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Are you dreaming of taking an incredible trip with your entire family? Thinking of taking a vacation to Portugal? You are on the right track. One of the first steps to begin planning is to decide on your Portugal family vacation itinerary. Portugal is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and a perfect place to explore with children of all ages.
From spectacular castles to jaw-dropping scenery, magnificent beaches, world-class wine, and fantastic seafood, the country offers a plethora of options that will appease toddlers and teens alike. It is also a wonderful destination for a multi-generational vacation. So invite the grandparents, prep the children, and start planning the perfect Portugal family itinerary!
Planning The Perfect Itinerary
Although Portugal is a relatively compact country, it offers a wide variety of cities, towns, and attractions to explore. Planning the perfect family itinerary to Portugal can be challenging. The first steps in planning a great family vacation are deciding which specific destinations you will visit, how long you should stay in each one, and what activities should be part of your experience.
Before you begin planning the perfect itinerary, here are some basic questions you will want to answer:
Is Portugal A Safe Place to Visit?
This is one of the most common questions that comes up when planning a family vacation. While it is vital to take certain safety precautions in any foreign country Portugal is one of the safest places to visit. The country is exceptionally tourist-friendly and has very low crime rates. In fact, in the 2020 Global Peace Index, Portugal comes second out of 36 countries, sitting right behind Iceland.
When Should We Visit Portugal? Is There A Bad Time to Visit Portugal?
There is no wrong time to visit Portugal because the country offers a wide array of activities, attractions, and unique festivals year-round. But, let’s face it, most families traveling to Portugal plan their vacations in the summers when children are on school holidays, the weather is warm, and the beaches are welcoming. But, of course, there are pluses and minuses to visiting every season.
If you prefer cooler weather and want to limit your exposure to crowds, you should avoid the months of July and August. School and work holidays attract thousands of visitors to Portugal’s main cities, famous attractions, and luxury hotels. As a result, rates are high, and availability is limited throughout the summer. Instead, consider planning your Portugal family vacation itinerary from late April to mid-June. You will enjoy mild weather and fewer tourists vying for accommodations, experienced tour guides, entry tickets, and beach spots.
Although Portugal is known for its miles of picture-perfect beaches, it does not mean you cannot find fun things to do off-season. While the weather can be cool and rainy in northern Portugal in the winter months, the southern region remains pleasantly mild. Spring and fall are lovely months to experience cultural attractions, museums, and outdoor areas. Families traveling with children will be pleased to learn that activities such as cycling, hiking, and kayaking can be done year-round in different regions.
Most people will reach Portugal by air and arrive at Lisbon, Porto, and Faro international airports. While train travel is popular and convenient in other European countries, there are no international trains that take a direct route to Portugal. Planning an extensive multi-country trip? Consider a driving vacation and combine Portugal with Spain.
Getting Around in Portugal
The best way for families to travel around Portugal is by renting a car or hiring a private driver guide. Although rental cars are plentiful, keep in mind that driving in a foreign country poses certain risks, and most car rental agencies in Portugal cater to drivers of manual vehicles. Therefore, renting an automatic car can be challenging, especially in peak season.
If you are not comfortable driving and do not want the added expense of a private driver, you can rely on public transport. A comprehensive train network connects most cities in Portugal and offers an easy and inexpensive option to travel between cities.
To fully experience the beauty of the country, explore various regions and not feel rushed when traveling with children, we recommend allocating a minimum of 10 days for your Portugal family vacation itinerary. Dividing the trip up into 2 or 3 different areas and exploring each one for several days will allow you to take in many incredible sights and participate in various fun activities.
Here is a sample of one of our favorite 10-day family-friendly Portugal itineraries.
Part 1: Wild Algarve
Day 1: Arrival at Algarve – Portugal’s Southern Coast
Arrive in Faro, where your private driver awaits to take you to your luxury hotel. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure, getting your bearings and adjusting to the time change.
Algarve is one of the most popular areas in Portugal for families traveling with children. The region is blessed with miles of pristine sandy beaches, gorgeous resorts, and family-friendly attractions. For families looking to unplug and soak in the sun, making Algarve your first destination is perfect for starting the trip.
