From a babymoon in the Azores to city breaks in Lisbon and Porto, plus beach holidays in the Algarve, Portugal is easily one of the countries my daughter has visited most – no surprise as from toddlers to teens, there’s so much to tempt you to Portugal with kids.
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If you’re looking for endless glorious stretches of sand, you’ll find them here. If you’re looking for family-friendly city breaks, you’ll find those too – did you know the country is home to some of Europe’s oldest cities, including Braga which dates back over 2,000 years to its founding by the Romans?
There’s the Douro river valley (with its vineyards for grown-ups), the little-explored Alentejo with its picturesque villages, as well as the islands of Madeira and the Azores – I could go on! So this guide to Portugal with kids is designed to help plan your next family holiday in Portugal, from when to go to where to stay and more.
Getting to Portugal
Portugal has three international airports; Lisbon (LIS), Porto (OPO), and Faro (FAO).
Lisbon Airport (Aeroporto Humberto Delgado) serves the capital city and all of central Portugal. Porto Airport (Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro) operates in the north of the country and serves cities including Porto, Braga, and Guimaraes. Faro Airport sits in the south of Portugal and provides access to the popular tourist region of the Algarve.
The majority of European airlines fly into all three of Portugal’s airports. You can then use public trains, buses, or taxis to get to your final destination within the country.
If you’re travelling from the US, some direct flights to Portugal are available from several major cities, including New York, Boston, Washington DC, and Miami. From other destinations, you may need to connect via other US or European cities, such as London or Paris.
When to go
The climate in Portugal varies greatly between the north and south of the country.
Porto and northern Portugal have a relatively mild year-round climate. During the summer months, temperatures can reach 25C with plenty of sunshine. But during the winter, heavy wind and rain in the region can make it feel pretty chilly. Most tourists tend to avoid winter in Porto.
Lisbon has a hotter year-round climate than Porto and the north. Summer temperatures can reach 30C+, while the winter cools down to a pleasant 15-20C.
It’s best to avoid the peak summer months of July and August in Lisbon when high temperatures make exploring the city tough, and when you can expect large tourist crowds and queues at all the main landmarks. The shoulder months of April, May, September, and October are some of the best months to visit the capital.
The Algarve region of southern Portugal is also known for its year-round sunshine and warm Mediterranean climate. Temperatures range from 15C in winter to 30C+ in the summer. This makes the Algarve a popular year-round beach destination.
There’s really no bad time to visit, although bear in mind the strong breezes off the ocean can make it seem cooler in shoulder season as well.
Check out my complete family holiday travel planner here, including packing lists and more
What to see
From historic cities and grand castles to beautiful beaches and stunning natural landscapes, there’s something to see and do in Portugal for every style of traveller, whether you’re looking for a family beach holiday in Portugal, exploring off the beaten track or a city break with kids.
|Lisbon||Capital City, Historic Architecture, Views, Saint George’s Castle, Mercado da Ribeira, Aquarium, Trams, Fado Music|
|Porto||Historic Architecture, Blue and White Azulejos Tiled Churches, Dom Luis I Bridge, Livraria Lello, Douro River, Port Wine Cellars|
|The Algarve||Golden Sand Beaches, Water Parks, Water Sports, Golf Courses, Luxury Holiday Resorts|
|Belém||Torre de Belém, Jéronimos Monastery UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pastel de Nata Birth Place|
|Sintra||Colourful Pena Palace and National Park, Quinta da Regaleira, Castelo dos Mouros|
|Douro Valley||Port Vineyards and Wineries, Scenery, Walks, River Cruises|
|Braga||Mediaeval Streets, Gothic Architecture, Bom Jesus do Monte Church, Oldest Portuguese Cathedral, Beautiful Gardens|
|Guimarães||Former Capital of Portugal, UNESCO World Heritage Site City Centre, Mediaeval Castle|
|Estremadura and Ribatejo||Important Religious Sites, Alcobaça Monastery, Convento de Cristo (former headquarters of the Knights Templar), Castle of Leiria|
|The Azores||Nine Islands, Most Westerly Point of Europe, Volcanic Landscapes, Thermal Pools, Tea Plantations, White Churches|
|Madeira||Sub-tropical Climate, Volcanic Landscapes, Hiking, Stunning Scenery, Funchal (Capital), Pebble Beaches, Wine|
For more tips on visiting Portugal with kids, check out some of my posts:
Portugal’s most unusual attractions – five quirky favourites
Lisbon & the surrounding area
The best things to do in Lisbon with kids
Oceanario review – visiting Lisbon’s aquarium with kids
Hippotrip review – Lisbon’s amphibious tour
The best things to do in Belem with kids
One day in Sintra with kids – the best things to do and see
Where to stay in Lisbon with kids – my Plum guide review
Porto & the north
The best things to do in Porto with kids
15 incredible day trips from Porto with kids
Porto card review – is the Porto card worth it?
