Portugal offers excellent opportunities for a family holiday, as it is about 800 km from north to south on the mainland, is easily travelled, and a wide variety of experiences is always within reach. It’s also a friendly, safe country, with a mild climate and excellent cuisine, making it the right choice for both kids and adults.
There’s a multitude of places that younger visitors will love, starting with the animal parks. The Vasco da Gama Aquarium and the Oceanarium in Lisbon, the Mora River Aquarium, various zoos, particularly the Lisbon Zoo and the Badoca Safari Park in Alentejo, are just some of the best known. Zoomarine, in the Algarve, bridges the gap between a theme park and the popular water parks that abound in the region but are scattered all over the country: Nazaré, Amarante, Pombal and Santa Cruz, in Madeira, are just a few of the places where you can find pools and slides of all shapes and sizes that guarantee fun for the whole family during the summer.
At the shore, it’s easy to keep the little ones entertained. Swimming in the sea or learning to surf and playing games on the beach certainly make great moments spent together as a family. Your kids can also have a huge amount of fun ―and learn a lot, too ― in the various science centers on the mainland and on the islands, of which the Planetarium and the Knowledge Pavilion, both in Lisbon, are highlights. The Puppet Museum in Lisbon is also very popular, as well as the toy museums and horse riding centers that are found throughout the country, and “Portugal for the Little Ones” in Coimbra, which has attracted children for generations.
If your children are fascinated by dinosaurs, they’ll adore the educational Dino Parque at Lourinhã and the museum of this pre-historic period. In the Center of Portugal region, and especially in the Nature Park of Serra de Aire and Candeeiros, there is a large number of fossil records of these giants that populated the planet long ago. Visitors can see one of the oldest and longest tracks of dinosaur footprints and a nest of dinosaur eggs that are unlike any others in the world because of their size.
Children will always enjoy a good time having a picnic in the Campo Grande or Monsanto parks in Lisbon, or in Porto’s City Park or Serralves, and many others from north to south in Portugal. Have a ride on a donkey. Or in a boat. Why not go see the dolphins in the Sado estuary? Even historic settings are fun for the family vacation when parents and children can visit castles (such as Óbidos, Almourol or Monsaraz) and learn something of the battles fought there, or visit one of many palaces and better understand the lives of the kings and queens in centuries past.
As for peaceful sleep, in Portugal it’s easy to find a good hotel where parents and children will feel comfortable and can recharge their batteries for the following day.