At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
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Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Celebrated for its exceptional climate, breathtaking beaches, and mouthwatering cuisine, Portugal is a must-visit destination for your family. There are countless ways to explore and enjoy the European continent’s westernmost nation. While suntans and sandcastles may be at the top of your list, we’re here to tell you there’s more to a Portugal family vacation than a trip to the beach.
Portugal dates to 1139 A.D., the oldest nation in Europe. This storied history is still visible in the nation’s monuments, architecture, and landmarks. These ancient spots represented stability when the European mainland was loosely organized around tribal affiliations. For example, Lisbon has four centuries of history on the so-called “Eternal City” of Rome.
Family-friendly activities abound in this welcoming and hospitable nation, bringing Portugal’s rich history to life. Here are a few of our favorite things to do when traveling Portugal with kids.
A tuk-tuk tour isn’t probably the first thing you consider when it comes to Lisbon, Portugal. But it’s time to think again! The city’s tuk-tuk services are a memorable way to get around the city. Tuk-tuk drivers can even be booked for customized tours based on your family’s ages and interests.
For example, book an excursion heading west to the charming district of Belém or into Lisbon’s Old Town. From there, take your pick of tree-lined plazas and lush parks inviting your family to an impromptu picnic. Belém contains many museums and attractions and provides a respite from busier parts of Lisbon. Other tuk-tuk tours include food itineraries, offering a delectable introduction to some of the nation’s yummiest eats and treats. If you manage to get through Lisbon without taking a tuk-tuk (something we don’t recommend), never fear! You can also find these services in Porto and Sintra.
Sintra and Cascais have everything you could want in Portuguese small towns, from fairy tale palaces to picturesque vineyards and attractive beaches. Best of all, they’re a simple day trip from Portugal’s capital. A UNESCO World Heritage Site today, Sintra once boasted a role as the holiday retreat of the Royals, and Lord Byron even proclaimed it the most delightful European village in existence.
Among Sintra’s main attractions is Piriquita, a famed cafe featuring authentic Portuguese pastries like travesseiros and queijadas. Travesseiros are crafted from puff pastry and filled with a delectable almond cream that you’ll long for well after returning stateside. And queijadas are made with eggs, cheese, sugar, and milk and shaped like tarts. Good luck deciding between these two sweet treats. But either one (or both!) is best complemented with a rich cup of coffee.
After satisfying your sweet tooth and getting a little caffeine jolt, head to the Sintra National Palace. Known for its conical-shaped chimneys, the building is easy to spot. Dating to the 9th century A.D., it remains one of the most well-preserved and oldest medieval palaces in the world. That said, it boasts a decidedly modern appearance thanks to King Manuel I who undertook its renovation in the 16th century. Besides freshening up the decor and adding amenities, he also constructed additional rooms, including the Sala dos Brasões where the coat of arms of the Portuguese royal family is displayed.
At the Quinta da Regaleira, discover a mystical location with a palace, chapel, water fountains, grottoes, tunnels, and a sprawling park. Your family will need plenty of time here to explore the impressive grounds, and don’t forget to explore the spiral staircase down to the well. The first of two primary features of Quinta Regaleira, you’ll also want to check out the iconic stepping stones across the water.
Cascais enjoys a reputation as “The Town of Kings and Fishes” because of its history as a small fishing village that eventually became a hotspot of Portuguese nobility in the 19th century. The influx of blue bloods ensured the settlement would go on to boast some of the most impressive buildings in the region. And there’s also no end to the well-maintained parks and opulent museums.
While Cascais’ monuments don’t compare to those of Sintra, it does have a fine collection of 19th-century residences worth seeing. And your family won’t want to miss out on the Boca do Inferno cliff formation located north of the city. The Boca do Inferno (literally “Hell’s Mouth”), is a chasm located in seaside cliffs and holds the honor of being the first natural feature depicted in moving pictures. It appears in the 1896 British film titled A Sea Cave Near LIsbon. For a little fun in the sun, check out the sandy beaches east of the cliffs.
Your family will be amazed by the delectable variety of food offerings in Porto, and one of the best ways to explore the city’s foodie scene is during a walking tour. Along the way, you’ll enjoy plenty of chances to taste Portugal through its incredible dishes, pastries, and beverages. As you stroll down the hilly and narrow streets of Porto, you’ll learn about its rich history.
Complementing this educational tour are plenty of chances to savor local products, including chorizo, prosciutto, wine, cheese, and more. At the Bolhão Market discover local products and interact with area vendors. Next, stroll through the historical neighborhood where you’ll try more local products, including wine. Head towards the Douro River for an authentic meal of tapas. There’s no better way to gain an appreciation for Portuguese history, culture, and gastronomy.
Countless quaint fishing villages line the coastline of Portugal’s Algarve region. While some have become a bit kitschy due to tourism, others have done an excellent job of remaining more faithful to Portuguese culture and history.
