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Portugal Family Holidays & Breaks

Fishing boats on the Algarve
Beach on the Algarve
Azores
Madeira
Lisbon

With its almost perfect year-round climate, Portugal is a justifiably popular destination for family holidays. Located in south-western Europe, next to Spain, it’s one of the oldest countries in Europe and boasts some magnificent cultural sights. But it’s also a small country (around the same size as Scotland), which means it’s fairly easy to travel around, and the locals just love children.

The most popular region for family holidays, offering heaps of child-friendly accommodation and amenities, is the Algarve, famous for its long sandy beaches and seemingly constant sunshine. But if you’re after something more action-packed than a sunbathing and swimming holiday, the country has plenty of other things to offer: picturesque towns and fishing villages, rocky coves and marinas to explore, world-famous golf courses and aqua-parks, and lots more besides, much of it off the tourist track.

 
Capital City Lisbon
Flying Time 3 hours
Carbon Footprint 1.39 tonnes CO2
Timezone GMT
Local Currency Euro
Current weather
Broken clouds
19°C
 

Things to do with kids in Portugal

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, and even swim with dolphins. 

Eat

There isn't really a concept of ‘child-friendly’ restaurants in Portugal – except in very posh places, children are always welcome, and restaurants tend to tailor dishes to children's tastes rather than offer a kids’ menu.

The locals just love their fish, which is served in many guises, although salt cod (bacalhau) is the most popular, closely followed by the likes of fresh sardines. Tuna steaks are a major ingredient in Madeira’s cuisine. Don’t leave without trying some of the country’s egg-based desserts, especially the tiny but incredibly rich and sweet custard tarts (pastéis de nata). Arroz doce (rice pud) also goes down well with kids.

It's well known that service in some parts of Portugal is slow, as chefs like to prepare food fresh from scratch – it’s a good idea to take colouring books and pens to keep boredom at bay. On the other hand, in a lot of restaurants you’ll be served bread, olives and other appetizers as soon as you sit down, which can keep help small children going until their main meal arrives.

Vegetarians are not very well catered for in Portugal so check the menu has some suitable options before taking a seat.

By Suzanne Baum

When to go to Portugal

The good news for family holidays is that the Algarve tends to have pretty good weather year round. Those with pre-schoolers should consider going outside of July and August, when it can get overrun by tourists. Even winter days in this region are pleasant, and golfers and other sports fans appreciate the Algarve's winter sun.

Any time from April to September is a good time to visit cities and beaches in other parts of the country, where temperatures average around 30°C. Winter is moderately cool, with the wet season running from November to March.

How to get to Portugal

Almost all the major airlines fly from the UK to Portugal, plus some of the no-frills companies. Flights from London to Lisbon take about 2hrs 20mins. Other international airports on the mainland are Porto (Francisco Sá Carneiro/Pedras Rubras) and Faro on the Algarve, and the Alentejo region how has direct (summer-only) flights from the UK.

Madeira and the Azores also have international airports.

Cost

The Algarve can be pricey, although self-catering in villas or apart-hotels will help you keep costs under control. Less touristy parts of Portugal offer better value.

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Family friendly places to stay in Portugal

The Algarve is known for its luxurious hotels with well-reputed kids’ clubs as well as its self-catering villas. See also our our feature Green Places to Stay in Europe with Kids.

Click on the Trips tab for an organised family adventure holiday on the Alentejo Atlantic coast. Another great option in the Alentejo is Markadia (markadia.net) on a nature reserve near the Odivelas dam. It has farm animals, ponies, paddle-boats and canoes, swimming pools (one for kids) and a child-friendly restaurant. There are also bungalows you can rent.

Key:
Self-catering
Hotel
Editors favourite
Kids Club
  • Martinhal Beach Hotel & Resort, Algarve

    Super-stylish accommodation on the Algarve, with childcare for all ages and often offering discounts for grandparents.

