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Plan a Spring Break Trip to Portugal

by Barbara Rogers

Jan 26, 2024

© Europhotos | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

Spring comes early in Portugal, with daytime temperatures just right for sightseeing. Family travelers will find castles to explore, royal palaces to marvel at, mysterious prehistoric sites and even entire Roman cities to wander. Travel is easy, with good roads connecting the various regions and a visitor-friendly transit system for getting around Lisbon and its surrounding towns.

 

Begin in Lisbon, with a ride on yellow Tram 28, for a tour of the old city, getting off at the top of the Alfama, an atmospheric old quarter topped by a ruined castle. This is one of the best viewpoints, with the city spread below, along the banks of the wide Taugus river. Take a tram to Belem for a tour of the over-the-top Belem Monastery, and a stop for custard tarts at the city’s most famous bakery.

 

Romantic Sintra is a short train ride from Rossio Station in city center, and there you can tour two royal palaces. One of them is a fanciful castle built on a hilltop, surrounded by a leafy world of tropical gardens and the high walls of another castle dating back to the 10th century.

 

While in Sintra, don’t miss Quinta da Regaleira, a fanciful neo-Gothic palace with mysterious gardens. As you explore its bosky paths you’ll find follies, faux caves and a giant well you can descend on a spiral staircase. Kids love it. Sintra is also known for its pastry shops, so be sure to stop for a sweet snack.

 

Explore the Alentejo region from a base in Evora, where there’s a Roman temple inside the old walled city. Kids will be creeped out at the spooky St. Francis Church, entirely lined in human bones. In nearby Estremoz you can stay in a former royal palace, now a luxury hotel. Parents will enjoy stopping at some of the famous wine estates in the Alentejo, and kids will love climbing the battlements of castle in Marvao. Here you can stay inside the walled hilltop town overlooking the Spanish border.

 

Hiking trails form a network through the hills in this far eastern borderland where Portugal meets Spain. Or on the eastern side of the Alentejo, you can hike along the clifftop trail for dramatic views, or spend time in charming little beach towns along a coast beloved by surfers. Close to the coast you’ll find the Roman city of Mirobriga, a vast area with ruins of temples, shops, bath houses, stone-paved roads and a hippodrome where chariot races were held.

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