Surely when planning a family holiday, the main challenge that most parents come across is how to keep the children entertained. The fast pace of life nowadays can take its toll on families and both young children and teenagers can suffer from stress, so it is easy to see why an unwind period, away from day-to-day chores and responsibilities is absolutely necessary for everyone’s well-being and even sanity! Luckily you bumped into Portugal Trails and this means that you might be headed for a hassle-free, much enjoyable family time in one of the safest, most historical and varied countries of Europe (we actually meant to say “of the World” but we will let you say it yourselves once you are over here!).
The following are some suggestions of unmissable and fun things to do with the family once you are in Portugal.
Explore ancient Lisbon by tram or tuk tuk
Lisbon is usually called the city of the seven hills and going up and down visiting monuments can be a little less strenuous and a lot more fun for everybody if you take one of the many trams or tuk tuk in the city!
Trams are old street cars that slide along tracks and go to various parts of the old city ensuring a smooth climb to even the highest of hills. You can buy the tickets directly from the drivers yet you can save a lot of cash buy buying them in advance at any subway station or at some designated stationery shop. You can get single ride, daily or even multi-day tickets.
The tuk tuks are motorized 3-wheeled rickshaws-like vehicles that are privately run by tourism companies. They have their pre set itineraries through the historic center, however they will take your party anywhere that you would like to go. Even though you can hop on any of these anywhere in the city, you will be better off with arranging for them in advance with your travel agency as better deals can be obtained.
See Sintra from above at the Moorish Castle
One of the purposes of a visit to the town of Sintra in the outskirts of Lisbon is to enjoy the magnificent views over the mountain surrounding the historic center. The other one is to absorb the richness of its History of which the multiple castles and palaces scattered through the town give a live testimony. The best of both worlds is condensed and can be found at the Moorish castle, an impressive rampart from one millennia ago that stands at the top of the mountain of Sintra. The castle has been the subject of archaeological excavations since the 70’s, which has allowed numerous discoveries about the history of the site and its inhabitants. UNESCO classified the Cultural Landscape of Sintra as a World Heritage Site, of which the Moorish Castle is a key element. Book your tickets in advance as that avoids the long lines at the site and make sure you bring your cameras along with you!
Take a boat tour along the coast of the Algarve
Much has been said about the Algarve being the perfect holiday destination in Portugal and one of the best in Europe. However, basking under the sun all day with amazing views over the pristine ocean waters on sandy beaches, is just one of the things that the coastline of the southern-most region of Portugal has to offer your family!
One of the most exciting things you can go for is a boat trip along the coast. These have variable duration but they usually cover many hidden gems of the Algarve’s shores that you only access in this manner. The boat trips in the Algarve are a fit for all ages and you will get to see the grottos or rock formations, secret beaches and eventually even dolphins! Families love these trips and that is why you need to book them in advance so that you ensure you get your place in the fun!
Taste the Pastéis de Belém straight from the source!
If there’s one thing that we are known for in Portugal is for our food! People from around the world travel to Portugal for a taste of the famous Portuguese cuisine. Desserts are an important part of this cuisine and we are happy to say that they are almost mandatory at meals (or at any time of the day, really!). Of course, you can say you do it for the children but any excuse is a good excuse to stop in some Portuguese town and get a sample of the best local sweets!
When you are in the capital city, make sure you head to the maritime neighborhood of Belém and go straight to the Pastéis de Belém confectioners located on the site of a former sugar refinery. The monks of a nearby monastery came up with a sweet recipe in the 1800 ‘s which was an immediate success and that they kept as a secret up to our days. These unmissable tartelettes are made of a buttery and flaky filo pastry that holds a soft, warm filling of egg and vanilla custard with a touch of cinnamon. Plus, the pastry shop itself is a delightful place, covered in tiles and with that Old World tea room air to it. We can assure you that any eventual line to get in will be worth its value in sugar!
Visit Óbidos and have a sip of “ginjinha”!
Óbidos is a fortified medieval town in the center of Portugal that is famous because of its quaint cobbled streets and whitewashed houses and last but not least, its ginjinha liquor served in chocolate cups.
Throughout the year, a program of events brings some excitement to this small town, but undoubtedly the most popular are the International Chocolate Festival and the Medieval and Christmas Markets, when the town is decorated with seasonal motifs and is bustling with events. The town is one of the network of Literary Towns by UNESCO due to the variety of well-preserved display of old bookstores and Literary Festivals. Walking up the steep town especially on uneven, century-old cobbles can be a bit of a challenge. That’s why you will need to stop at the many ginjinha selling stores to sip on the delicious Morello Cherry liquor, an interesting combination of flavors that is almost a dessert despite its alcohol content and that is served in a small cup of the chocolate of your preference: dark, milk or white. The kids will have to settle for these only and we guess they will be happy enough!
Lose yourself in Ribeira neighborhood in Porto
The city of Porto is considered the second most important city of Portugal even though it was actually around here that Portugal started as a nation back in the 12th century! The most iconic parts of the city are the Baixa and the Ribeira where old buildings overlook the River Douro on a cascade of color in contrast with the black granite of the cobbled streets. Ribeira is one of the oldest, most popular and traditional places in the city and is part of the Historic Center of Porto, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of medieval origin, it has always been an area of much commerce and movement of people, due to its proximity to the river. If you are looking for a beautiful place to dine and stroll at dusk or at night, the Ribeira neighborhood is the place to go to. You will find dozens of restaurants with terraces, where you can enjoy traditional Portuguese dishes or even international culinary while enjoying the view of the bridges, of the traditional boats that cross the river and of Vila Nova de Gaia, the next town, with its dim street lights fading into the river waters.
Walk or ride a bike along the Aqueduct in Évora!
The Silver Water Aqueduct is an icon of the city of Évora along with its medieval ramparts and Roman ruins. The Aqueduct was built in the 16th century, rebuilt in the 17th century and added extra decoration in the 18th century. It runs for about 18km all the way to the Divor Dam and it is the perfect excuse for a family hike or bike ride to see the cork and olive tree fields of the Alentejo. Of course, all the exercise must be well balanced with one or two local wine and cheese tastings or even a heartier meal of lamb stew or Iberian Pork on the grill at one of the many amazing restaurants in town.
Enjoy grilled fish with a sea view
Even though you can go to any part of Portugal for this, going for a fresh fish or seafood dinner on a hot summer night or a warm autumn evening with a view of the ocean in the Algarve is one of the most delightful experiences you and your family will have in Portugal. The variety of fish and seafood is incredible in this region and is enough to make us want to sit for hours just to have enough time to go through the whole menu! Sagres, Lagos and Tavira have some of the most amazing beaches surrounded by numerous family friendly restaurants which means that after a long day of sunbathing and dips into the ocean you can stroll your way to a nearby restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal of the best catch-of-the-day!
Narrowing Portugal down to 8 essential family activities is a difficult exercise of self-restraint as the amount of family-fun that you can have in the country is countless! Despite this, we wanted to get you started on the daydreaming and eventually inspire you for your trip. Let the kids join in the fun of holiday planning and when you are ready reach out to us: together we will make that family dream-holiday come true!