Colourful Porto is Portugal’s second city. It’s a beautiful, whimsical city that we fell for, unexpectedly. We all thought we’d enjoy Lisbon more than Porto, but it wasn’t to be. Porto may be smaller than the capital but it certainly packs a punch. Our whole family much preferred Porto to Lisbon and we’d urge you not to miss out on a visit. Read on to find out about the best things to do in Porto with kids!
This post contains compensated links. See our disclaimer for more information.
The best things to do in Porto with kids
Porto is famous for port and tiled facades, and yes, it is the city that gives Portugal its name. It grew to importance as a trading hub due to its proximity to the Atlantic and is sometimes also known as Oporto.
The main things to see in Porto are less spread out than in Lisbon and so Porto is easily walkable. You can of course ride on the trams or take a trip on a hop-on, hop-off bus to get around. You’ll be relieved to find that Porto isn’t quite as hilly as Lisbon!
There are plenty of things to do in Porto with kids. A highlight is the World of Discoveries which has a theme park boat ride after the exhibits – this was our kids’ favourite thing to do in Porto. There’s a zoo and an aquarium, if your kids love animals. Porto has some beautiful gardens for running around in, and small children might like to take a trip on a tourist train that runs past some of the main sights. Everyone will enjoy relaxing on a boat ride on the Douro river, so there’s plenty of things to do in Porto for the whole family.
A 2 or 3 day Porto itinerary for families and first time visitors
We visited Porto for 3 days after first visiting Lisbon and Sintra. We’d all enjoyed Lisbon, and thought Sintra was one of the most beautiful places we’d ever been, so Porto had a lot to live up to!
We needn’t have worried as Porto is chock full of charm. This 2 – 3 day itinerary covers the main sights in the historic centre of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. If you travel fast then you can cover everything mentioned in this itinerary in two days, and save the third for a trip up the Douro river. If you go at a slower pace then you can take three days to see everything and perhaps add in a visit to Porto aquarium or the zoo as well.
Our trip to Porto was during April for the Easter holidays. Porto was fairly busy but the queues weren’t too bad, except at Livraria Lello and Igreja de los Clerigos.
The weather was mixed; we had two days of bright, warm sunny weather but the third day was overcast with showers and the day we left it poured. If you’re travelling at Easter then I’d prepare for all weather and be ready to alter your itinerary if it does decide to rain (it prevented us from taking a trip up to the Douro Valley).
Day 1 in Porto with kids
On your first day in Porto with kids explore the heart of Porto’s old city. The historical district of Ribeira, along with the Ponte Dome Luis I and the monastery at Vila Nova de Gaia form a World Heritage Site. Today sees you visiting some of Ribeira’s most important sights, and the World of Discoveries for curious kids.
Begin your first day at Livraria Lello. Or possibly not. Read the below and decide for yourself!
Livraria Lello is probably the most famous attraction in all of Porto (and, judging by the queues, the whole of Portugal, too). If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an architecturally beautiful bookshop built in 1906 and made famous by its link to JK Rowling. Rowling lived in Porto for several years and is said to have visited the bookshop. So of course as soon as her fans got wind of this the bookshop became wildly popular.
Livraria Lello was refurbished in 2017 and is so popular now that entrance is ticketed and the queues are horrific. You can buy tickets online (recommended) or in the ticket office on the corner, a couple of doors up from the bookshop. Once you’ve queued to buy the tickets, you need to queue again to enter the shop.
I stood in the queue while the husband went to buy a ticket, but he eventually came back saying he’d managed to get them online. If you have small children then there is a cafe that also sells ice cream next door so I’d advise one parent taking the kids in to wait in the cafe while the other holds the place in the queue.
Livraria Lello opens at 9.30 every day but even if you arrive for 8am the queue will already be growing. We walked past at about half 8 on our first morning and were appalled by the queue. We wouldn’t have bothered visiting but I wanted to experience it first hand to let you know if it’s worth visiting or not! On the day we visited we arrived just after 8am and there must have been about 50 people ahead of us.
We finally got in shortly after opening time but honestly, the crush in the shop does not make for a pleasant experience. The split staircases are very beautiful, as is the glass ceiling, but there are so many people that it’s impossible to get a good photo.
Upstairs at the back there’s a Potter themed area (because why wouldn’t you) and there are a selection of English language books too. We bought a book each for the kids, pretty Livraria Lello editions of Alice in Wonderland and The Little Prince, and we got our entrance fee taken off the cost of the books.
But is it worth it? Honestly, not really.
Tickets cost €5 (kids under 3 free). Buy your tickets online here.
Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church)
As you leave Livraria Lello you’ll see a church with a tall tower and you’ll probably want to take a look at it. This is Igreja de los Clerigos and yes, it is worth visiting. But not today. The entrance queues will already be too long, so leave it for tomorrow morning instead and carry on past it.
Just along the street is a large square called Carmo. Here you’ll find a pretty fountain complete with lions, and a really lovely church. I’ve tried not to include too many churches on this itinerary but there are a couple that you really need to see. The exterior of this one is gorgeous, boasting a fresco tiled in blue and white which is typical of Porto.
The inside of the church is a riot of gold statues and purple cloth, and if you like you can take a quick look (entry is free). As you enter the church you’ll notice that the building is actually two churches – there’s another church called Igreja dos Carmelitas on the left.
Why build two churches right next to each other? Carmo was for monks, Carmelitas for nuns. Between the two churches is a tiny house, only one metre wide, built to separate the two churches so that the nuns and monks didn’t come into contact with each other and succumb to temptation. Make sure you look for it – it’s easy to miss!
Jardim da Cordoaria (Cordoaria’s Garden)
You’re probably in need of a sit down now; happily, there is a park right opposite Carmo so you can have a rest here on the seats by the pool, or in the shade under the trees. We rested here briefly but carried on through the park as we were feeling in need of a snack.
Just out the far end of the park we found a cafe selling Pasteis de Bacalhau, which are a cod fishcake with a centre of melted cheese. They looked really good but unfortunately for me, they didn’t sell any veggie versions; the husband enjoyed his though. The cafe did however sell small glasses of port with the fishcakes so I was able to console myself. Start as you mean to go on, right?
Now it’s time to start making your way towards the river, and the second church of the day. It’s quite different to the first one so don’t panic! On the way you might want to stop in at the Puppet Museum which is popular with children.
In addition to the museum there are puppet shows that you can watch. There’s more information on shows, timings and the museum itself here.
I do find puppets more than a little creepy so it wasn’t a stop for us! If puppets are your thing though, do take a look. After the puppet museum carry on towards the Church of Sao Francisco.
Entry to the puppet museum costs €2. Opening times: 11am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm daily.
Igreja Monumento de Sao Francisco
This hugely important church is down near the waterfront. I’m suggesting you visit it because it’s got a couple of really interesting things to see. There are two churches and a museum on site, and it’ll take you about an hour to look around. The church dates back to the 13th Century, but it was later heavily damaged by fire. The building has gothic, baroque and rococo influences from being rebuilt and added to through the centuries.
The interior of the main church – called the Igreja do Convento de São Francisco – is stunning. The walls are covered in intricate gold-brushed wooden carvings of flowers, cherubs and more. The effect is spectacular. Sadly no photos inside are allowed, so the above photo is another part of the church.
Next door to the main church is another chapel – Igreja dos Terceiros de S. Francisco – which was showing a film about the restoration of the large painting behind the altar. This was also a pretty impressive space. There are further rooms in the museum to look around – nothing of any great importance but we found it interesting in any case.
After you’ve looked around the museum areas, then head down underneath the church to visit the catacombs. This is the resting place of monks as well as people from wealthy families. The people are interred in the walls and under the floor, and there’s a window where you can see into the ossuary – bound to pique the interest of small kids.
You need to buy tickets to visit the church – they’re sold in the shop opposite the entrance to the church. Entry is about €3.50 per adult.
Rest your legs on a tram ride
Taking a ride on one of Porto’s trams is as much an institution here as it is in Lisbon. They’re as beautiful as they are in the capital, and many of them are also yellow, much to the boy’s delight. You might need to choose your ride carefully – try to get on at the first stop as they can get very busy.
From outside the Igreja de Sao Francisco you can take one of Porto’s historic trams along the waterfront towards the next stop on our itinerary. You can ride the #1 tram all the way to the last stop if you like, and this trip will take you about 20 minutes. When we were here we found that the tram was really busy and we didn’t want to squash on with the kids.
If you want to ride the tram then you can buy tickets from the driver – it’s €3 per trip so €6 in total if you want to come back too (you’ll have to disembark and reboard the tram at the last stop). Alternatively you can hop off at the next attraction, the World of Discoveries.
If you’re feeling hungry by this point then get some lunch before you continue. We ate in a restaurant right by the church and the tram stop – I think it’s called the Tram Restaurant – which was fine although nothing special.
World of Discoveries
If you are visiting Porto with small kids then we would definitely recommend that you put this museum at the top of your to-do list.
The museum is centred around Portugal’s voyages and interactions around the world, which started back in the 1500s. The tour begins with a look at the ships that those intrepid explorers lived on, and includes mock ups of how the interiors would have looked. You can take a close look at sleeping bunks, see what they ate in the ship’s stores, and also what sort of treasures and foods they brought back with them.
