The Portuguese capital of the north, 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. 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. Here are 10 amazing things to do in Porto with kids.
What Not to Miss in Porto with kids
1. City sightseeing bus
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 from downtown Porto.
What better way to see the city than by hopping onto a city sightseeing bus? The kids will love exploring Porto on an open-top bus, taking in all the sights and sounds the city has to offer. 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.
2. Douro River cruise
Another Porto family friendly activity that everyone loves is taking a river cruise along the Douro river. This 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 river cruise that explores the area immediately surrounding Porto. Alternatively, you can opt for a more 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.
3. Visit the Harry Potter bookstore, Livraria Lello
Yes, it’s true! Why not take the kids to visit the beautiful Harry Potter bookstore 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. She once lived in Porto and used to frequent this bookstore while writing the Harry Potter series. In fact, it’s said that the bookstore’s staircase may have been inspiration for the famous Hogwarts spiral staircase.
4. 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!
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 interactive and very informative Tramcar Museum that chronicles over 100 years of tram history and the evolution of the tram network in Porto.
9. 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.
10. 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. 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.
Porto is a city with endless opportunities for entertaining kids. 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: 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 has set out to blog and share his passion for travelling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.