We get it. Logistics alone can be daunting when you are travelling with children. Then there is the whole question of choosing the right destination, the right hotel or resort. Ideally you’ll be looking for somewhere that’s relatively safe and child-friendly, perhaps not too expensive, and with enough of an appeal factor to have everyone (and not the just the kids) enjoy their family outing. Read on for a round up of our favourite places to visit on your next family break to Portugal.
Take Note: The best way to book a family-friendly hotel is by giving the HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts reservations team a call. They can talk you through all the child-friendly facilities available at each of our hotels, and make sure your room reservation includes amenities such as extra beds or baby cots and any other special requests.
Douro Wine Valley
Great for: Foodies and Spa lovers
For an exceptional relaxing break we recommend heading for the Douro Valley countryside, famed for beautiful vineyard terraces etched into the steep hillsides where the famous Port wine is made. Roughly an hour’s drive east from Porto’s Sa Carneiro airport, you’ll find several picturesque villages perched along the majestic curves of the Rio Douro (i.e. River of Gold). From wine tasting tours, to magnificent churches and castles, mouth-watering cuisine and water sports on the river, there are plenty of unforgettable experiences to be had on this route. For the ultimate R&R family break, there are also great spa hotels and resorts along the way. A popular family attraction in the surrounding area is the Naturwater park, an eco-friendly adventure centre with a water park, a tree climbing circuit, mini-golf and plenty of other activities. While Port wine may not be to everyone’s taste, a journey upriver on the Douro is certainly guaranteed to have you smiling from ear to ear.
The Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, Lamego. Built in a rococo style in the late eighteen century, this beautiful shrine stands out with its nine flights of stairs, and several terraces adorned with statues, fountains and obelisks.
Quinta da Pacheca, Peso da Regua. Dating back from the eighteen century, this beautiful vineyard recently won a National Wine Tourism Award and is open to the public for wine tasting tours, while local cuisine is served at the restaurant. The quinta’s surroundings also make a great playground for the little ones.
Douro Royal Valley Hotel & Spa. A 5 star with a prime location on the banks of the Douro – seriously, everywhere you look you are pretty much guaranteed stunning river views; the Douro Royal is a only an hour away from Porto’s city centre. With an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the river, a tennis court, Spa & Wellness Centre, fine dining restaurant and bar, free Wi-Fi and free parking. Family-friendly amenities include a kid’s club and childcare services, baby cots, rollaway/extra beds and a children’s pool. From £91/€113 per night.
Great for: Sun worshipers and foodies
Award winning beaches, fresh seafood that is out of this world, mild weather and plenty of sunshine is just a taste of what the Algarve has on offer. While the east is slightly more peaceful, and the white sandy beaches more suitable for the little ones, to the west of the Algarve is where you’ll find the postcard beaches one associates with the region. It is here that dark orange-coloured cliffs stand stubbornly on the ocean and sand, framing perfectly formed little coves and caves. It is also in places like Lagos, that you’re most likely to find historical sights, since it was from its shores that in the 1500s Portuguese navigators journeyed on their caravels heading towards the exotic lands of West Africa, and eventually making their to way into Asia. For the more active, the Algarve offers plenty of outdoor activities too, from surfing in Sagres, to golfing in Vilamoura, hiking in Monchique or bird-watching on the Ria Formosa, there is something for everyone. Popular family attractions include Zoomarine, a marine park with dolphin and seals shows, water slides and swimming pools; or the Centro de Ciencia Viva, a hands-on science museum with several locations in Faro, Lagos and Tavira.
Monchique. If you don’t mind turning your back on the ocean for a few hours, or just fancy to go a bit off the beaten track, then making a detour inland and uphill to Monchique will be totally worth it. Here you can enjoy some great country walks among the cooler mountainous woodlands. Stop by at Caldas de Monchique, a delightful and peaceful little spa town, for some great scenic picnic spots.
Olhão. An absolute mandatory stop for foodies is the picturesque town of Olhão, where its indoor market is an attraction all on its own. Particularly popular on weekend mornings, locals come here to find the freshest fish and seafood, produce straight from the farmers hand, as well as regional delicacies that include the famous Castro Marim sea salt (pronounced ‘Flor de Sal’), gourmet olive oil, cheese or honey from the surrounding inland villages.
Four Seasons Vilamoura. Self-catering accommodation in Vilamoura, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, several restaurants, a children’s club, golf club and games room. Located a short 15 minutes walk from the renowned Vilamoura Marina with its fabulous bars and restaurants, this family-friendly hotel is a great choice for your family holiday. Vilamoura is also a great base for exploring the rest of the Algarve, located within an hour’s drive to Lagos, to the west; and less than 30 minutes to Faro airport, to the east. From £103/€129 per night.
Great for: Sun worshipers and Nature lovers
A small Portuguese archipelago, volcanic in origin, and lying well out in the Atlantic, Madeira is composed of 4 islands (the largest of which is also called Madeira). Relatively easy to access (only a 3,5 hour flight away from London) and blessed with a pleasantly mild year round climate, Madeira is a top choice for half-term breaks, and perfect for outdoor pursuits such as hiking and country walks. Two thirds of the archipelago are, in fact, protected natural areas, containing the largest Laurissilva Forest (also known as Laurel Forest) in the world. Nature lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to Funchal’s Botanical Gardens. Covering 80,000 sq metres and rising up to 300m above sea level, these sub-tropical gardens are crammed with the most exotic collection of plant life in all of Europe, offering flowers of vibrant colours which stand out among the blue of the sea below.
