Explore Lisbon, one of Europe’s most laidback and family-friendly capitals, with a host of attractions for children.
Enjoy the very child-friendly attractions of the Algarve, from natural white-sand beaches to mountains, and from beautiful villages to nature reserves, oceanographic theme-parks and water-parks.
Check out the lesser-known Alentejo region, north of the Algarve and east of Lisbon. Largely inland, it’s home to the theme-park Zoonatura in Almodovar not far north of Faro, where kids can play with deer, ostriches and farm animals such as chicken, ducks and cows. Traditional activities such as marble games and horse-drawn cart and donkey rides are also on offer. Also in Alentejo, in Moura, the Horta de Torrejais, a small farm owned by a couple of teachers, has a wide range of children’s activities. The hosts organise treasure hunts in the orchard, encourage children to help pick fruit, bake and water the plants, and are currently working on an environmental education program for kids. There is also a small stream and a children’s pool.
Make a foray into Portugal’s Centro (Central) region, home to the Biopark San Pedro do Sul, where families can take part in treasure hunts, horse-drawn carriage tours, abseiling, climbing and traditional games. There are also ceramics, tile-painting and patchwork workshops.
Head north, to Porto and the Norte (North) region. Porto/Oporto, famous as the home of port dessert wine, has a UNESCO World Heritage listed historic centre, while north of it, between Vila do Conde and the mouth of the Rio Miño, you’ll find untouristy beaches and resorts and unspoilt villages. The landscape, studded by waterfall and vineyards, takes in several national/natural parks, including the Peneda-Gerês National Park with its hiking trails and small campsites. There are also two World Heritage sites: the Alto Douro wine region and – of more interest to families – the Côa Valley with remarkable open-air prehistoric rock carvings that can be visited by jeep tours led by specialist guides.
Experience the island of Madeira, which lacks sandy beaches but makes up for it with several exciting theme-parks that belie its reputation as an oldies’ destination.
The Azores archipelago is very appealing to those with younger kids and for those in search of adventure holidays – you can go on sperm whale and dolphin watching tours.