The region is home to beautiful resort towns such as Lagos, Faro, and Albufeira. Spend a few days exploring pristine beaches, spending an afternoon at an amusement park, and enjoying fresh local cuisine.
Insider tip: Make sure you visit Ponta da Piedade and take a boat trip around the natural geological formations. The Aquashow Park is another stellar destination for kids.
Recommended Restaurants: Al-Quimia, Ocean, Haweli Indian Restaurant, and Cais ao Mar Algarve.
Day 2: Boats and Caves Water Adventure
Get ready because today’s excursion will be one of the most memorable experiences of your entire trip. Meet your boat captain as you set off on a private visit to 20 beautiful caves and beaches along the coast.
Leave from the historic harbor of Portimão and follow the Rio Arade to the Atlantic, passing fishing villages, medieval forts, lighthouses, and beaches on your way to the caves. Enjoy cruising along the coastline of Carvoeiro, famous for its rock formations of Algar Seco, and head up to the lighthouse of Alfanzina.
The trip’s highlight is a visit to Praia de Benagil, a magnificent beach near Lagoa. The beach is most famous for its spectacular cave called Algar de Benagil. This Instagram worth cave has a round hole in the ceiling that perfectly frames the beautiful blue sky above. Although the cave is extremely popular, you will escape cape the crowds on your private tour to the Bengagil Caves and get deeper into the caves and caverns.
Day 3: Ancient Kingdom of the Algarve – Silves and Monchique
Day 3 of your Portugal family vacation itinerary is all about traveling back in time as your family strolls lush gardens, explores Moorish castles and gothic monuments, and takes in heart-stopping views from the highest point in the Algarve.
Meet your amiable driver and head east to visit the town of Silves, exploring the remains of an ancient castle, Roman bridge, and magnificent cathedral. Then head north to visit the rustic Monchique village with the Franciscan Monastery and the Parish church. While children enjoy exploring ancient ruins, adults will visit an authentic wine cellar in Tufos village.
Silves was once called the “Kingdom of the Algarve” and has had a storied if contested history. This ancient city started during Roman times but flourished during its occupation in the early 11th century by the Moors. Naming the city Xelb, the Moors constructed lavish palaces and created a cultural learning center for the entire Iberian Peninsula under the control of Cordoba in Spain.
In 1189 the Knights of Santiago sacked the city with the assistance of Anglo-Norman Crusaders, but just two years later, Caliph Ben Yussef recaptured it. Finally, in 1242 it was again under the control of the Portuguese Kings.
Monchique is a mountain city between two high hills, Foia and Picota. The lovely town has retained its rustic atmosphere with steep cobbled streets and small dark passages. Walk up to the neglected 17th-century Franciscan monastery and take a panoramic view over the beautiful countryside. Then visit the 16th Century Parish Church. After lunch, taste the famous local “medronho,” a strong schnapps style of drink made by distilling the fruit from arbutus bushes.
Day 4: Kayaking with Dolphins
Enjoy a relaxing morning at the beach or explore nearby towns along the coast.
In the afternoon, grab your paddles and head out to sea. Explore new areas of the Algarve’s rugged coastline in kayaks. Enter secret caves, explore isolated coves and keep an eye out for whales and dolphins.
Part 2: Historical Lisbon and Mystical Sintra
Day 5: Algarve to Lisbon through Alentejo
Approximate drive time – 3 hours
This morning prepare to leave the jagged peaks, manicured beaches, and endless sunshine of the Algarve and discover the untamed and unspoiled beauty of Alentejo. The Alentejo region is the largest and arguably least developed in Portugal. It spans from the Algarve towards the country’s center and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Portugal-Spain border.
This wild region is known for its dramatically rugged western coast, farmland, vineyards, cork oaks, and olive trees. If you have extra time in your itinerary, we highly recommend spending a few days exploring the area. First, however, today’s drive gives you a taste of the region and the town of Evora.
Spend a few hours exploring this charming village.
Your guide will point out Evora’s top attractions and famous sights. These include the Roman Temple, the fascinating Chapel of the Bones, the Gothic Cathedral of Evora, and Old Town’s medieval World Heritage streets.
