Is a Portugal family vacation on your radar? Let me tell you…you are going to LOVE a Portugal family trip! But, as with traveling to any country, things may be a little different than you’re used to.
We’re from the U.S., and we quickly found out that there were things we wish we would’ve known about visiting Portugal with kids. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t necessarily bad things (in fact, most of the time, we were pleasantly surprised and thought, “Why didn’t we think of coming to Portugal with kids sooner?”).
We spent just under a week and a half traveling through Portugal with our 2, 4, and 6-year-old sons. During that time, we visited Lisbon, Sintra, Lagos (on the Algarve coast), and Cascais. Here are the things I wish I would’ve known about visiting Portugal with a toddler.
Disclosure: You may see affiliate links throughout this post, which means these are the things I handpicked! If you purchase something through these links, I will get a small commission at absolutely no extra charge to you. And that sure means a lot to me, so thank you in advance!
Portugal is so kid-friendly!
I mean, it’s one of the most kid-friendly places we’ve visited! We never once felt out of place by having our kiddos with us while exploring everywhere. And if our kids were having a rough time (because as much as our kids are good travelers, they’re still kids and have their moments!), no one ever even batted an eye!
Where to stay in Portugal for families?
I’m sticking this under the kid-friendly section of this article because we’ve never come across a resort as kid-friendly as this. Hands down, the Martinhal resorts are the best resorts in Portugal for families.
Both of the accommodations had a full kitchen, living space, washer/dryer, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms (in fact, we had a stand-alone villa all to ourselves in Cascais). There were common play areas that could be used with parental supervision, as well as a kids’ club where the little ones could get dropped off.
On top of that, they had a crib, diaper pail, and toddler bathtub already set up for us. And they had the kitchen stocked with milk, juice, fruit, and more. Our boys were given a welcome backpack that included anything from a stuffed animal to a hat to a water bottle (each welcome backpack was different based on their age).
Of course, now that the ownership has changed at the resort in Cascais, things might be different there. But it seems that the accommodations and facilities are still the same.
There is plenty of fun to be had.
There are SO many different types of things to do in Portugal with kids. From exploring cities to historic sites to palaces to beaches, we were busy the entire time with family-friendly activities.
We were lucky enough to visit Cascais, Lagos, Sintra, and Lisbon with kids. And if time allowed, I would’ve loved to have added more stops during our time in Portugal (especially some of the northern cities).
What I really loved is that a lot of what we wanted to see also interested the kids. Although we definitely carved out some time to do activities just for them (like visiting the playground at Parque Eduardo VII in Lisbon or taking some time to enjoy the play areas at the Martinhal resorts), we also got to see a ton of the main sights.
We never felt like we were dragging them along just to see something because we wanted to see it. I mean, my kids are in prime imaginative years right now, so they were more than happy to explore a castle in Sintra or the tower in Belem. And they’re always up for some beach time, which we got in Lagos.
Check out our full Portugal itinerary here.
Don’t miss out on priority entrance.
My husband got asked, “So if you did the trip again, would you take the kids or would you do an adults-only trip?” His answer: “It actually helped us to have the kids with us!” Ha!
But seriously, when in Portugal with young kids, you get priority entrance to lots of the main attractions. You even get to go through a priority lane for customs and security at the airport!
To access the priority lanes in the Lisbon airport, just look for the signs. As for the tourist attractions, talk with the security guard at the entrance, and they’ll likely let you through! It worked for us at the Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, and Pena Palace.
Although I’m not sure about the specifics since nothing is actually posted anywhere, one of the security guards did say something along the lines of, “Oh, you have kids under 4? Come right this way.” So maybe around 4 is the lucky number? But it never hurts to ask.
To bring a stroller or to not bring a stroller?
Nope, nope, nope. You will NOT want your stroller when you visit Portugal with a baby or toddler. Between the hills, stairs, and cobblestones, strollers just aren’t very practical in the cities we visited in Portugal.