Santana. Santana is a charming little town on the northern coast of Madeira, which is famous for its unique and colorful thatched triangular shaped houses – a signature mark for the archipelago. Besides visiting the traditional houses, in Santana you can also buy a wide variety of local products; including the island’s renowned wine and honey cakes, as well as traditional arts and crafts such as wicker works and embroideries.
Porto Santo. For the ultimate R&R, make sure to spend some time on the tiny island of Porto Santo – 40 km from Madeira and only a short 2h30 ferry ride away. Porto Santo is known by the locals as the “Golden Island”, because unlike its larger neighbour, it is blessed with many miles of fine, unpolluted sandy beach and a clear, calm sea, which the little ones will absolutely love!
Hotel Madeira. Located in Funchal’s city centre and only a 20 minutes drive away from the airport, Hotel Madeira offers spacious and well appointed rooms, free Wi-Fi, an inclusive buffet breakfast as well as a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool and sun loungers. From £60/€80 per night. A minimum 3 night stay applies.
Great for: Culture vultures and foodies
The Portuguese capital is wonderfully child-friendly with plenty of entertainment guaranteed for all ages. From riding the bright yellow trams to visiting Europe’s largest aquarium, you won’t be short on places to see and things to do. Known as the city of seven hills, a visit to Lisbon’s many observation points will offer you fantastic views over the city and river. Lisbon’s castle, known as Castelo de Sao Jorge, is one of these: overlooking the city, this Moorish castle is where the city’s first inhabitants are thought to have settled. Another common theme around town is the historic legacy of Portugal’s pioneering role in world exploration. Many of the city’s most iconic monuments, including the ornate Belem Tower, or the equally impressive Jeronimos Monastery (the resting place of Vasco da Gama), were in fact built in celebration of the great Portuguese Explorers from the early 1500s.
Oceanarium– The family-friendly Oceanário de Lisboa features an impressive collection of over 8,000 different aquatic species, from sharks to dainty sea horses. Not to be missed are the irresistible pair of cuddly sea otters which with their playfulness make the delights of young and old alike.
25 de Abril Bridge – Completed in 1966 and originally named after Portuguese dictator Salazar, this suspension bridge across the Tagus River changed its name after the revolution of April 25 in 1974. A spectacular sight from anywhere you look, the bridge is often cited as the twin sister of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, which it resembles. The dock area below the bridge, known as Doca de Santo Amaro, goes along the river between the Baixa and Belem areas, and is one of Lisbon’s most pleasant places for an early evening drink, with plenty of hip restaurants and bars.
Almalusa Baixa Chiado. This recently opened boutique hotel is located in one of Lisbon’s most emblematic squares, the Praça do Município. The 28 guest rooms and suites are beautifully decorated and come with luxury beds and matresses, power showers and designer toiletries, free Wi-Fi as well as free local and international calls. From £107/€138.
Great for: Nature lovers and Sailing enthusiasts
Slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores is a remote group of Portuguese islands filled with natural beauty. Comprised of 9 islands, this archipelago is another great spot for a family-friendly holiday particularly if you’re looking for a unique off-the-beaten-track location. São Miguel Island, known among the locals as “green island”, is the Azores largest island and one of the most beautiful. Absolutely mandatory is a visit to the Lake of the Seven Cities a unique twin-lake complex situated in the crater of a massive volcano. Other fascinating islands include São Jorge, an island ringed with beautiful cliffs and several deltas (or Fajãs); the island of Faial, an absolute sailors paradise and great for whale watching; and Pico, home to Portugal’s tallest mountain and the islands’ eponymous volcano.
Furnas Valley. Home to the lake and parish of the same name, people come to Furnas especially for the thermal baths; the valley is, after all, a volcanic crater which has been dormant since 1630, when the last eruption occurred. There are several establishments where it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of the geothermal waters, charged with minerals, among them the particularly popular Terra Nostra Park. Another reason to visit, is the distinctive ‘Cozido das Furnas’ (i.e. a typical meat stew, where huge cooking pots containing meat and vegetables are put into a sac and buried in the geothermal soil along the shores of the lake, and taking about 5 hours until it’s ready to be eaten).
Gorreana Tea Estate. From the various cultures introduced in the Azores the highlight goes to tea. The tea plantation of Gorreana, appearing in the horizon as a sea of green leaves, is a rather unique sight in Europe. Recognized internationally as a rare collection of fine green and black teas, this is Europe’s oldest tea producing company, family owned & operated since 1883. During visits to the museum-factory you get to learn about the history and evolution of the production and all the machinery, before a well deserved cup of this delightful Azorean tea.
Hotel Apartaments Gaivota. In city-centre Ponta Delgada, this hotel offers standard guest rooms but also self-catering apartments which offer the best accommodation for families. The apartments come with a fully-equipped kitchen; free Wi-Fi and dining area. From £97/€121 per night. A minimum of 2 nights applies.