You’ve heard it before and the rumors are true – Portugal with kids is the go-to destination for a wonderful family vacation! After customs officers gently escorted us from passport control, our three-week Portuguese vacation with a two-year and four-year-old was underway. Sure, Lisbon is nice. Yes, a stay at the Martinhal in Algarve, with its on-site babysitters, should be on any family bucket list. But Porto and the Douro Valley were the highlights of our trip to Portugal.
We booked a stay at the Pestana Goldsmith. If you’re planning a trip to Portugal with kids, I highly recommend this hotel – it’s centrally located, right in the heart of things, so you can walk nearly everywhere. Due to some snafus, we actually booked through HotelsTonight the day we checked in and got an amazing rate (Euro 225/night). Our room had one bedroom, a living room with a pull out sofa, and an enormous terrace for dining al fresco.
Things To Eat
For breakfast, Do Norte is a must. Not only is it a stone’s throw from the hotel, but it is delicious and kid-friendly. It’s like walking into a 1960s lodge, complete with skis as décor. The portions are huge! The adults ate avocado toast with eggs and a balsamic drizzle, and the kids had waffles and oatmeal. It was so good and convenient, we went more than once. Another great kid-friendly option is Esquires Coffee, a short walk away.
When we took a day trip to the Douro Valley, the only downside was dinner. We wanted to grab an early bite with our kids, but all the restaurants closed after lunch (3-4 pm) and didn’t re-open until 7 pm. The kids ended up falling asleep en route, which was a blessing in disguise. We took the chance to head back to Porto, where we were able to find a variety of restaurants to dine at.
Things To Do in Porto
My family walked nearly everywhere in Porto, but did take a car across the Douro River to the port cellars. We did a wine tasting at both Taylor’s and Sandeman, but only brought the kids to the more elegant Taylor’s. Luckily, we brought activities for the kids (yes, a tablet) and they had just as much fun as we did during our tasting. After a few glasses of port, we strolled along the river.
Like most cities in Portugal, you can’t stroll too far without finding a great playground in Porto. The kids played while we watched the cruises sail by. Then, we hit the nearby food hall and grabbed a bottle of local wine before heading back to the hotel, which we enjoyed on the terrace after the kids went to sleep.
World of Discoveries Museum:
One morning, we took a long walk to the World of Discoveries museum. Thanks to the Delta LX double stroller, it was just a lovely half-hour walk (we did a lot of research on which double stroller to bring on the trip, and ultimately decided on the Delta LX due to its compact nature and canopy.) At the museum, we were able to learn more about the story of Portugal’s “age of discovery.” Overall, it was a valuable educational experience, but the boat ride at the end was definitely a highlight for the kids. It was so nice to sit still for 30 minutes without chasing them around! Since our children are young, their admission was free.
For all those Harry Potter fans, Lello Bookstore is a must-see! Said to have inspired J.K. Rowlings’ Hogwarts in the Harry Potter Series, the library dates back to the late 1800s and is simply stunning. Fair warning, however, the lines tend to get long as the day goes on. But if you’re with a child three or under, in true Portuguese fashion, they will bring you right to the front of the line!
Things To Do In Duoro Valley
For a day trip (or, even better, a night or two) head to the Duoro Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site. There are a number of ways to visit the Duoro Valley from Porto. My family wanted to take the ferry, which goes through a canal, then the train back. But, after hearing that the round trip can be 12 hours, we opted for the hour and a half drive.
We stopped in Peso da Régua for lunch and checked out the Duoro Museum, which has a great little outdoor courtyard for the kids to run around and stretch their legs, with great views of the river and the hills. Primarily a museum centered on the production of wine in the Duoro region, the actual exhibits weren’t all that extensive. But it was a nice place to spend our afternoon.
Pinhao Boat Tour:
After the museum, we followed a scenic highway to Pinhao where we took a one hour boat tour on the Douro River. There are a few tour companies along the water offering the same one trip for about the same price (Euro 20). Fortunately, we boarded a smaller boat with just one other family, and our guide was great! Not only was the tour extremely informative, but it kept the kids engaged all the way through!
Our three weeks in Portugal with kids were far more amazing and family-friendly than we could have imagined. We heard it too, but like us, you won’t believe it until you live it.
By Ryan and Annette Malkin
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