Family holiday destinations to explore in Portugal
Between the beach, nature, monuments or villages full of history, Portugal has a lot of unmissable places for family holidays. From the verdant Minho to the sunny Algarve, there are plenty of regions with a lot of points of interest to take the children.
Living up to their curious and explorer side, kids love getting to know new places, having different experiences and going on family vacations. From North to South of Portugal, there are charming destinations to spend a few days resting or, on the contrary, full of activities and adventure. Embark on this journey with All About Portugal and get to know 10 regions with many interesting reasons to visit in the summer, or even in the spring, with your family. Get ready for a trip full of beaches, nature, monuments, places full of history, heritage and attractions for children.
The north of Portugal is a region rich in nature and green areas, even in the hottest months. We suggest that this itinerary starts at the Peneda-Gerês National Park, which is distinguished by its botanical, faunal and historical-cultural diversity. There are numerous walking trails, but if the kids would rather cool off, there are stunning waterfalls to enjoy. There are also viewpoints with breathtaking landscapes such as Pedra Bela, which offers a splendid view over the bridges of the Caldo River, where there are several river beaches, very popular in summer. In Alqueirão, the Water Park Gerês is an inflatable park with entertainment for the whole family. Not far away, there are towns in Minho that children will love to visit. In Braga, you cannot miss a trip up the water-powered elevator to the imposing Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, classified as a World Heritage Site. In Guimarães, a visit to the Castle is a must, here the first king of Portugal was born, while in Viana do Castelo, the Fábrica do Chocolate (Chocolate Factory) promises to tempt everyone.
Still in the North, the Porto area and the extensive area that is bathed by the Douro River is another of the destinations that we propose to discover as a family. Two fun ways to do it are by boat or train or, even better, combining both. In the city of Porto, we suggest a walk through the beautiful Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, where the kids will certainly enjoy getting to know every corner. Sea Life, a “giant” aquarium that is home to three thousand marine creatures, is another attraction for a family vacation. The São Bento Station itself, from where the trains depart to Peso da Régua, is an interesting point of visit for the little ones who will be amazed by its atrium covered in tiles. Taking the opposite route to the river, Peso da Régua, Pinhão, Pocinho or Barca d’Alva are other places to visit, if you decide to take one of the several cruises that are available in the warmer months. The Alto Douro Vinhateiro is classified as World Heritage and is distinguished by landscapes worthy of postcards in which the river flows alongside terraced vineyards.
Until proven otherwise, Portugal dos Pequenitos is in the “top 10” of attractions for children nationwide. It is a theme park dedicated to the youngest and where fun, learning and discovery are mixed. From typical houses from different regions to the most important monuments in Portugal, there's a lot to see, all in reduced size. Still in Coimbra, we suggest a trip to the University, the oldest in the country, and also to the Exploratório Infante D. Henrique, a space that proves that it is possible to combine fun, science and technology. Relatively close by, the magnificent Mata Nacional do Bussaco is another spot that youngsters will love to discover as it offers a remarkable variety of types of trees, interspersed with bridges, lakes and fountains. No less interesting is the garden of the emblematic Palace Hotel in Bussaco. If the kids appreciate history, be sure to take them to the ruins of Conímbriga, an important archaeological complex that allows you to reconstruct a fundamental part of the Roman presence in Portugal.
Serra da Estrela
It is in winter that the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal is “invaded” by tourists eager to enjoy the snow, but also in summer it is an option for a family holiday, in the middle of Nature. A trip to the Tower, the highest point at 1,993 meters, is “mandatory” and offers spectacular panoramic views. There are many trails to go, rocks with peculiar shapes and an image of Our Lady carved in the rock. If the heat sets in, and you feel like taking a dip, there are invigorating river beaches such as Loriga or Vale do Rossim. Seia is one of the “gateways” to the Serra and has two museums that are very popular with the younger ones. The Bread Museum makes a historical and cultural context of the importance of that central element in food. The children get to know how it is made, but are also invited to get their hands dirty. Another museum that kids love is the Toy Museum, which brings together 10,000 toys from Portugal and a little bit from around the world.
Spread over 10 municipalities in the interior, these 12 villages constitute a “treasure” in terms of culture, heritage, history and nature that youngsters will enjoy visiting. The castles of Belmonte, Linhares da Beira, Marialva, Monsanto, Sortelha, Trancoso, Castelo Mendo and Castelo Novo are some of the spots that children will want to explore and, perhaps, dream of an imaginary of princes and princesses. The interactive Museu dos Descobrimentos, in Belmonte, is another attraction in this region, and where kids can feel “in the shoes” of Pedro Álvares Cabral, when he discovered Brazil. The other four villages that make up this batch of historic settlements are Castelo Rodrigo, whose “ex-libris” is the Cristóvão de Moura Palace, Almeida, whose highlight is the enigmatic Praça-Forte, and, also, Idanha-a-Velha and Piódão. The latter was elected one of the 7 wonders of Portugal, in the Villages category, and was called by the Huffington Post "Flinstones Village", due to the configuration of the shale houses scattered along a slope of the Serra do Açor.
