Set with botanical gardens, art-filled lawns and hidden woodland retreats, Porto is a city with greenery woven into the urban landscape. Locals and visitors alike flock to the many parks around town for picnics, exercise and unstructured time with the kids. Porto’s unique topography – hello, hillsides! – also offers some prime spots for watching the sunset. Whether you’re seeking activity-filled parks for the family or manicured grounds to discover some of Portugal’s biggest and most vibrant blossoms, Porto has you covered.
Parque de Serralves
A former estate on the outskirts of Porto was transformed into one of Porto’s most beautifully designed green spaces in the 1930s. Today the Parque de Serralves has formal gardens, wooded paths and open lawns, along with some unusual features you won’t find in other parks in Porto. You can ponder outdoor sculptures created by artists like Claes Oldenburg and Richard Serra, or get a dose of pastoral life thanks to the resident cows, goats and donkeys. For a different perspective, head off on a treetop walk through the canopy for surprising views of the park’s biodiversity – one of Porto’s best nature experiences.
Most people visit with art in mind, as Serralves is also home to Porto’s top contemporary art museum. Both the park and the museum hog the city spotlight in early June during the Festa em Serralves, featuring round-the-clock exhibitions, concerts, dance performances and other arts programming over one long weekend.
Parque da Cidade
The city’s biggest park stretches for over 83 hectares (205 acres) and has wide grassy expanses, sports fields and 10km (6.2 miles) of paths. Locals come for bike rides and morning runs, picnicking by the lake and a walk with the dog through wooded sections. Nature aside, the Parque da Cidade has a few other draws, including the Pavilhão da Água, a hands-on science museum with a focus on aquatic life, wave formation, tropical storms and other water-related topics.
You can also combine a visit to the park with some time on the beach. From the western section, you can walk down to the wide sandy shoreline of Praia Internacional or admire the views from atop the 17th-century Castelo de Queijo.
Jardim Botânico do Porto
Porto’s botanical gardens are small in size but full of diverse plant life. Narrow paths take you past fragrant rose gardens, prickly cacti, a small arboretum, brightly bloomed rhododendrons and a pond full of water lilies. Pride of place goes to the hedgerows of camellias, many of which date back to the 19th century.
In all, the garden has more than 1300 plant species though you’ll need to visit in spring or summer to see the full glory of its botanical beauty. Overlooking the gardens, the Casa Andresen was once the lavish home of a Port wine merchant, which today houses a small but fascinating children’s museum devoted to biodiversity.
Jardim do Morro
The straightforwardly named "garden of the hill," offers one of the best views of Porto from its lofty location on the south side of the river. Apart from a playground and a tiny pond at opposite ends, the palm-fringed gardens don’t have many features. The prime activity is to sit on the grass and enjoy the panorama of the city stretching along the Douro. Come around sunset and don’t forget to bring drinks and a picnic.
Getting here is part of the fun, whether you come by foot over the Ponte Dom Luís I, ride the aerial Teleférico de Gaia up from Vila Nova de Gaia or take the D (yellow) metro line from the city center (which also runs above ground over the bridge).
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
Tripeiros (Porto locals) have a special fondness for these verdant gardens in the Massarelos district. Here you can walk the shaded lanes beneath beech trees, fragrant cypresses and oversized magnolias, passing flower gardens, statuary and fountains along the way. The views stretch across the rooftops along the riverside and take in a serpentine curve of the Douro.
Strolling here amid the manicured elegance, you might imagine yourself transported into a Victorian-era painting. Visiting the 18th-century former country estate of the Quinta da Macieirinha – now a museum – only adds to the sensation. During the summer, the city hosts a decidedly modern lineup of events from free yoga and pilates classes to periodic concerts on the lawn. You can also take a guided climb to the top of the Rosa Mota Pavilion for even better views over the city.
Parque São Roque
Set on a hillside east of the city center, the Parque São Roque evokes a bygone era with its collection of human-made elements, including a grotto, a chapel and a Minaret-like viewpoint overlooking a distant stretch of the Douro. Kids will love exploring here, especially the hedgerow labyrinth, or clambering around a wooden obstacle course on the playground. When you need a break from the sun, you can stroll the shaded paths that wind through a forest of eucalyptus.