The highlight of a visit is a trip on a boat through the different countries that Portuguese sailors visited. Each country is set out as a historical scene – you’ll see battles, experience a storm at sea, sail through a jungle filled with wild animals and travel to the Far East. Definitely worth it!
Entry to World of Discoveries costs €15 per adult and €9 per child aged 4+, although it’s cheaper if you buy online – click here to get your tickets. It’s open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays, and until 7pm on weekends and holidays.
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
A little further away from the World of Discoveries is the Crystal Palace gardens which would make a good stop to relax and let the kids run about. If you carry on on the #1 tram then you’ll get quite close to the gardens.
This garden is one of the best in Porto as it’s got some lovely planted areas, wide avenues and spectacular views over the Douro river. It really did have a crystal palace once – the palace was built for the International Expo of 1865 but was demolished in the 1950s to make way for the green dome.
Explore Porto’s shopping streets
After you’re done in the gardens take the tram back to Sao Francisco and wander into town for dinner and a spot of shopping. You’ll want to pick up some of those lovely tiles for yourself! Alternatively just gawk at the lovely tiled buildings lining the streets and soak up the atmosphere!
Day 2 in Porto with kids
On Day 2 in Porto head over the Douro river to explore Vila Nova de Gaia and the incredible views from Ponte Dom Luis I. This was hands down our favourite part of Porto! Top it off with a family friendly tour of a port distillery – you can’t visit Porto without trying some of the local brew, can you?
Igreja de los Clérigos
This is another attraction that need an early start. Arrive for just before opening time and you’ll be straight in – we tried to visit at the end of our first day but the queues were still too long. Unlike Livraria Lello, this lovely church is definitely worth seeing.
Igreja de los Clerigos dates from 1748 and has a nearly 250ft tall bell tower. As the church sits on top of a hill, the views are stunning from the top. You can visit the church for free, or buy a ticket to climb the tower.
While you’re really here to climb the narrow, steep spiral staircase that gives you great views over Porto, there’s a bit more to see along the way. You can gawk at the church’s interior and see several large rooms filled with artwork as you climb in the Museum of the Brotherhood.
Small kids might find the climb a bit tricky as there are some 200 steps, but our kids eventually managed the ascent. Once at the top of the tower you can get a 360 panoramic over the city. Worth the effort of the staircase!
Tickets for the tower and museum at Igreja de los Clerigos costs €5 per adult. Opening times: 9am to 7pm daily. Click here to book tickets.
Porto’s Sao Bento train station
Once you’re back outside, follow the road downhill, dodging the trams and the souvenir shops along the way. You’ll pass a large square on the left, just after this follow the road to the right. On the left you’ll now see Sao Bento train station, and you’ll want to stop in briefly as you pass.
The ceiling and upper walls of the train station are gorgeous – they’re covered in thousands of painted tiles depicting scenes from Portuguese history. Fabulous.
Ponte Dom Luis I
Carry on towards the river and you’ll soon find Ponte Dom Luis I, an iron bridge connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. The views up and down the Douro from here are stunning, and this area was our favourite part of Porto. The crossing at the top is 60m above the river, so it’s not for vertigo sufferers!
If you’re thinking that the style of the bridge’s ironwork looks sort of familiar, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was built by a student of Gustav Eiffel – yes, that Eiffel. Eiffel himself designed one of Porto’s other bridges that you’ll see if you take a boat tour.
The bridge has two crossings – the lower level is for cars, and the one at the top is for trains and trams. Pedestrians can cross at either level although the views are much better from the top and the walkway here is much wider.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’re not actually in Porto any more. The town this side of the river is called Vila Nova de Gaia and it has gorgeous views of Porto and the Douro river so don’t miss out on it!
Jardim del Morro
Before you go down the cable car, stop off for a while in the hilltop garden and let the kids run around while you relax in the shade and soak up the views.
You should be able to get an ice cream here, and if you walk to the end of the park away from the river there’s a little playground which our kids spent ages in.
Igreja da Serra do Pilar
Just opposite the little garden is a church and monastery. This church forms part of the historical centre of Porto that has been designated as a World Heritage Site. We spent a few minutes here looking at the cloisters as the complex looked intriguing from the bridge.
The church is notable due to its round design which makes it pretty unique. You can also climb the dome if you like, although we didn’t do this. It’s worth a quick look.
Entry costs €1 per adult or €3 if you want to climb the dome. Kids under 12 go free. Opening times: 10am to 6.30pm April to September; or until 5.30pm October to March.