Porto with kids – my travel tips
Silves – the Algarve’s best-preserved castle
Ramires restaurant – where piri piri chicken was invented in the Algarve
Where to stay in the Algarve with kids – James Villas review
Martinhal review – five-star family friendly luxury with a baby
Travel tips: taking the Algarve’s toll road
The Azores: the bump and the volcano – visiting the islands on a babymoon
Travelling within Portugal
Portugal is an extremely accessible country to travel around
In the larger cities such as Lisbon and Porto, public transport connects all the popular neighbourhoods and attractions. The metro, buses, and trams are quick, affordable, and can get you anywhere you need to go.
Portugal’s historic cities weren’t built for cars, so they’re not particularly easy to drive around. You can expect small winding roads, confusing one-way systems, and heavy traffic. Avoid driving within the cities if possible.
Most of wider Portugal is also well connected by public transport, and travelling between different cities is easy by train or bus.
You can also hire a car for a road trip around the country, and if you’re staying for less than six months many nationalities (including visitors from the UK and US) don’t need an International Driving Permit either.
There are toll roads across the country, including in the Algarve, so if you’re renting a car, most companies offer an option to pay the tolls automatically for a fee – still much easier than trying to do it yourself.
If you’re travelling to the islands, there are direct flights from Lisbon to the Azores, as well as direct flights from Lisbon and Porto to Madeira.
Skyscanner is the website I tend to start with to compare rates for my flights.
Money-saving tip: Don’t input any dates to scan the best available times to go OR simply input ‘Portugal’ instead of a specific airport – you may get a much cheaper flight!
For more ways to save for holidays and city breaks with kids, check out my top tips
When I plan a city break in Portugal with kids, I often prefer my own apartment – and as well as well-known favourites such as AirBNB, I’m a big fan of Plumguide which has a range of accommodation that’s been individually vetted, including our gorgeous PlumGuide apartment in Lisbon.
When I visit the Algarve, I often prefer to book a villa to give me plenty of space while exploring this part of Portugal with kids, as well as all the facilities including a kitchen and usually a private pool (often unheated though).
For standard hotel stays, Booking.com usually offers the best deals, including free cancellation.
Portugal is an extremely safe country, especially for tourists. The country has one of the world’s lowest crime rates.
As with most tourist-heavy destinations, pickpocketing and petty theft do occasionally occur in busier cities and around popular landmarks. Take basic precautions and look after your belongings, and don’t leave any valuables unattended on the beach.
The country is also hugely family-friendly, so you’ll feel very welcome pretty much anywhere if you’re visiting Portugal with kids.
Portugal is a great destination for travellers of all budgets. From affordable hostels in Lisbon and Porto to the luxury beach resorts of the Algarve, there’s something for everyone. If you are visiting on a budget, there are plenty of easy ways to save money in Portugal.
- Book budget and self-catering accommodation in the cities rather than luxury hotels and resorts.
- Find free walking tours to explore the cities (although do leave a small tip if you can).
- Take public transport rather than taxis and private transfers, and check out travelcards if you’re planning to use it a lot. Save your Viva Viagem card in Lisbon, as it can be reloaded with tickets/credit rather than paying for a new one each time.
- Avoid the tourist traps in busy areas and around major landmarks. Eat and drink off the beaten path to save money. The lunchtime menu do dia set meal can be a good deal too.
- Watch the ‘couvert’ – at the start of the meal, you’ll get a plate of bread, olives, butter, maybe a few extras like sardine pate, even cured meat and cheese. Be aware that there’s a charge if you eat any of this (by law, you should not be charged if you don’t touch it but do check the bill), although it’s usually only a few euros.
- Grab local produce from the market, then pack a picnic and eat by the river or on the beach.
- Hunt for all the free viewpoints – Portugal has loads of them!
For more tips on ways to save on a city break with kids, including city passes and finding cheap (or free) tours, check out this post.
Packing for Portugal
What to pack for Portugal will greatly depend on where exactly you’re going and what time of year you’re visiting – a February city break in Porto will be quite different from a summer holiday on the Algarve.
During the hot summer months, don’t forget your sunscreen, aftersun, water bottle, and sun hat – no matter where in the country you are. Light and airy clothing will be your best friend in Lisbon and the south.
In the north of the country, it’s best to bring a few layers and an umbrella or raincoat, even during the summer. You never know when some drizzle might hit.
If you’re travelling away from the cities and into more rural parts of Portugal, be sure to bring some comfortable walking shoes and adventure clothing for hiking.
Check out my complete family holiday travel planner here, including packing lists and more
Lonely Planet guides are always my favourite starting point – as well as the Lonely Planet Guide to Portugal, there are also smaller Pocket guides including Pocket Lisbon, Pocket Porto and Pocket Algarve
Or Experience Portugal is another great option from the Lonely Planet range, a guide book with a difference, focused on the experiences to have in the country rather than a checklist of places to visit.
While there are no guide books to Portugal for kids specifically, if they want to learn more, this book of 60 Facts about Portugal is an easy place to start. If you’re heading to the Algarve, it’s worth grabbing a copy of I Spy at the Seaside to keep them entertained at the beach, one of my family beach essentials.
Before making any travel reservations, be sure to check the COVID restrictions currently in place in Portugal.
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Images: Lisbon view/Sintra courtesy of Depositphotos, all others copyright MummyTravels