Porto has a beach which is great news if you are traveling with young children. If you are a little bit older and making sand castles with a bucket and spade is not your thing I would still recommend you go to Porto's Atlantic Ocean seafront and enjoy a promenade along the sea-front. There is lots to see.
The mouth of the River Douro (Foz do Douro) is on the left and the old tram on the right is waiting at the end of the line for passengers to go back to Porto
The Route One Porto city tram takes you to the beach at the mouth of the River Douro. You can also get to the seaside by taxi, or bus number 1 or number 24. You can pick up both of these buses by walking to the Douro northern river bank just west of the city centre along the Rua Nova da Alfrandega by the beautiful Church of Sao Francisco.
I would always recommend taking the old heritage tram along the northern river bank. It is such a fun and unique way of travelling to the seaside. Make sure you sit on the left-hand side of the tram to enjoy the views of the river. You do not have to worry about what tram stop to get off at because the tram stops at its terminus about 500 yards from the beach.
This area of Porto is called Foz do Douro which translated means the mouth of the river Douro. Where the river meets the sea there are a number of lighthouses to guide the ocean-going ships into the river and down to the wharf's and warehouses of Porto. The city of Porto no longer functions as a trading port. It is just not big enough to handle the amount of trade that flows through Porto in the 21st-century. A modern container port has been built just up the coast in the area of Porto known as Matosinhos. This new harbour complex is called Porto de Leixoes.
This old city tram takes passengers from Porto City centre to the end of the line at Foz do Duro Beach
When the tram comes to the end of the line and all the passengers get off, do not rush to the river's edge to start your riverfront and beach promenade. Stay by the tram and watch what the driver has to do to get it ready to go back on its journey to Porto city centre. I found it fascinating to see how the driver goes through the carriage and flips the back of each bench seat towards what used to be the front of the tram. This action converts the seats so they face the other way. What was the front of the tram is now the back of the tram. There is no need for a turntable. The driver can control the tram from either end of the vehicle.
The walk along the riverfront is lined with palm trees. Behind these palm trees is a large triangular shaped public park called the Jardim do Passeio Alegre. If you are visiting Porto at the height of summer and it is very hot, a walk through the park's tree-lined avenues will offer you a respite from the intense heat of the sun. The park has a number of cafes where you can sit in the shade and have a cooling drink or coffee.
The Douro riverside and beach promenade is lined with palm trees
Opposite the tram stop is a piece of land that juts out into the river mouth. It's used to provide shelter for the local fishing boats and act as a landing stage alongside which ships could tie up and unload their cargo. Today there is the remains of the old harbour lighthouse and Seamen's Chapel called the Torre, farol, capela ou Ermida de Sao Miguel-O-Anjo. During my last visit it was being restored and repainted. There was scaffolding around the outside as you can see in the above photograph.
This old Douro river mouth light house and chapel is called the Torre, farol, capela ou Ermida de Sao Miguel-O-Anjo
If you only have half a day to spare on your long weekend break to Porto then just visiting the Atlantic Ocean beach at Foz do Douro makes a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Porto city centre. But if you have more time to spare make the effort of walking along the whole promenade, north towards the modern port of Matosinhos.
The beaches are very different, some are sandy, others are rocky with waves crashing upon them and a few have stretches of low-lying stone that is indented with rock pools of various sizes that contain small fish crabs and saltwater shrimps. You will also walk past three military forts, a pretty stone colonnade, plus a few delightful seaside bars, cafes and restaurants that offer great views over the ocean.
Porto's Foz do Douro Atlantic Ocean beach
The beaches are not the best in the world. A lot of rubbish that has been dumped in the Atlantic Ocean gets washed up on shore with each high tide. There is also nothing to stop the wind racing across the sea so it's normally quite breezy. Remember this is the Atlantic Ocean and not the Mediterranean. Sea temperatures never get warm but after the initial shock you can have an exhilarating time swimming between the waves. The water has never won any awards for purity as there is an oil refinery further up the coast.
Be very careful where you walk on windy days as some of the waves that crash upon the piers can be quite dramatic and soak anyone standing too close to the edge. There are warning signs that advise visitors of the danger of being washed off the pier by very strong waves and drowned. Be sensible when the ocean is rough and choose discretion.
As you walk along the seafront you may be lucky to see some of the local fishing boats pulled up onto the beach and the fishermen mending their nets. If you are a Harry Potter fan apparently the book author J.K.Rowling used to spend time in the cafes and restaurants along the beachfront during her spare time when she wasn't working as an English Language teacher in Porto.