  • Club Med Da Balaia, Algarve

    Highly rated property for all-inclusive family holidays and breaks, with great staff and food, making this resort in the Algarve a top choice.

  • Ocean Club, Algarve

    Spacious self-catering villas ideal for flexible family holidays with kids clubs, 2 pools and easy access to the beach, on the Algarve.

  • Pine Cliffs, Algarve, Algarve

    A 5-star luxury accommodation in one of the world’s leading family holiday resorts, on the Algarve.

  • Alto da Colina, Algarve, Algarve

    This modern all-inclusive hotel on the Algarve has plenty going on year-round whilst being just a short walk from the beach.

  • Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa, Vilamoura

    A stunning resort on the Algarve surrounded by pools, with fine cuisine and children's clubs, babysitting and activities.

  • The Lake Resort, Vilamoura

    A 5-star lakeside resort with 3 pools, spa treatments and a kids' club.

  • Jardins do Lago, Madeira

    A fantastic historic property with everything to delight the family.

  • Grande Real Santa Eulalia Resort and Spa, Algarve

    A seafront location on the Algarve, with kids club, activities for teens, spa and stunning views.

  • Vila Vita Parc, Algarve

    Great value and facilities in the Algarve, with kids clubs and activity programmes for teenagers, based on reviews from delighted families.

  • Holiday Village Algarve, Algarve

    Children will love the fun water park facilities and the array of activities around the swimming pool at Holiday Village Algarve.

  • Ria Park, Algarve

    Something for everyone located in the most exclusive part of the Algarve.

  • Memmo Baleeira, Algarve

    Luxury hotel on the beach in the Algarve, ideal for active families, with surfing a big drawing point.

  • Villa Solar Das Laranjeiras, Algarve

    Modern and luxurious villa sleeping 8 people on the Algarve, with private pool and close to the beach.

  • Hotel Talisman, Azores

    Family-friendly great value hotel on the Azores, ideally located for exploring the island.

  • Casa Sophie, Algarve

    A modern single-storey villa set within a lively leisure resort with kids club and golf course, near the village of Salema on the Algarve.

  • Aquapura Hotel, Portugal

    A modern hotel, well suited to families but also to mums and dads looking for a relaxing break on their own in Portugal.

  • Tempomar Apartments, Algarve

    Spacious apartments, great outdoor space with 2 pools and a tennis court plus a top notch kids club.

  • Aparthotel Brisa Sol, Algarve

    Whether you like your holiday laid back and chilled out, or packed full of activities and sights, this self-catering apartment complex offers something for everyone on the Algarve.

  • Villa Solar, Algarve

    Large family villa sleeping up to 8 people with a private outdoor pool and sandy beach a 5-minute drive away.

  • Penha Longa, Lisbon

    This beautiful 500 acre resort resides in lush Portuguese hills offering a haven of tranquility and a mecca for sports fanatics.

  • Aparthotel Paraiso de Albufeira, Algarve

    A popular hotel, with excellent facilities for children with an All Inclusive option.

  • Alfagar Apartments, Algarve

    A family-friendly hotel with self-catering option close to the beach and with lots of activities.

  • Reid's Palace, Madeira

    A peaceful setting, with lots on offer for children of all ages including a games room teenagers and a playhouse in the vast gardens.

  • Casa Periquita, Algarve

    A stylish modern villa close to the mountains, a short drive from the beach, sleeping up to 8 people.

  • Santos River Serviced Apartments, Lisbon

    Luxury serviced and comfortable apartments overlooking the Tagus River in Lisbon, ideal for a Portuguese city break with the family.

  • Le Meridien Penina Golf , Algarve

    Le Meridien Penina Golf Resort offering all-year round sports facilities for families with children.

  • Le Meridien Dona Filipa , Algarve

    Close to a sandy beach on the Algarve, with access to 2 golf courses, spa and kids club there is something for everyone.

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