Visiting Porto with kids: 7 tips for families in Portugal’s second city

Be ready for hills and traffic, but also an enjoyable city full of history and deliciousness, all on a family budget

Second cities pack in all the wonderful features of larger urban areas, but often at a lower price. Not only are second cities generally smaller, they’re easier to get around. For a family trying to get the most out of their budget and their schedule, we find second cities a great, lower-stress, lower-cost fit. And when visiting Porto with kids, we found that Portugal’s second city had lots to offer.

We want to thank Visit Porto for sponsoring our Porto.CARDs, which we could use for discounts on attractions and public transportation. However, this article reflects our own personal opinions and experiences.

Quality, affordable food is easy to find

Excellent pizzerias, delicious treats, comfort food, and fine dining all abound in Porto, as do quality yet affordable grocery stores such as the Minipreço and the Mercadona. Whether around our apartment or while out and about sightseeing, we could always find something delicious that also fit our modest family budget.

Both public transportation and ride shares are easy

Porto’s public transit includes buses and metro rail, with varying passes available. If you travel with Porto.CARDs from Visit Porto, you can also purchase the “Transport“ option, which includes transit on buses and local trains. The transit system is clean and runs pretty timely. Of course, Porto’s legendary rush hour backups can mess with even the best bus system, but all told, plenty of buses run regularly.

However, when traveling with kids, ride shares such as Bolt may be comparable in price. Plus, you gain the benefit of going point to point (e.g., from your accommodation to your activity), instead of stop to stop.

The Old Town area is pretty much all hills and steps

We loved visiting Old Town (which you might see referred to as the City Center, Old Quarter, or Baixa), but preferred being in the flatter area of Boavista. So many hills and slopes, not to mention narrow sidewalks and cobblestoned streets, can be tricky for people with mobility impairments. Plus, be mindful of your kids and when the hills start tiring them out. Odds are you can then find a little cafe to take a rest and have a snack.

The Ribeira riverside promenade is delightful for a wander and for family selfies

Porto really comes alive in its Old Town and all along the waterfront area, known as Ribeira. If the weather is nice, expect the afternoon to come with lots of people wandering the riverside promenades, enjoying the cafes, and queuing up for day trips along the Douro River.

We loved getting a family selfie from the waterfront, with the river and Dom Luís I Bridge in the background.

When you’re ready to head away from the bustling promenade, narrow side streets wind uphill and offer more cool shops and enticing cafes and restaurants. Plus, it’ll be easier to snag a rideshare or catch a bus once you get a little away from the main riverfront area.

Try a francesinha, especially if your kids eat like ours do

As Rick Steves puts it, Porto’s francesinha is the “local gut bomb.” But boy, it is some fun comfort food.

The plate dinner combo of sausage, bread, cheese, and gravy is hearty and may even fill a teenager’s belly for longer than a couple of hours. We paired our francesinha evening with a rainy night at the Canal 3 restaurant in Boavista.

Get a treat from the Arcadia

With locations throughout Portugal, the Arcadia has multiple locations in Porto alone. One lovely shop and cafe is in the Boavista area. In addition to marveling at the displays of boxed treats, we dined in with pastries, gelato, and tarts, amidst a decor that combined art deco and cozy touches.

Take an electric tuk-tuk tour of the city

Many tuk-tuk tours begin at Clerigos Tower in Porto

For starters, Old Town is hilly, and riding on a tuk-tuk tour conserves energy and helps you focus on taking in the amazing city around you. Guides also have knowledge of Porto’s history and culture (such as ours noting that the Japanese word for thank you, “arigato,” may have evolved in part from Portuguese’s “obrigado”.)

Many tours leave from the Torre dos Clérigos. Routes can vary, but typically take you by the Old Town’s main attractions. Ours also included some free time to wander the hilltop viewpoints at the Sé do Porto, or Porto Cathedral.

Learn more about the tuk-tuk tour we took of Porto

Porto is fun for families

History, food, people-watching and the feel of a delightful old yet renewing city come together in Porto. And when visiting Porto with kids, we found the city to be an approachable mix of budget, history, culture, and deliciousness, all at the edge of Europe.

Save on attractions and public transportation with the Porto.CARD

The Porto.CARD is only available from Visit Porto
Image: Visit Porto

We also saved money on attractions and public transportation with the Porto.CARD, available exclusively through Visit Porto, the official tourism board for the Porto area. You can get Porto.CARDs for the entire family, with options for only savings on attractions, or get the Transport option for savings on public buses and metro lines.

7 tips for families: Porto, Portugal
About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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