-place of Portugal or the Venice of Portugal sound enticing? If so, take a family day out discovering some of the most well-known cities and towns located within an hour by train from Porto.
After you’ve done all of your favorite things to do in Porto, consider taking a day trip. Day trips from Porto are a great way to discover new Portuguese towns. Thanks to a fantastic rail network, it is super easy and inexpensive to do.
One of the most popular Porto day trips is Guimarães, known as the birthplace of Portugal and home to the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques.
Another charming city is Aveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal due to its canals and gondolas that operate on it.
Braga is yet another great city to explore, largely due to its religious prominence as the city houses a myriad of cathedrals, churches and other religious sites.
Where to stay in Porto with Kids
Hotels in the town center
Many families will want to stay in the heart of Porto to have easy access to the city’s attractions. There are a few hotels in the city center that have swimming pools: Torel Avantgarde, The Yeatman Hotel (close to WOW), and Maison Albar Hotels Le Monumental Palace.
Luxury hotel near the beach in Porto
We stayed at Vila Foz Hotel and Spa which is an amazing property with impeccable customer service. The property sits about 20 minutes from the city center in the Foz neighborhood and consists of a manor house and newer building.
The hotel is walking distance to the beach, Parque da Cidade (city park), and local restaurants. Guests shouldn’t miss the sunsets from the hotel’s lobby, a visit to the day spa, and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Flor de Lis. The Iberian Pork “Plumas” will be the highlight of your meal, but the guava fondant is equally impressive. This is the perfect place for a peaceful getaway in Porto with kids.
Porto is a city with endless opportunities for entertaining kids. With beautiful buildings, great food, good public transport, and an ideal location, it’s a destination that makes sense for families. Whether you are hopping on a tram to explore the city, cruising down the Douro river or taking in the splendid views from the top of the Dom Luis I bridge, there is honestly so much to see and do, you will not regret a family vacation to Porto.
About the author: This is a collaborative piece between myself and Marco Santos. He wrote the original article but after my recent trip to Porto I added additional information and ideas.
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos, together with his partner, moved to sunny Lisbon over two years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. Marco shares his passion for traveling throughout Europe on his blog Travel-Boo.
Looking for more Portugal itinerary ideas? Don’t miss our post Things to Do in Lisbon with Kids, planning a trip to the Douro Valley, What to do in Alentejo, and our favorite place to stay in Lisbon with kids.