While Lisbon is Portugal's top holiday destination, quieter Porto is a great alternative if you have kids in tow. Why? Well, for one thing, it's smaller and more manageable, with a compact downtown hub, and plenty of parks with viewpoints and cafes as a reward for climbing its famous hills.

Then there's the city's full hand of kid-friendly sights and activities, from culture hubs and urban farms to riverboat rides and riverside cycle paths. Add in plenty of kid-friendly places to stay and easy access to the coast by bus, train or bike, and family trips are a no-brainer.

And if the patience of small travelers wears thin, there are plenty of pastel de nata pit stops along the way to keep energy levels high. Here's our guide to exploring Porto with kids.

Fun activities for families in Porto

The secret to a successful city break with kids is picking the right things to see and do (and not trying to cram too much into a single day). Start with some of the following kid-friendly Porto activities.

Stroll the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

It would be easy to lose an entire afternoon wandering the sprawling grounds of the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, perched high above the Douro River with giddying city views to boot. The crystal palace that gave the park its name no longer exists, but a slightly less elegant domed sports pavilion now sits near the entrance like a giant UFO, and there's a small cafe for snacks. Resident peacocks parade the footpaths, and kids may find the odd lost feather amongst the planted beds.

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Porto skyline from across the Douro River
Riverboat rides along the Douro River offer the best vantage point for viewing the city © ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Cycle along the Douro River

While you'll want to avoid the hills, exploring by bike along the edge of the Douro River is fun for the whole family. You can rent bikes of all sizes from Biclas & Triclas and cycle 10km (6.2 miles) along the north bank to the grand Arrábida bridge and Felgueiras lighthouse, at the mouth of the Douro, continuing north past a string of beaches at Foz do Douro to reach the wide stretch of sand at Matosinhos.

While the sand is lovely, there isn't much shade, so after a quick splash and bask, follow your nose to a street-side barbecue for a low-cost seafood lunch then detour through Parque da Cidade – Portugal’s largest urban park – which has endless miles of walking and cycling trails. You can pick bikes up from the Biclas & Triclas depot near the river or have them delivered to your accommodation.

Beach days out from Porto by train and bus

Matosinhos isn't the only beach within easy reach of Porto. Bus 902 from near the Casa da Música on Avenida da Boavista will take you out to Praia de Lavadores on the south side of the Douro estuary, the start of a long string of quiet, family-friendly beaches dotted with boulders and rockpools that will keep kids entertained for hours.

One of the best beaches here is the wide sweep of sand at Praia da Aguda, directly accessible by train from Porto's São Bento station in less than 20 minutes. For long beachside walks, head just north from Lavadores to Praia do Cabedelo do Douro, a lovely but breezy curl of dune-backed sand right across the river mouth from the Felgueiras lighthouse.

Explore the World of Discoveries in Miragaia

This interactive museum will amuse kids of all ages, and quite a few grown-ups too. Hi-tech displays explore the impressive discoveries made by Portugal during the medieval period, when the Portuguese navy ruled the seas. With a swashbuckling boat ride and lots of tech wizardry, it’s a great way to pass the time, particularly if the weather turns sour. 

Boy eating pastel de nata
Eating pastéis de nata is one of the joys of Porto © Peter Lourenco / Getty Images

Eat pastéis de nata

Devouring Portugal’s famous sweet custard tarts is almost mandatory when visiting Porto. With pint-sized travelers in tow, you can ramp up the bakehouse experience by watching pastéis de nata shuffle along the production line in the kitchens at Manteigaria or Fábrica da Nata. The latter is located on Porto’s main commercial strip, Rua de Santa Catarina, so you can pair your outing with a spot of shopping, if the tiny itinerary planners allow it!

The 15 best things to do in Porto: art, architecture, and tasty treats

Admire art and farm animals at Serralves

Blending architecture, art and outdoor spaces, Serralves is the pinnacle of culture in Porto, and there's plenty here to keep miniature art buffs entertained. As well as an art-filled museum and Art Deco mansion, Serralves boasts 18 hectares of manicured gardens, woodlands and a farm.

The outdoor exhibits and the collection of cows, sheep, horses and donkeys will be a hit with younger kids, and parents can marvel at the architecture of the museum, designed by famous Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, and its mix of historical and contemporary exhibitions.