Teleferico de Gaia: Port Cable Car
As you cross the Dom Luis I bridge, your eagle eyed children will no doubt spot the cable car which ferries lazy souls from the top of the bridge down to the waterfront (and drunken souls back up again).
Don’t bother trying to talk them out of going on it; the battle is already lost.
You may need to queue for tickets in the shop. It’s €3 a pop, or you can buy a family ticket with a round trip for two adults and two kids for the marginally cheaper price of €22.50. It’s better than walking!
Street Art and Vila Nova de Gaia waterfront
As well as tiled facades, Porto’s buildings also sport a fair bit of street art. Spotting artworks can be a fun thing for kids to do in Porto. Once down on Vila Nova de Gaia’s waterfront then do take a quick look at the famous trash rabbit on a yellow building (you’ll spot it from the cable car).
This 3D artwork was constructed by using all sorts of rubbish the artist found around town. Half of it is unpainted, giving it its name, “Half Rabbit.”
He is rather fabulous, isn’t he? The kids loved him; they had fun trying to pick out all the different bits of junk that were used to make him.
Vila Nova de Gaia’s waterfront was our favourite part of our trip to Porto. It’s incredibly scenic, especially on a sunny day. Yes, it’s a touristy area but when the views are this good, who cares?
Get some lunch from one of the restaurants on the waterfront and enjoy people watching.
Six Bridges Boat Tour
There are no less than six bridges crossing the Douro River in Porto. If you’re not going to be taking a longer trip on the river then I’d recommend taking a short trip from the piers at Vila Nova de Gaia.
The tours can be booked in advance and there are plenty of combination tickets which also let you visit a port distillery afterwards (see below to book one of these tickets).
We took a trip on an open boat which had English commentary on headphones, although I didn’t really pay much attention to it. You’ll travel upriver first, under Eiffel’s bridge, and then back through the centre of town and a little way out towards the sea. The whole trip takes about an hour and it’s a great way to rest your legs and enjoy the scenery.
Visit a Port Distillery
You can’t escape port when you’re in Porto. This sweet, fortified wine is produced only in the Douro Valley, just upriver from Porto; the drink takes its name from the city from where it’s exported all over the world.
There are several port distilleries in Vila Nova de Gaia, and it’s pretty much obligatory to look around one of them, even if you’re not a huge fan of the drink. Nobody batted an eye when we showed up with kids, so it’s safe to say they’re welcome.
We looked around the Burmester distillery which, like many of the distilleries was originally founded by the British, although it has been run by Germans for much of its history. We learned about the history of port, its production, and about the different varieties available.
The husband and I did share a snigger when our guide was asked if port was popular in Portugal. The dry answer was, no we don’t really drink it, we export it all to the UK. Brilliant.
Of course, we got to taste some port as well. We tried two varieties but you can also pay a little extra and try other types as well. We didn’t get any soft drinks or anything for the kids, but they didn’t seem to mind.
Click here to book a 2 day ticket which includes hop-on hop-off bus, a river cruise and a distillery tour. You can of course book directly with the distilleries if there’s a particular one you have in mind.
After our distillery visit, we crossed back into Porto by walking over the lower part of the Dom Luis I bridge. There are plenty of restaurants here for dinner, or you can eat in the town centre after meandering slowly back towards your hotel.
Fado is a Portuguese style of music that is characterised by melancholy tones. You’ll often hear fado performances in cafes and pubs, and the singer is usually accompanied by guitarists. You can catch fado performances all over Porto, often in restaurants which is convenient if you want dinner as well. If you want to guarantee your place then click here to book an hour long performance. This venue is very close to Ponte Dom Luis I.
Day 3 in Porto with kids
If you’ve squeezed everything in above in just two days, then you can take a day trip. We had wanted to do this but the weather on our last day wasn’t on our side. In the end it took us three days to do all of the above as we loved the view from Vila Nova de Gaia so much we went back two days in a row.
If the weather is on your side, then the obvious thing to do is to take a day trip up the Duoro river. We considered this but thought that our kids probably wouldn’t be all that interested in vineyards. If you do want to do this then you can book a tour here.
You could also try visiting the Douro Valley yourself by taking the train to Pinhão from Porto. You can book a boat tour for when you arrive if you’re not fussed about seeing any vineyards.
Another option for a day trip from Porto is the seaside town of Aveiro. We considered visiting Aveiro but didn’t make it in the end due to bad weather. Aveiro is a lovely little town with brightly coloured gondolas in the town centre, and whimsical striped houses at the beach. The town centre is easily reached by train from Porto and the beach is a short taxi ride away.
