Our round up of the best things to do in Portugal with kids. Cultural attractions, food and activities to include in your Portugal itinerary for the perfect Portugal family trip.
Portugal often comes up in conversation as a destination for family friendly holidays in all-inclusive resorts.
Indeed, for a sea and sun holiday, Portugal is a great choice and we have fond memories of our family break in the gorgeous family resort Martinhal Cascais (affiliate link). You can read our review here)
However, I feel the real charm of Portugal resides away for its sandy oceanfront.
During our spring trip to Portugal with kids, we got lost in ancient streets, relaxed in local markets and discovered a family friendly side of the country that makes it both welcoming and authentic.
This is our selection of the best things to do in Portugal with kids for culturally curious families!
Best family experiences to explore Portugal with kids
These are our favourite family friendly things to do in Portugal for kids and adults,as chosen by our resident experts: Mr M (6 at the time of our trip) and Little Ms E
Ride a yellow tram in Lisbon
What is special about riding a tram, you may ask. Indeed, if we weren’t talking about Portugal, public transport wouldn’t appear on my list. However, Lisbon trams are iconic and truly deserve this top spot!
They criss-cross the city and help locals and tourists get around town in an efficient and fun way and come to the rescue of tired legs in hilly Lisbon. Our kids adored them.
The one tourists love is Lisbon tram n 28, the rickety ride that connects Baixa to the famous Alfama quarter and the castle overlooking the city.
The one we personally loved, however, was a different one and goes by the name ‘Ascensor da Bica’ (‘ascensor’ means ‘lift’ or ‘elevator’). Rather than a standard tram, I would call this a funicular but semantics aside, it is great fun. It is old, it is shaky, it has a glorious local feel and goes up a hill so steep it will make you doubt the laws of gravity!
Visit family friendly Porto
The city of Porto is stunning and, for many it is a highlight of their Portugal itinerary.
I am myself a fan of the city. I visited Porto for the first time over 20 years ago and fell in love with its beautiful architecture, dynamic atmosphere and peculiar geographic location, over a river and on rolling hills.
There is plenty to do in Porto for families and depending on the age your your children they may enjoy the city zoo, Porto beautiful parks (such as Crystal palace gardens and Serralves), a hop on hop off tour of the city and the interactive museum World of Discoveries.
If you are staying overnight in Porto, which we recommend, try Apartemento Vila Bolhao, self catering apartments suitable for families.
Coimbra is one of the oldest cities in Portugal and it is a pleasure to visit with kids. The city has a highly respected university and a family friendly vibe, with pedestrianized streets and green spaces.
Coimbra university is worth a visit. Very young kids will have plenty of space to run (it’s huge!), while you are sure to appreciate the beautifully decorated buildings that make up this important educational complex.
If you are road tripping, Coimbra is a nice overnight stop to add to your Portugal itinerary, check out Vila Gale hotel: immediately outside of the city centre, it is a great place for kids and has a generous breakfast and swimming pool on site
Explore Sintra National park
Sintra is famous for its fairy tale castles and because of them it is one of the must see attractions people seek out when visiting Portugal with children.
However, when we visited Sintra with kids their attention was piqued by something other than architecture: the amazing gardens surrounding the Sintra castles and the glorious national park that embraces them!
Our kids loved the garden surrounding Pena palace, where they spotted ducklings and played while we watched them under the cascading petals of pink camelias. Older kids will be mesmerised by the tunnels, passages and the musk covered stones of Quinta da Regaleira. It’s one of the most charming places in Portugal for kids!
Taste traditional Portuguese food
You cannot go on a family trip to Portugal without sampling the local food.
Portuguese food is gorgeous. It is fresh, varied, colourful and for many is one of the highlight of a trip to Portugal (it sure was for us!).
Among the most traditional dishes you have grilled sardines but kids are most likely to take to the beautiful Portuguese desserts: the most famous of all are pasteis de nata, small custard tarts with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Sampling Pasteis de nata is one of the activities we recommend if visiting Lisbon with kids but if you are in Sintra, also make sure you taste the local delicatessen Travesseiro de Sintra: it truly is a treat, especially the ones with Nutella!
See a church without a roof
Or one made with bones!
Portugal has some incredible churches so peculiar to be sure to pique the kids attentions. Two out of the many deserving a mention are Convento de Carmo, in Lisbon, and the incredible albeit slightly disturbing bone chapel in Evora.
Visit continental Europe’s most westerly point
Kids love record breaking places and our two are no exception. Mr M is always asking about the tallest building, the fastest car, the biggest ocean so it came natural to us to include in our itinerary a stop in Cabo da Roca, continental Europe’s most westerly point!
Cabo da Roca can be easily visited from Lisbon, Sintra or Cascais and can be even be combined with these destinations in one day trip.
There is not a lot to do here for kids, but the place is wonderful. The coastal path reasonably safe considering the height of the cliffs (hold hands!) and in spring it was covered by stunning blooms with colours our kids love.
Good to know: the small café on site has ice cream (and sodas and bathrooms)
Go cycling in Cascais
We stayed in Cascais with the kids only one night and one day, but it was lovely I wish we would have stayed more.
The kids adored Cascais beach and since we visited in spring, when the temperature wasn’t overly hot, it was also possible to go for walks and be active.
One fun activity in Cascais with kids is to rent bikes and cycle along the coastal cycling path. You can rent bicycles in Cascais (there is a small number of them available for free) and bike rentals also have children bikes.
Be king for a day in a Portuguese castle
Portugal is home to many castles. Castelo de San Jorge at the top of Lisbon’s Alfama quarter, Pena palace and the Castle of the moors in Sintra are among the most popular.
If you want to help your kids understand the history of Portugal and while these castles came to be, we have a nice selection of children books about Portugal here
Azulejos are a traditional art form in Portugal and grace the walls of many house, private and grand.
They are eye catching, colourful and intricate and while I cannot say my kids were head over heels in love with them (they caught their attention for about one minute each time) they offered good entertainment.
Our kids loved spotting them before us and surprises us months later in California, when they screamed: look, tiles like the ones in Portugal!
They do remember out travels, after all!
Practical tips to visit Portugal with kids: what to pack for Portugal in each season
No matter what time of the year you visit Portugal, we we recommend you pack:
- good walking shoes,
- a photocopy of your documents,
- credit cards and cash and sunscreen (if you have very fair skin, you may need it even in winter)
In summer, you should pack very light clothes such as:
- short sleeved tops
If you are a woman, I also recommend you bring a large scarf to protect you from air conditioning and also to wrap around your waste if you wear shorts and wish to visit a church or a sacred space.
In winter, you need:
- Layers (long sleeve top, short sleeve top, cardigan etc)
- A winter jacket
- Scarf, gloves, hat
- Travel umbrella
While Portugal is famous for good weather, temperatures do drop in winter and you’ll be glad you wrapped up! For kids, we recommend a good waterproof jacket and a good sleeping bag if using a stroller.
I hope you enjoyed our tips and advice about what to see in Portugal with kids! If you are planning a trip, pin this post on Pinterest for reference or check out our Portugal section for additional ideas on all there is to do in Portugal for kids.
I hope you enjoyed our suggestions! Are you going to Portugal with kids soon?
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