After lunch, head back in the car to Lisbon, Portugal’s capital and its largest city. Lined with cobblestone streets and picturesque views, it offers many family-friendly attractions and activities. After enjoying downtime in the Algarve region, spend a few days exploring architectural landmarks, historical sights, and unique museums.
Lisbon is also a great base to explore nearby towns and attractions.
Recommended Restaurants: Needle in a Haystack, Alma, La Bonne Crepe, and Augusto Lisboa.
Day 6: Lisbon Famous Sights and Delicious Desserts
Today you will enjoy a fun-filled private half-tour of Lisbon as you continue your Portugal family itinerary. Since we know that children don’t do well with long periods of either sitting in a car or walking, your guide ensures a well-balanced combination of touring on foot and by car.
Start the morning by exploring Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon, once home to both the Moorish and Jewish quarters. Next, explore the 12th-century Cathedral (Sé), then continue to a magnificent viewpoint overlooking the medieval district, Saint George Castle, Lisbon, and the Tagus river.
You will then pass through the heart of Lisbon – Avenida da Liberdade, Rossio Square, Restauradores, and Pombaline Downtown -and learn about the Great Earthquake of 1755 in vivid detail.
Next up, head to Belem, where you will visit the church of the Jeronimos Monastery, the incredible Monument to the Discoveries, and stop for photos at the Tower of Belém. Finally, children will enjoy a quick stop to taste the delicious and one-of-a-kind “Pastéis de Belém” (Belém Pastry).
After a relaxing local lunch, head over to a local family-run bakery where you will learn how to bake authentic and irresistible Portuguese Custard Tarts – aka Pastel de Nata!
Once the pastries are ready, enjoy the warm tarts and coffee or sour cherry liqueur served inside an edible chocolate cup.
Day 7: Magical Sintra and Cascais
Your incredible Portugal family vacation itinerary continues today. Meet your local guide and head out on a day trip to Sintra. This small town nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains packs a big punch.
Start the day by walking around the old city center surrounded by quaint handicraft stores and traditional pastry shops and tasting a few local delicacies. Then stop over at Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors), a medieval hilltop castle built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th Centuries.
Next, head over to visit the Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace), located high in the Sintra hills.
If you are exceptionally physically fit and the weather cooperates, consider taking the steep walk up the Villa Sassetti path. This route links the Historical Centre of Sintra with the Moorish Castle, the Park, and Pena Palace. Along the way, admire the lush gardens, small ponds, and waterfalls.
Spend a few hours exploring the magical Pena Palace, which bestows visitors with mind-bogglingly intricate architecture and perfect photo spots. The historic castle is as famous for its magnificent gardens, royal palaces, and 19th-century Romanticist architecture as the cornucopia of colors, mythical statues, and decorative battlements. Families with children will love spending a few hours exploring the hidden pathways.
After a lunch break, head over to
and enjoy a guided visit to this magical site. The Quinta da Regaleira estate is classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra.” The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel but is best known for its magnificent park. The park features lakes, caves, wells, and mythical fountains.
The outside façade is decorated with carved gargoyles and Gothic towers. Look for references to the infamous Knights Templars as your guide regales your entire family with fascinating tales.
Once you have thoroughly explored the gardens and towers head over to the charming coastal village of Cascais. The town’s idyllic scenery attracted artists and writers and even expelled European nobility of the 20th century. Today, visitors come to enjoy the gorgeous beaches and scrumptious restaurants.
Families seeking a more relaxing ambiance to explore this region of Portugal can base themselves in Cascais instead of Lisbon.
Recommended Restaurants: Incomum, Tascantiga, Taberna Criativa and, São Pedro 26.
Accommodation: InterContinental Cascais-Estoril
Part 3: Porto and Duoro Valley
Day 8: Lisbon to Porto with Ancient Towns and 100 Foot Waves
Pack your bags and meet your driver in the lobby bright and early as your Portugal family vacation takes you to Porto. Along the way, admire the beautiful countryside, stopping in two quintessentially Portuguese villages. Today, you can choose your own adventure.