During our day trip to Sintra, we actually overheard a tour guide point us out and say, “See? No stroller! Smart!” Not going to lie…I patted myself on the back a little bit when he said that. Ha! But in all honesty, ESPECIALLY in Sintra, I felt bad for the people I saw trying to navigate the area with strollers (and for the kiddos sitting in them being bounced all around).
You’ll be much better off bringing a carrier for your little one. Or, if your kid is anything like mine and hates a standard carrier, the Gooseket Sling was a lifesaver for us. It’s a bonus that the weight limit on the Gooseket Sling is 44 lbs, so we actually brought two along with us just in case my 4-year-old ever needed a break from walking (which happened a couple of times).
Surprisingly, there were minimal to no complaints from my 4 and 6-year-olds when it came to the amount of walking we did. I was shocked! They must have really been enjoying themselves.
We actually did bring this stroller along for the sole reason that we wanted it in the airport. Otherwise, it sat in our room the entire time.
You’ll get a workout.
Get ready for hills and stairs when you visit Portugal. And I’m talking TONS of hills and stairs!
On our day trip to Sintra, for example, our watches logged 80 flights of stairs, over 20,000 steps, and almost 10 miles if that gives you any idea what you’re in for. Whew! But was it worth it? 100%.
Public transport will be your friend, but even with that, you’ll still run into plenty of hills and stairs to conquer.
We purchased the Lisbon Card during our time in Lisbon, which included all public transport (even the train ride to Sintra). Otherwise, the easiest place to purchase public transport tickets is at a metro station or one of the kiosks in the city.
Places aren’t open every day.
Not all attractions are open every day. So, prior to your trip, make sure to look at all operating times before choosing what to do each day.
We learned this the hard way. And it resulted in us not seeing one of the things I had my heart set on!
See, our planning strategy has changed quite a bit since traveling with our kids. Instead of planning everything out, we make a list of must-sees and nice-to-sees. Then we just take it day-by-day based on how everyone’s doing.
During our time in Lisbon with kids, I really wanted to see Carmo Convent. Well, I pushed it off and pushed it off until our last day in Lisbon. Then I realized it was closed that day! Ugh. Such a bummer. (I guess I have an excuse to go back in the future!)
Everything is on a later schedule.
We’re early risers. And when we travel, we like to get up and get going!
But we found that most attractions didn’t open until 10:00 AM when we were there. It was definitely still beneficial to get to things right when they opened, but we didn’t have as much success at really beating the crowds as we have during past trips because lots of people can easily make it to things by 10:00 AM.
We were still happy to check out the city with minimal people in the mornings, though. I mean, check out this photo on Pink Street in Lisbon! We basically had the area to ourselves.
While we’re on the subject of schedules, not only are we early risers, but our boys also have somewhat early dinner times and bedtimes. They usually eat dinner around 5:00 PM and are in bed by 7:30 PM.
In Portugal, a lot of restaurants will close for a period of time in the late afternoon/early evening. They’ll usually reopen sometime between 6:00-7:00 PM. So obviously, this was a shift for us.
It worked best to adjust our boys’ schedules a bit since attractions opened later and dinner started later. We had no problems shifting their schedule, thankfully, since we were also getting over some jet lag.
With that being said, you can find some restaurants that stay open all day (like Time Out Market). Just make sure to check the restaurant’s hours before making a decision.
Don’t forget to make a dinner reservation if you plan to go to a sit-down restaurant. For the most part, the concierge at our hotels made reservations for us, although we did have luck with restaurants that took online reservations as well.
There won’t always be high chairs available.
Speaking of restaurants, the availability of high chairs at restaurants was hit or miss. Sometimes, the restaurant would have them. And other times, our littlest guy ended up on our laps or sitting next to us, being watched like a hawk so he wouldn’t get up and start running around.
If you’re seated without a high chair, it’s still good to ask to see if one is available. Just don’t be surprised if the restaurant staff says that they don’t have high chairs.
The food works pretty well for picky eaters.
First of all, let me start by saying Portuguese food is delicious! I don’t think we had a bad bite of food during our entire trip. What surprised us was that it was pretty easy to find food that our boys would eat.