You can easily visit Aveiro yourself but if you’d rather take a tour then click here to book one. Many tours from Porto are only half-day tours – If you’d like to squeeze more sightseeing in then some tours also take in Coimbra. Click here to take a look.
More things to do in Porto with kids
Majestic Cafe is the most famous cafe in Porto, and perhaps in Portugal. It’s 99 years old and has a gorgeous vintage Art Nouveau feel to it. The cafe serves meals and snacks, and it’s relatively expensive.
Along with Livraria Lello, Majestic Cafe is famous for its links to Harry Potter. This is where JK Rowling worked on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when she lived in Porto.
It’s best to book online if you’d really like to eat here.
Opening times are 9am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday.
Porto Santo Inacio Zoo
If your kids enjoy zoo visits when on city breaks then you’ll be pleased to hear that Porto has a zoo. It’s located over in Vila Nova de Gaia.
At the zoo you can see a mix of large and small animals including big cats like asiatic lions and cheetahs; endangered species like Bactrian camels; and plenty of reptiles, insects, tarantulas and more.
The zoo is well maintained by all accounts and participates in breeding programmes for endangered animals, adding to its green credentials. However we didn’t visit ourselves and so I can’t personally vouch for conditions at the zoo.
The zoo operates a shuttle service from outside Porto Cathedral at 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm and 3pm between April and October. It costs €3 and kids under 3 travel free.
Porto Sea Life Centre
Porto’s Sea Life Centre is out on the Atlantic Coast. It’s similar to many other sea life centres; hands on activities include feedings, a touch rock pool and a pirate ship for little kids to play on.
While it gets good ratings, it’s unlikely to be able to compete with Lisbon’s aquarium which is one of the best in Europe. Save your aquatic visit for Lisbon instead!
Porto with kids: Know before you go
How to get to Porto
Transport links to Porto are pretty good. You can easily travel by road or rail from Lisbon.
We took a coach from Lisbon’s Oriente train station as all the train tickets had sold out when we went to buy them. We were able to buy our coach tickets at the station office but you can also get them online in advance. Click here to check bus schedules and buy tickets.
If you’d like to travel by train then I’d recommend buying a few days in advance at least. Click here to check times and book trains.
The coach journey was actually pretty good and takes about the same time as the train, under 3 hours. For our return journey to Lisbon we took the train; we bought our tickets as we were passing the train station.
Where to stay in Porto with kids
Where we stayed in Porto
We stayed not far from the centre of Ribeira and would recommend this as a convenient location. We were a stone’s throw from Livraria Lello and Igreja de los Clerigos which made our early morning starts bearable. The apartment we stayed in was absolutely fine and we had a warm welcome from our host.
Just opposite there was a lovely wine and tapas bar, Almada Minha, where we spent our evenings relaxing with wine and cheese boards. The owners were lovely and gave our kids some toys(!). Click here to book Oporto View Apartments.
Budget places to stay in Porto
Try Charming Palladium apartments, not far from where we stayed. The apartment is fully equipped and has free wifi. Click here to book.
You can’t beat the prices of Almada Hostel in central Porto. Rooms are ensuite and the hostel is well located. Click here to book.
Spot Apartments Ceuta is also well located and has modern interiors with fully equipped kitchens. Click here to book.
Mid range stays in Porto
Boasting lovely interiors, free bike hire and free wifi, Aparthotel Oporto Batalha is a great mid range choice in central Porto. Click here to book.
Want to stay on the riverfront with spectacular views, without breaking the bank? Oporto Home – River Front are the apartments for you. Click here to book.
Also right on the river front and boasting a terrace is Riberia Flats MyGod (they get a bonus point for the name). These flats have terraces to enjoy the warm evenings. Click here to book.
Top end places to stay in Porto
Letheshome Apartments are luxurious apartments with great service, free wifi and flat screen TVs (not that you’ll need them, mind). Click here to book.
Infante Sagres is a luxury historic hotel is a newly renovated 5* hotel with stunning interiors. Click here to book.
Pao de Acucar Hotel has family suites and is well located. Interiors are styled in Art Nouveau themes. Click here to book.
If none of these are quite right then you can get a full list of hotels in Porto by clicking here.
How to get around Porto with kids
We found Porto to be very walkable, and if your kids are good walkers then you’ll be able to cover this itinerary on foot. There are plenty of metro stations, trams, funiculars and hop-on, hop-off buses to help you get around with smaller or tired kids.
Porto is quite hilly but most streets are OK for buggies and strollers.
I hope this itinerary has given you plenty of ideas for visiting Porto with kids! Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments!
You might also like some of our other European city guides. We’ve got plenty of capital city itineraries as well as some guides to smaller towns. Happy travels!