Another favorite destination for a holiday in Portugal is the West region, which combines beaches, nature, monuments and attractions for children. Dino Parque da Lourinhã is a good starting point for a tour of the region, which comprises 12 coastal municipalities. Dinosaurs and their history are highlighted in this theme park in Lourinhã, which is the largest open-air museum in the country with 180 full-scale models of dinosaur species. Nearby, in Bombarral, kids will also be amazed by the large statues of the Budha Eden, considered the largest oriental garden in Europe. Peniche Fort, Óbidos Castle and Alcobaça Monastery, World Heritage, are unmissable monuments that the kids will want to explore and will also find the Caldas da Rainha typical crockery funny. The Serra de Montejunto, rich in fauna and flora and where you can find picturesque recovered mills, is another of the natural “treasures” of this region. Finally, there's nothing better than going to Nazaré and watching some of the biggest waves in the world.
The Dolphin Bay, the Primates Temple or the Valley of the Tigers are just three of the many attractions that the Lisbon Zoo has and that delight children. In all, there are close to two thousand animals of 300 species, including mammals, amphibians, reptiles or birds. Continuing in the “animal kingdom”, the Oceanarium is another must-see for kids. This aquarium entirely dedicated to the oceans and their conservation was once considered the best in the world. It is home to eight thousand marine creatures spread over seven million liters of salt water. In the same area, there is the Knowledge Pavilion, where the kids are challenged to have experiences that will make an impression on them. Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and has remarkable monuments in the history of a country strongly marked by the Discoveries. The kids will be impressed by the Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery and the Discoveries Monument. Enjoy the view of the Tagus River and enjoy the famous Pastéis de Belém as a family.
Just over 30 kilometers away, Sintra is another interesting destination for a family holiday. This charming village has its Cultural Landscape classified as World Heritage and has monuments and other places that will impress children. The Historic Center is fascinating and the two large chimneys of the National Palace easily draw attention. A must-visit is also the colorful Pena National Palace, which offers a setting worthy of hosting royalty. Also located in the Serra de Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros also promises to impress the youngest. Two other places that stand out for their beauty are Quinta da Regaleira and Palácio de Seteais. But Sintra is not only about monuments and nature. Another experience that promises to be fun for the whole family is going to Praia das Maçãs by tram. The trip allows you to observe the Serra de Sintra and the Atlantic Ocean. Two other very interesting beaches located in the municipality are Adraga, already considered one of the 20 most beautiful in Europe by The Sunday Times, and São Julião.
This area of the Alentejo coast is a fashion destination! Its extensive white sandy beaches, with quality water and the beautiful setting of the Serra da Arrábida are just some of the reasons that it makes a great destination for a few vacation days. Next to the beaches, pedestrian walks in the nearby pine forests or rice paddies make the practice of birdwatching possible. Another point of interest in the Comporta area is the Rice Museum, created in an old rice mill. The Palafitic Pier of Carrasqueira, a work of popular architecture unique in Europe, is also much visited. This dock for fishing boats offers spectacular sunsets. Another proposal that will certainly get the kids excited is a trip to the Badoca Safari Park, located less than an hour away. This theme park has 90 hectares and close to 600 animals, among 80 different species. During the safari, it is possible to observe and learn more about wild animals such as zebras, giraffes, buffaloes or kangaroos.
It is one of the favorite destinations when planning a family holiday in Portugal in the summer. It is the southern region of the country and in the hottest months the water temperature tends to be very pleasant. The vast majority of their municipalities have beaches and almost all of them, despite their different characteristics, are appropriate for the kids. Some examples are the beaches of Salema and Burgau, in Vila do Bispo, Dona Ana, in Lagos, Marinha, in Lagoa, Armação de Pêra, in Silves, Olhos de Água and in Oura, Albufeira, or Monte Gordo, in Vila Real de Santo António. Going to two of the various water parks in the region is another suggestion that promises to leave your kids delighted. The most popular are the Aqualand, the Aquashow and the Slide & Splash. Zoomarine joins the water fun side to the magical universe of animals, assuming itself as zoo and aquatic theme park. There are presentations of dolphins, tropical birds, seals and sea lions. The International Festival of Sculptures in the Sand is another attraction that will leave the little ones amazed.