Portugal’s mild climate, friendly vibes, gorgeous landscapes and excellent cuisine make it a terrific destination for everyone, including families. The country is about the size of Maine, with nearly 530 miles of coastline and beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. Most of Portugal’s population lives in the coastal regions, with about 1.9 million in Lisbon, the capital, and its suburbs; the second-largest city is Oporto in the north. Here, we take a look at cities for your family to visit in Portugal.
Let’s start in Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, or Lisboa to the locals. Here your family will experience the influences of far-off cultures that have taken hold of the city over time. And while Lisbon is certainly a city, it still has a village feel in each of its historic neighborhoods. The historic Alfama and Castelo districts offer the most breathtaking views to the city and the river. In Belém, considered the neighborhood of the Discoveries, you will find the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both World Heritage sites. But Lisbon has its “new,” too. Be sure to visit Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) in the new part of the city; the port area was completely rebuilt for Expo ’98, the 1998 World’s Fair. From World Heritage monuments and sites and medieval quarters to open parks, sweeping beaches and world music, you will find it all — and more — in Lisbon.
On the southern coast, Faro has been the capital of the Algarve since 1756. It’s within Faro that you will find the Arab Gateway, which dates back to the 11th century. This gateway is the oldest horseshoe arch in all of Portugal, through which those arriving by sea would enter into the city. The Cathedral, built in 1251, is a must-visit, and, for more history, visit the Municipal Museum housed in the 16th-century Convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção. Follow in the footsteps of King Afonso III and have a rest at Arco do Repouso. Or, climb to the Cape Santa Maria lighthouse and take in the views from the southernmost point of mainland Portugal.
Lace up your walking shoes for a visit to Évora in the Alentejo region — locals say the best way to explore the city is on foot. Meander down the city’s narrow streets lined with white houses and discover its rich heritage along the way. Évora, a World Heritage site, dates back to the Roman era. Get the lay of the land in Praça do Giraldo, a square in the heart of the city lined with coffee shops, sidewalk cafés, shops and a visitor information office to help plan your time. One must-stop is the Church of Santo Antão — the marble drinking fountain features eight spouts, each representing the eight streets that lead to the church.
If yours is a family of water enthusiasts, plan a visit to Aveiro — the landscape here is dominated by water. Locatd next to the sea and the ria, or estuary, channels cross through the city for local boats, or moliceiros, to easily travel along. In fact, your family can hop aboard a moliceiro for sightseeing. If you’d rather wander by foot, that’s easy enough. Or, tool around on two wheels on a BUGA, bicycles available by the Aveiro City Council. The city’s Art Nouveau architecture is enthralling, and you will find many buildings in this style along the main channel. Just outside of town, the tallest lighthouse in Portugal, Costa Nova, is in Praia da Barra.
In Portugal’s north is Porto, founded in the 12th century and a World Heritage city. Perhaps most engaging here is the people who call Porto home; they are considered generous and easy-going, so be sure and strike up a conversation with the locals. The Crystal Palace gardens provide panoramic views of the river, and Rotunda da Boavista is terrific for shopping. If your family is a fan of Harry Potter, be sure to visit the Lello bookshop, said to have inspired some of the Harry Potter stories.