15 January 2018
Portugal is one of the most popular family holiday destinations in Europe and it’s easy to see why. Wherever you stay in this sun-kissed nation there’s fun for all the family, with everything from pristine beaches and idyllic gardens, to wacky architecture and theme parks waiting for you.
Wild adventures and fun experiences await in the north. The region’s main city is Porto, known for its striking ‘port’ fortified wines; learn more about this product by visiting vineyards like Caves Ferreira and Caves Croft throughout the Douro Valley. The city hosts various attractions to tour including the legendary Dom Luís I Bridge, the Livraria Lello bookstore with its art nouveau façade and the Baroque Clérigos Church which boasts a 75-metre bell tower. The 19th century Palácio da Bolsa is another great site to check out, as it will capture your imaginations with its coats of arms.
There are many thrilling sites and experiences you can enjoy in this region. Tour the north at your leisure by taking a steam train from São Bento Station, a venue renowned for its ornate tile work, allowing you to see the area’s vineyards and landscapes. Get close to nature by camping for a night at Quinta de Pentieiros, known for its picturesque lagoons. Ride water slides, play mini golf and enjoy paintballing at the Natur Waterpark, Portugal’s first ecological theme park. Cap your trip off by visiting the Monastery of Santa Maria de Pombeiro in Felgueiras, which is famous for its vivid murals.
For an exciting city break stay in Lisbon, which has served as the Portuguese capital for centuries, so it delivers eclectic experiences for your itinerary. Take a ‘hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour,’ which you can board at the top of the main ‘Avenida de Liberdade’ thoroughfare, so you can see the main attractions at your leisure. Some of the top sites you can visit via these tours include the iconic Belém Tower, cultural centre the Plaza Comercio with its impressive statues, incredible engineering feat the Vasco de Gama Bridge and Lisbon Zoo, which is home to over 300 species mammals.
Another iconic landmark for your itinerary is the 11th century hilltop São Jorge Castle, a site which has been occupied since the Iron Age, so it boasts some intriguing architectural exhibits. One place your kids will love is the Lisbon Oceanarium, Europe’s largest indoor Aquarium with sharks, rays, penguins and tropical fish. You should also stop by the Bairro Alto district, where you can wander down white marble cobbles, stop in old book stores, take uphill trams and watch traditional ‘fado’ musical performances. Nearby you can shop at designer stores like Zara along Avenida de Liberdade.
The Algarve, which straddles Portugal’s southern coast, is the quintessential family fun destination. It boasts some of the best beaches in Europe including Praia de Odeceixe, where your kids can paddle in shallow waters and top windsurfing and sailing hotspot Prais do Barril. You can visit exciting water parks such as Aqualand Algarve where you’ll find the highest water slide in Portugal – the Kamikaze – and Slide & Splash, known for its river rapids, slides and Jacuzzis. There’s also various adventure centres like the 400-metre Hot Wheels Raceway near Albuferia where you can go karting!
This region is home to some of Portugal’s most intriguing cities and villages. Faro is a must-see city with attractions like the Castle of Avor, a Medieval fort with a kid’s playground in its courtyard, convent-turned-museum the Museu Arqueologico and the spooky ‘Chapel of Bones’. Nearby there’s the 18,000-hectare Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, where you kids can spot creatures like chameleons and seahorses while touring peninsulas and lagoons. For a more relaxed pace head to small villages like idyllic Estoi, beloved for its cobbled streets, quaint cafes and rococo architecture.
Sun seekers and nature lovers should travel to Madeira. Based off the coast of northern Africa, Madeira is called the ‘garden island’ due to its lush vegetation. Top gardens to visit include Funchal’s Jardim Orquidea orchid farm, the Quinta da Boa Vista botanical gardens with its exotic species like passion flowers and the Palheiro Gardens, where you can stroll amid jasmine vines and sit under wisteria-bedecked pergolas. Madeira boasts amazing pebble beaches like Praia Formosa, a massive shore with and a kid’s playground and the volcanically-formed Porto Moniz, known for its crystal-clear waters.
There’s tonnes of fun things you can do in Madeira with your kids. Head to the capital Funchal and check out attractions like the interactive Madeira Story Centre history museum, the Toy Museum where they can see how the children of yesteryear entertained themselves and the ornate Cathedral of Funchal. Enjoy a family hiking trip up the mist-shrouded Pico do Arieiro, which provides impressive views of the island at its summit. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind excursion with a Santa Maria de Colombo boat trip in the Atlantic, so your kids can follow in the footsteps of famous explorers!