Take a six bridges cruise along the Douro

Kids love riverboat trips and a cruise on the Douro is a chance to admire Porto’s magnificent bridges – all six of them – from the water. Cruises come with a history lesson that may be of variable interest, but the views of Porto and its opposing neighbor, Vila Nova de Gaia, stretching up from the riverbanks are endlessly distracting.

Crossing Porto's bridges is another great kid-friendly activity, particularly wandering over the exhilaratingly high upper deck of the iconic Ponte de Dom Luís I, built by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel in 1886. It's also worth strolling across the older Ponte Maria Pia, built by Gustave Eiffel himself in 1877.

Go hunting for Porto's street art

Porto has a distinctive street art style that favors cartoon-like characters executed in a Pop Art palette of bright primary colors. Go searching for tiny mice slipping down drains, a giant blue cat hiding down a laneway, and a two-story-tall rabbit made of recycled rubbish in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Nearly every corner has something colorful to look at and a street art treasure hunt can occupy the family for hours. Good places to start a street art search include Rua das Flores, Rua de Miguel Bombarda, Rue da Madeira and the steps of Escadas do Codecal leading down to the riverbank.

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Go football crazy at the FC Porto museum

Locals go mad for their football team, FC Porto, and visitors can channel the passion at the modern Museu Futebol Clube do Porto. True lovers of the beautiful game can absorb themselves in the detail for hours, browsing all manner of memorabilia and multimedia displays. Smaller children, on the other hand, might lose interest quickly, so pace the trip accordingly. Guided and audio tours are available, including tours of the stadium.  

Father and preschool girl on street of Portugal with azulejo wall
Many of Porto's historic neighborhoods have a family-friendly vibe © Ippei Naoi / Getty Images

Recommended Porto neighborhoods for families

Some parts of Porto lend themselves to family stays. Here's a guide to the best stops with kids in tow.


Porto’s tourist-centric riverside precinct, Ribeira, is a great base if you want to be in the thick of the activity, though prices reflect the prime location. Note that the city slopes away from the river, so most attractions will be ‘uphill’ from here. .

Aliados & Bolhão

The area around Porto’s central square, Aliados & Bolhão, makes a convenient base and the local metro station is just one stop from Trindade – the city’s main metro interchange – making for easy cross-town exploring. Downsides include prices for accommodation, and the fact that the area can be a little busy and noisy after dark.

Masserelos & Cedofeita

The pleasant neighborhood of Masserelos is slightly removed from the city hubbub and encompasses the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. It's big on riverside charm and easy walks avoiding big changes in elevation. You'll find more family-friendly accommodation in neighboring Cedofeita.

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Vila Nova de Gaia

On the south bank of the Douro, opposite the historic center, Vila Nova de Gaia has the twin perks of being calmer and cheaper than the heaving hub of central Porto. Adults love the port cellars that made the district famous, but hilltop gardens and the Teleférico de Gaia cable car broaden the appeal for families.

Gaia cable car in Porto, Portugal
The cable car is a fun way to see the city © Marco Botegelli / Getty Images

Family-friendly tips for getting around in Porto

Porto’s city center is relatively small, so if the kids are up for walking, it's easy to hit the sights on foot. As in many parts of Europe, Porto's cobblestoned streets weren’t designed with strollers in mind, so expect some bumps along the way. Getting up Porto’s characteristic hills is also easier on public transport than on foot.

Luckily, Porto has an efficient, modern metro system that will save you from long walks in the sun in summer; visit Metro do Porto for a network map. Many areas that lie off the metro network can be reached by bus or on the city's charmingly clackety old trams. Pick up a rechargeable Andante Card for smooth and pocket-friendly transfers between trams, the metro, the funicular and many bus lines.

Note that Porto's trams can get extremely busy in peak travel season (June t0 August). Taxis and ride-sharing vehicles are available any time you get stuck, and fares are not too onerous. Don't overlook the nostalgic Funicular dos Guindais as a kid-friendly route from riverside Ribeira to Praça da Batalha further up the hill.

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This article was first published Apr 10, 2020 and updated Feb 14, 2022.

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