In Olhão, a fishing town south of the Algarve, check out the beautiful and bustling harbor and waterfront. Other attractions include the city’s whitewashed and cubic houses, the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa with its lagoons and waterways, and sandbar islands like Ilha da Culatra and Ilha da Armona, a short ferry ride away.
Alvor and Salema have become heavily marked by tourism in recent years. But if you’re after resort-style accommodations, they offer this in droves. Both cities contain the iconic whitewashed cottages of fishermen and quaint cobblestone streets. You’ll find beautiful beaches in both towns although Salema’s half-mile-long beach is of particular note because it contains dinosaur footprints. Alvor is distinguished by the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve, which contains gorgeous natural beauty and chances to spot unique plants and animals.
In Praia de Luz, choose from two gorgeous beaches along with surf schools and rental equipment shops. The village is family-friendly and welcoming, and views are excellent no matter where you are on the sandy bay. We also recommend a visit to the Rocha Negra headland, formed by a volcano in 1755. It contains many hiking trails, permitting you an easy escape into nature while enjoying spectacular coastal views.
North of Lisbon, find the quaint medieval town of Óbidos, surrounded by impressive, fortress-like walls. From its white-washed houses to its rustic cobbled streets, your family will feel transported back in time. The city reached its height of importance in the 13th century when Portugal’s King Dinis I gave the village as a wedding gift to his wife, Queen Isabel.
Renowned for a cherry liqueur known as Ginja, get ready to taste countless delicacies that incorporate its fruity, tart flavor. Depending on the time of year you visit, the city comes to life during celebrations such as the Óbidos Chocolate Festival, the Medieval Festival, and the annual Christmas Village. But not all activities in this destination are seasonal. There are various ancient churches always well worth exploring, and a walk atop the city walls affords spectacular views.
After taking in the sites and activities in Lisbon and its environs, head into the countryside to visit some of Portugal’s most charming and historic villages. They include Monsaraz, a splendid hilltop town. Characterized by a fairy-tale castle, low-rise houses, and narrow cobble-stone lanes, Monsaraz proves wonderfully atmospheric and personifies the character of the Alentejo region.
Next, head to Évora for an exploration of incredible landmarks and monuments dating back to the earliest days of the nation. Évora’s old town center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and remains immaculately preserved. Spend time at the remains of the city’s Roman Temple, and Évora’s medieval fortified walls, which remain well-preserved and intact in many places. From the Celts to the Romans and the Moors, there are few better destinations to find out more about the many residents who contributed to Portuguese history.
The Alentejo region is known for its pastoral landscapes and scenic settlements, both markers of a well-established wine region. There’s no better place to savor Portuguese vintner culture than at a posh wine hotel like the Six Senses Douro Valley. Order a flight for tasting and learn about the rich heritage of winemaking in the region.
The hotel encompasses a sprawling 19 acres and offers an entrée to endless activities, including canoeing, kayaking, tree climbing, and yoga. Keeping the kids active and busy has never been so effortless. The full-service spa offers citrus-based spa treatments, and the Vale de Abraão Restaurant features farm-to-table cuisine with ingredients from its gardens. For those after a little more adventure, consider a helicopter tour of the Douro Valley or a relaxing river cruise. The hotel also boasts a variety of children’s programs when you feel like a little “adulting.”
The Madeira Islands are located in the Archipelago of Madeiro, the result of Atlantic Ocean volcanic activity. The chain includes the island of Madeira, an autonomous region. The island’s capital is Funchal and contains just over 100,000 inhabitants, making it the biggest city in Madeira. Funchal contains an Old City center rich in local history. While sightseeing, explore impressive buildings like the 16th-century Funchal Cathedral, unmistakable due to its imposing exterior. Inside, appreciate the church’s Gothic altarpiece showcasing gilt woodwork.
Next, head to Santa Maria Street (Rua da Santa Maria) where you’ll find over 200 murals painted on the doors of neighborhood residences. The murals are the result of a public art program called the Art of the Open Doors (Arte de Portas Abertas), which transformed the aged exteriors of the street following a devastating flood. The result is a vibrant outdoor art gallery.
Jump on a Monte Cable Car to travel the 15 to 20 minutes between Funchal and Monte. The commute passes through the breathtaking country and makes an impressive climb of 1,902 feet (580 meters). Later, return via a second cable car to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, one of the most popular areas on the island. The gardens cover 753,473 square feet (70,000 square meters) and feature exotic plants from around the world.
On a trip to Portugal with kids, you’ll never run out of engaging and memorable activities, whether you ride a cable car, sail across the waters of Tagus River, or enjoy a luxurious wine tasting in the Alentejo region. In Portugal you’ll have opportunities to learn about history, explore different cultures, interact with locals, and get to know Europe’s oldest country. We can help you create the perfect travel itinerary for your family.
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