Our middle guy is a picky eater, but we never had an issue finding something for him on the menu. There were usually options such as sausage (similar-ish, if that’s even a word, to hot dogs), toasted sandwiches, fries, pasta, and soup. And of course, the boys loved ALL the sweets we tried. Some of our family’s favorites were pasteis de nata and travesseiros.
Now I know that I JUST said that my middle son was a picky eater, so this will probably surprise you just as much as it surprised me…he actually tried and LIKED octopus on our trip to Portugal! My husband and I couldn’t believe it. He even asked for it again later in the trip.
So, bottom line:
It might be worth sharing some of your food with your kiddos, too. They may surprise you, which will open up dining options later on in your trip.
Let’s end with some basic info.
What’s the weather like in Portugal?
Depending on the time of year you go, your packing situation will look different. We went to Portugal for Thanksgiving, which is the rainy season.
While it didn’t rain nonstop, it would rain on and off for short periods of time, and we were so happy we had our raincoats! In fact, I really feel like I found the perfect raincoat for Portugal, complete with a fleece lining to provide a bit of warmth for the chilly mornings. I also found raincoats with a fleece lining for my boys, too!
As far as temperature goes, during our trip, the highs in Lisbon were in the low to mid-60s and the highs in Lagos were around 70 degrees. We had such nice weather…very comfortable for walking around and exploring the different areas. But we were happy to have packed layers because oftentimes we wanted a little extra warmth in the mornings but were fine in long sleeves or even t-shirts by the afternoon.
Now, if you go to Portugal in the summer months, you’ll be packing summer clothes and swimsuits! Just make sure to look at the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
What shoes should you wear in Portugal?
I see this question a LOT on different forums, so I thought I’d answer it here. I think people get worried when they hear stories about slippery cobblestones.
We didn’t buy any special shoes for this trip. We just wore our regular, everyday tennis shoes and had no issues with slipping.
I think the biggest thing to consider is the amount of walking you’ll be doing. You’ll want your most comfortable shoes with how many miles you’ll log on this trip.
But if you head south to the beaches, don’t forget to bring a pair of sandals too. I made the mistake of thinking, “It’ll be kind of chilly when we go, so there’s no way we’ll need sandals.” Well, we ended up buying sandals in Portugal! You live and you learn.
What type of money is used in Portugal?
The currency in Portugal is the euro. And although we did have some euros on us, we almost always used our credit card and had no issues.
After doing quite a bit of research prior to our trip, I learned that the conversion rates at the airport ATMs are pretty bad, so we waited to withdraw euros until we saw a local bank ATM in Lisbon.
What type of wall outlets are used in Portugal?
The power plug sockets used in the areas we stayed (Lisbon, Lagos, and Cascais) were type C. We had these adapters, and they worked great! We especially love that they have USB charging ports.
What language is spoken in Portugal?
The language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese. And you might be thinking, “Do you speak Portuguese?!” Nope. Not even a little bit. In fact, my Chicago accent sounds terrible when I even attempt to speak Portuguese.
While I did learn some basic words and phrases prior to our trip, I found that almost everyone we met there spoke English. There were only a couple of restaurants we went to where our waiter didn’t speak English, but we were able to just point to the menu. The Google Translate app came in handy at times, too.
Is Portugal with kids safe?
From the research that I did prior to our trip, I learned that Portugal is a VERY safe country. And throughout our entire trip, we never once felt nervous or unsafe.
Prior to the trip, I often heard to be aware of pickpocketing, so we really made sure to be aware of our surroundings and keep our belongings as discreet as possible, especially on public transportation.
Portugal is SUCH a family-friendly destination! We initially chose it because of how affordable it was (during the off-season, flights and accommodations were pretty cheap compared to other destinations we considered).
What we didn’t realize when we chose it was how much we would love it. Visiting Portugal with a toddler was a pretty ideal destination, and I couldn’t imagine you’d regret taking the trip if you decided to go, too!
I’ll be adding lots more Portugal posts to the blog soon, so make sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get updates sent straight to your inbox!
And if you’re considering other options for a European adventure, check out this post.