OPTION 1: Obidos and Nazare
Obidos is a picture-perfect village. It is also considered one of the finest examples of a Portuguese walled town. Did you know that from 1214 until the 19th century, the Queen of Portugal was gifted Obidos on her wedding day?
This royal tradition left an enduring legacy of pride within the town. Children and parents alike will have fun walking along the narrow cobbled streets, scrambling up the walls, admiring traditional painted houses, and exploring the imposing medieval castle.
Halfway between Lisbon and Porto lies the stunning town of Nazare. Here on the Costa da Prata (Silver Coast), the Atlantic Ocean collides with the coast, exalting the magnitude of her power. Have you seen the infamous photos of brave surfers riding seemingly insurmountable 100-foot waves? These surreal images were likely taken in Nazare, home to the largest surfing waves in the world. The town has numerous surfing hotspots that attract surfers of all abilities worldwide.
The lighthouse on Praia do Norte is where you can see the monster waves crash into the cliffs. The lighthouse is also home to a small surf museum with surfboards and stories of famous surfers who had braved Nazare’s monster waves. Care to show off your skills? Make sure you don’t miss out on Baleal and Peniche; legend says they never disappoint.
OPTION 2: Aveiro and Coimbra
Nicknamed the “Venice of Portugal” due to its colorfully painted boats and winding canals, the lovely town of Aveiro actually has its own unique personality.
The charming riverfront city of Coimbra is located in central Portugal. While it served as the country’s medieval capital for over a century, today, it is a vibrant city that perfectly blends past and present. Coimbra attracts visitors to explore its preserved medieval old town and Portugal’s oldest and most prestigious University. The University of Coimbra was built on the grounds of a former palace. It is a fun site to explore with school-aged children and teens.
After leaving behind central Portugal, you will arrive at your hotel in Porto. Did you know that Porto was Portugal’s first capital and retains a rich history today? It was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 and declared a European Capital of Culture in 2001. Unfortunately, while Lisbon has its fair share of old buildings, it has also been the victim of an earthquake and subsequent fires. On the other hand, Porto survived, which means you will get more historical narratives and old buildings.
Today your family will meet up with your fun and experienced guide to discover Porto and take in the city’s iconic buildings and facades. Explore both the modern and historical areas of the city. Pass by the House of Music, Boavista, Serralves, and city park;
Stroll along the quaint streets of traditional Afurada, a fishing village where colorful tiles line the roads and women still hang their laundry outside their windows.
Explore the Ribeira neighborhood, stop at the Bento train station, walk along flowers street, and snap a few photos inside the world-famous Lello bookshop.
If you have extra time, visit a few of Porto’s many beautiful gardens. Families with kids who love nature and animals will enjoy a trip to the Gaia biological park just South of Douro. The park is the first permanent center for environmental education in Portugal. Kids will enjoy spotting otters, cranes, herons, and deer. So take a few hours to unplug and connect with nature.
Recommended Restaurants: Taberna Dos Mercadores, Muu Steakhouse, Bota & Bira, and Tapabento S. Bento.
Day 10: Duoro Valley
Today your Portugal family itinerary takes you on a journey through the stunning landscape of the Douro Valley. The morning starts as your private driver whisks you along one of the most iconic stretches of the famous road, N 222. Take in the beautiful views and enjoy a relaxing ride.
Once you arrive, you will visit two boutique family wineries. The whole family can have fun strolling the vineyards, picking and tasting different grapes, and learning about wine production. Wonder if the foot-stomping transition of the grapes still exists? It sure does, and maybe you can even try it. Adults will sample several DOC Douro wines and delicious Port, while kids enjoy a sampling of grape juice.
Next, you will enjoy a delicious local lunch where fresh ingredients are used to prepare authentic and traditional cuisine. After lunch, sit back, relax and take in the magnificent views as you glide along the Duoro River in a “Rabelo.” These traditional boats have been used for centuries to transport Port to the cellars in Gaia.
As the day comes to a close, reflect on the incredible experiences your family shared. Time spent together traveling allows you to create new memories and make magnificent new friends.
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Boutique Travel Advisors is a full-service, luxury travel agency. We specialize in creating bespoke itineraries for discerning clients around the world. Please visit our website or call 480-787-1477 to speak with a dedicated travel expert.
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