If you’re travelling with restless, active children, you have to visit the City Park – considered the “lung” of the city. The adventure begins with a ride: take tram no. 1 from Praça do Infante going towards Passeio Alegre (you can buy the ticket on board the tram) and enjoy the view over the Douro estuary during the ride. When you get to Passeio Alegre, it’s easy to find the City Park: just follow the waterfront road until you see a vast green area.
If you can persuade your kids not to go to the beach, let them spend their energy running after the ducks, swans or geese wandering around the Park. Many families come to the Park at the weekend to romp around on the lawns. If your children aren’t shy, they may even get invited to play ball.
Leave the game behind and head to the Rural Centre of Aldoar, where you can see four examples of farms typical of Porto in the old days. The facility was renovated and now houses a restaurant with an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy a light meal and satisfy the kids’ growling tummies.
Are museums boring?
The main theme of the Water Pavilion, located on the edge of the City Park, is, as the name implies, water. The museum offers a number of water-related interactive games, including composing music, seeing how a tornado is formed and learning about the water cycle.
You can also take part in the Family workshops held at the Serralves Foundation every Sunday in the gardens and other areas. These involve activities designed for children, but which can and should be enjoyed by the whole family.
From handicrafts that encourage creativity to walks to observe the fauna and flora, it’s worth trying everything to learn and share family experiences. You can also visit the Contemporary Art Museum, one of the architectural works of Siza Vieira in Porto, and the Serralves main building, an excellent example of Art Déco. Why not prepare a snack and have a picnic in the meadows of Serralves Park?
Turn back the clock to hand-printing times at the National Press Museum. After you’ve seen the exhibit and the old machines used to print books and newspapers, you can try printing texts and images “the old-fashioned way” and take them with you as a souvenir.
If your children prefer the sciences to the arts, visit the Museum of Natural History located downtown. The museum is housed in the historical building of the University of Porto and showcases a collection of samples of minerals and temporary exhibits of the University’s collections.
For children who love animals, travelling to Porto is heaven. You can start by visiting Sea Life and taking them through the country’s first underwater tunnel with sharks and rays swimming in a 500,000 litre tank right above their heads. At the rocky pools, have them hold a sea urchin and show them how sensitive starfish are to human touch, even in the hands of the smallest kids.
The Maia Zoo is located about 6 km north of Porto. The park has the largest reptile house in the country, as well as bears, monkeys and birds.
In Vila Nova de Gaia there are two options to visit. The first one is the Santo Inácio Zoo, home to around 1,000 animals of over 300 species, and boasting extensive green areas to relax with the family. There are daily shows with birds of prey, reptiles and wildlife, and children can get up close to the animals. One of the main attractions of the zoo is watching the penguin feeding sessions.
The other option is to visit the Gaia Biological Park, a 35-hactare environmental education centre. This is where you’ll find hundreds of animal species roaming wild and plant species in a natural state. More than 40 species of wild birds nest in the park and many more visit it during migrations. Don’t miss the deer in their pens, and make sure you see the European bison, extinct in the wild since 1921. Walk along almost 3 km of park trails and visit the rural houses and reconditioned mills, lakes, small exhibits and the fauna and flora.
How to get there
There are several direct connections to Porto. If you opt for low-cost flights, you can fly from London (Stansted and Gatwick), Birmingham, Paris (Beauvais, Orly, Vatry and Charles de Gaulle), Marseille, Dole, Lille, Strasbourg, Tours, St. Etienne, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat, Valencia, Milan Bergamo, Rome Ciampino, Brussels (Charleroi and Zaventem), Eindhoven, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Geneva, Basel/Mulhouse, Dortmund, Frankfurt Hahn, Karlsruhe Baden, Nuremberg, Hamburg Lübeck , Munich Memmingen and Dusseldorf Weeze.
In summer, low-cost companies fly from Liverpool, Dublin, Bologna, Toulouse, Clermont Ferrand, Carcassonne, La Rochelle, Limoges, Rennes, Las Palmas, Palma de Majorca, Tenerife and Bremen.
Traditional airlines fly to Porto from London (Gatwick and Heathrow), Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, Frankfurt, and Paris Orly, Caracas, Geneva, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Milan Malpensa, Zurich, New York, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels Zaventem, Rome Fiumicino, Toronto, and Luanda. In summer, you can also fly from Montreal, Brest and Brive.
At the Francisco Sá Carneiro International Airport, take the Metro ‘E’ line – this takes you to the city centre in just 30 minutes.