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Portugal has been high on my European travel bucket list for quite some time. It’s a popular destination for family holidays with spectacular beaches along and bustling cities. We traveled to Lisbon and the Algarve coastline in August 2022. Here a few ideas and tips to help you explore Lisbon and Algarve with your family.
Things to do in Lisbon
Tuktuk Tour of Lisbon
We woke up a bit tired from the long travel day, but set off early on a Tuktuk tour of Lisbon. The hills and stairs in Libson are quite steep and this is a great way for kids to see the city without tiring their legs. We used TejoTourism for the guided Tuktuk tour. They have several different preset routes, but we chose the Lisbon of Neighborhood Tours I.
This private guided tour allowed us to ride up and down the hills of Lisbon in the Mouraria, Fraca and Alfama neighborhoods. We visited the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major and several really beautiful viewpoints. We also got a few minutes to walk around the famous Alfama neighborhood where my husband tried a chocolate cherry liquor shot. The ride was a bit bumpy, but that’s part of the experience. The kids really enjoyed riding in the Tuktuk and the guide was so patient and helpful while keeping them engaged.
Eat all the Pastéis
The main reason I wanted to come to Lisbon was to try a pastel de nata or pastéis (plural). Let’s be honest, I don’t think anyone just eats one of these things. I had read this blog about where to find the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon. Since we only had limited time we tried out two different spots. The first place was Manteigaria and we got 6 pastéis since that seemed to be what everyone else was ordering. They have a really flaky crust and a creamy custard filling. They also give you these packets of cinnamon and sugar to put on the top. I don’t know why I was expecting them to taste a bit eggy, but that was definitely not the case. My other favorite place was in Belem, and I’ll explain where to get those later in the post.
We decided to fly into Lisbon since that was the most affordable option. We got in super late so we were starving looking for dinner. We wanted to check out the TimeOut Market since it was recommended by several people. However, it was so crowded when we got there we could hardly move around.
We left and found this amazing rooftop restaurant and bar called Java Rooftop. It’s only a block or two away from the TimeOut Market. They have a restaurant section but also a summer bar where you can just get drinks and snacks. The atmosphere was so lively and the cocktails were amazing. We discovered rooftop restaurants in Barcelona and it is a great way to see the city.
Belém Tower & Jerónimos Monastery
The Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery are two sights worth seeing in Lisbon. They represent the culture and history of Lisbon. The Belém Tower was constructed to help protect the city from enemy ships. You can pay a small fee to enter the tower, but we just admired it from the outside.
Not far from the Belém Tower is the Jerónimos Monastery. This UNESCO World Heritage site has incredible architecture. I would highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time as the lines for the tickets were a bit long. The kids loved exploring the monastery and even listened to a few women singing hymns in one of the rooms. These are two sights that I would not miss.
Try the Original Pastel de Nata
The second place we tried pastéis was at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém. They have been baking up these treats since 1837 from an old recipe from the Jerónimos. There were two lines at the bakery: one to sit a table and one to takeaway. It took us a while to figure out that we were actually standing in the table line. Once we moved to the takeaway line, it moved pretty quickly. It was worth the wait to taste the original pastéis. There is also a playground nearby the bakery so we let the kids play while we devoured the pastries.
Catch Some Waves in the Algarve
We rented a car in Lisbon and drove to the Algarve area of Portugal. It was about a 2 hour drive from Lisbon. Algarve is known for rugged cliff coastline with golden sand beaches, surfing, fresh seafood and picturesque cities. The Algarve is a really popular summer destination, so we chose to stay a bit off the beaten path away from the super touristy resorts.
Praia da Falésia
Falesia beach (Praia da Falésia) was recommended by the owner of our accommodation. This beautiful beach was covered in golden sand, red cliffs in the background and clear blue (really cold) water. Since it was high season, the parking was a bit challenging. Even getting out there early in the morning, the parking was packed so we had to drive around a bit to find something. I would suggest bringing your own beach gear, but there were places to buy some beach stuff and some snacks. There are no public bathrooms or showers at this beach so keep that in mind. And, like many of the beaches in the Algarve there are quite a bit of stairs to get down to the beach.
This was our favorite beach we visited by far. We went once for just a relaxing beach day and once for a surfing lesson. If your kids want to try out surfing, I highly recommend a private surf lesson with Albufeira Adventure. This 2 hour lesson included the wet suits, equipment and instruction. The kids had a blast learning how to surf and improving their techniques on the waves
Another reason many people visit the Algarve is to see the famous Benagil Cave. We chose to do a 1 hour cave boat tour with Carvoerio Caves. It was a fairly small group of people on the boat and we got to see several caves, some of which I think were more beautiful than the Benagil cave. The driver was telling us stories about the area and asking the kids to spot things like a unicorn figure in the caves. I would highly recommend reserving the boat tour ahead of time online and picking the earlier tours if possible. It got really busy after our tour.
The beach at Carvoeiro was not my favorite. It was super crowded and a bit hard to swim for the kids. I would skip it and hit the Carvoeiro boardwalk. It’s only a 5 minute walk from the beach starting by the church. The cliffs overlooking the sea is stunning and there are parts where you can walk out onto some of the cliffs. The boardwalk is safe and easy walk for the kids. There are parts where you can leave the boardwalk and go out onto the cliffs. Just be careful with the kids as there aren’t really any safety rails at that point.
Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade is a beautiful scenic spot to see some of the rugged coastline of the Algarve. It was very busy but we managed to find a parking spot really close to the outlook. You can walk down several flights of stairs to get close to the water. I believe you can take a short boat ride through some of the caves at the bottom, but we just had a look around. While it was beautiful, I was a bit nervous with the kids. There aren’t many railings around the cliffs so if you go, be extra careful.
Praia Dona Ana & Lagos
Praia Dona Ana was one of the most beautiful beaches we went to in the Algarve. The red rugged rock formations line the beach and jagged rocks appearing out of the gorgeous water was unbelievable. If you keep walking down the beach, you’ll even find a bit of a hidden cave. Although this beach was beautiful, it wasn’t the most pleasant for swimming. There was quite a lot of seaweed in the water and my kids didn’t really want to swim in it. There is also a beach bar there if you need snacks or the bathroom.
We visited the town of Lagos which is nearby Ponta da Piedade and Praia Dona Ana. Lagos is a vibrant city to walk around with the brightly colored tiles and street art. We visited the Igreja de Santo António church. You pay a small fee to enter the museum and then also get to see the church. The museum was a bit underwhelming, but the small church took my breath away. The domed walls are covered in extravagant gold painted carvings. This lavish unique church is definitely worth a visit if you are in Lagos.
Where we stayed
For Lisbon, we stayed at Cheese & Wine hotel. They had a family suite with bunk beds and a large double bed as well as a kitchen. The breakfast was very good and they offered us a free glass of wine and plate of cheese when we arrived. This hotel was also very close to the TimeOut market and the staff was very welcoming and helpful.
In the Algarve, we stayed at Quinta Rosa Amarela in Boliqueime, Portugal. This place is off the beaten path, away from the super touristy places so you can actually rest and enjoy your time. However, the location is only 10-15 minutes away from the beautiful beaches The pool is beautiful and crystal clear water with a view of their garden. The host was very gracious and helped show us authentic local restaurants. Breakfast was also very good and offered fresh ingredients.
So that’s it! That’s my top things to do in Lisbon and the Algarve with kids. The country is absolutely kid-friendly, the food is amazing and the beaches are stunning. We had an amazing time and definitely would return to Portugal with kids.