In-the-know travelers have discovered Portugal as a family vacation destination full of picturesque coastline, history and amazing dining opportunities. We spent a week in Lisbon and the coastal town of Cascais and have a number of tips on how to make the most of your stay in this corner of Portugal. From must-take tours to the ultimate family-friendly resorts, leave the Portugal planning to us!
1. Put Lisbon on your list.
We love Lisbon as a destination for families because it is super easy to navigate without having to rent a car. The city is built on seven hills so things can get a little steep, but the streetcars are plentiful, inexpensive and easy to navigate. Kids will love them not only as a way to avoid walking but as an adventure on their own. Board them at the beginning of the line and you can nab a window seat to tour the city.
2. Taste the culture with Eating Europe.
A great way to get to know a new country is by experiencing its food through a food tour. We love the Eats, Street Art and Undiscovered Lisbon tour that is offered by Eating Europe, especially for families with older kids and adventurous eaters. The tour takes you through the neighborhoods of Baixa and Mouraria to taste local favorites like codfish salad, dumplings from Mozambique and fried sardines. You'll learn that codfish is the national dish of Portugal despite the fact that codfish isn't from Portugal.
Along the way you'll see the street art throughout the area and learn lots about the history of the city. Other highlights include a traditional fado performance and a visit to a medieval church that survived the great earthquake of 1755. Save room as the tour ends with a stop to try warm-out-of-the-oven pastel de nata—the custard tarts you will see all over Lisbon.
We recommend booking this tour early in your Lisbon visit. The information gained from your knowledgeable tour guide is invaluable and you'll want to make full use of his advice for the duration of your stay.
3. Make Martinhal Chiado your Lisbon home base.
You may have been to properties that deem themselves "family-friendly" but the Martinhal properties take this to a whole new level. Martinhal Chiado is the world's first luxury family hotel in a city center and it is the ideal spot to stay with your family in Lisbon.
In addition to thoughtful in-room amenities like step stools and high chairs, all of the rooms here are apartment-style with kitchens and a washer-dryer combo. Even larger families can feel at home here with two-bedroom suites available that include a room that sleeps four kids in bunk beds! Need a baby bath, diapers or bottle warmers? The Baby Concierge is available to provide these items to you for your stay.
It really is all about the kids at Martinhal Chiado (sorry, parents!). They have an incredible kids club program that covers ages six months and up. Kids can visit the kids club from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and there no additional cost, it's all included in the room charge. A special "pajama club" offers childcare services (for an additional fee) until 10 p.m. each evening, allowing parents to enjoy a night out in Lisbon.
Breakfast is pajamas-optional at Martinhal Chiado and included with your stay at the downstairs MBar. The plentiful buffet includes local specialties like pastel de nata, and warm dishes like pancakes and omelettes are available. Cereal, fruit, toast and croissants provide lots of kid-friendly options. Order breakfast delivered to your room or reserve a to-go box if you have an early morning flight.
Rates at Martinhal Chiado start at €178 for the Deluxe Studio.
4. Head to Cascais for the ultimate coastal vibes.
Just a 40-minute drive or short train ride from Lisbon is the coastal town of Cascais where you can breathe the ocean air and spend some time at the beach. It's a great addition to your Lisbon visit as it gives you a different glimpse of Portuguese life. Walk along the cliffs and stop for lunch at the many cafes offering ocean views. Along your walk into town, visit the Boca do Inferno or "Hell's Mouth" to see the crashing sea. Locals recommend Guincho Beach for those looking for sand and surf.
5. Relax in style at Martinhal Cascais.
Like the Lisbon property, Martinhal Cascais is all about families. From Deluxe rooms that include bunk beds for the kids, to two-bedroom villas that come complete with full kitchens and sleep up to six, there's definitely room for your crew to spread out here. The property is located in a quiet neighborhood above the rocky coast of Cascais and you can borrow bikes from the on-site Bike Station to explore the area.
Those looking for some pampering can book some time at the property's Finisterra Spa where parent-child manicures and massages are available. After your treatments, relax in the indoor/outdoor pool and sauna. We love the resort's family-focus with the elegant sophistication of a luxury resort.
Martinhal Cascais has a Kids Clubhouse unlike any you've ever seen, with over 7,700 square feet of play space and spacious outdoor playgrounds for children. Free supervised sessions are available for kids ages 19 months through age 9 to allow parents to enjoy meals on their own or take day-trips to nearby towns. Infants receive free time in the baby room from November through March, with services available for a fee during the remaining months.
Beyond the indoor clubhouse, there is a massive green space for kids to run around and play. A trampoline, zipline and sand pit are highlights. Families gather for soccer games and the property is more than happy to create programs for teens and tweens in your family. Three pools make it easy to spend your time relaxing.
Families can enjoy meals at the two on-site restaurants, both of which have a play area corner where staff members are available to supervise kids who finish their meal early so that parents can enjoy their cappuccino with the foam still on it. Brilliant! In addition to kids menu items, little foodies can older smaller portions off the adult menu if there's something there they'd like to try.
Rates start at €187 for the Deluxe room.
Read our full review of the Martinhal Resorts here.
6. Bring home recipes as souvenirs with Traveling Spoon.
If you are looking to create some amazing family memories of your time in Portugal, then book a culinary experience with Traveling Spoon. Traveling Spoon finds and vets talented home cooks throughout the world who will host you and your family on market tours, cooking experiences and in-home meals. Kids will love seeing what foods are popular in Portugal, how codfish is salted and stored outside of the refrigerator and how families like yours eat on special occasions.
We were lucky enough to experience a market tour and cooking experience with Paulinha, a talented cook specializing in Portuguese and Goan-influenced cuisine. The day started with a short ferry ride from Lisbon to Almada and then a market tour where sardines, olives and citrus were plentiful. The cooking experience happened in Paulinha's cooking studio where she also bakes intricate cakes for locals.
Families will enjoy being put to work in the kitchen making Goan gram flour fritters made with onion and cumin seeds and bacalhau a braz, a traditional Portuguese dish of cod with shredded potatoes and hard boiled eggs. There's something about the tactile nature of cooking and smelling all of the spices that will make this a truly memorable experience, especially for kids.
Once your meal is cooked, enjoy the fruits of your labor with Paulinha as she waves to the locals walking by her storefront. Immersing yourself in the local neighborhood life will give your family a literal taste of what it's like to be a family in Portugal. Bring home the memories of this experience and relive it by recreating the dishes you cooked at home.
7. Fly direct with TAP Air Portugal.
Do yourself a favor and book a non-stop flight on TAP Air Portugal for your family holiday. With new direct flights from SFO, Washington D.C. and Chicago, the journey is easy from anywhere in the U.S..
If you are traveling with a baby, carrycots are available at the time of booking. They also have child and infant meals available when you request them in advance. We found the onboard movie selection to be pretty comprehensive and it included a number of kid-friendly shows. Make sure you bring along comfortable headphones for your little travelers (earbuds are provided).
TAP Air Portugal
This trip was paid for by the businesses highlighted but all opinions provided belong to the author.