This spring, our family visited Portugal for the first time and fell in love with this European paradise! It’s a bit off the beaten path, though admittedly getting more popular, and is like the perfect blend of all the major European cities on a smaller scale. There is so much to see throughout the country, from cities and castles to mountains and beaches, so you certainly can’t go wrong no matter where you end up. It’s an easy, direct flight from the US and they highly value children, so traveling with them was a breeze (think special lines, free entrance fares, etc). Our two weeks in Portugal was split between Lisbon/Sintra/Cascais and Algarve — keep scrolling to read a bit more about each!
We flew into Lisbon and rented an AirBNB in Cascais — this was a good middle spot to both Sintra and Lisbon where we were splitting or time. Renting a house the easiest/only (?) way to travel with kids, as I don’t think we would’ve survived in a hotel room! We spent two days exploring Lisbon and these were some of the highlights:
Elevador de Bica – A classic funicular to take you up the hill! You can easily walk up as well, but our kids were thrilled to ride in this!
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara – A stunning view of the city.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia – Another viewpoint; this one was my favorite as you can see the water!
Carmo Convent – These are historic ruins — it’s small but worth a quick visit!
São Vicente de Fora – A monastery that is a bit off the beaten path but we loved exploring this spot! If you love the blue tiles, this is a must-stop!
Pink Street – Would highly recommend skipping this; it was dirty and sticky and just not worth the time to visit!
Belem Tower – Known as the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon, this 16th-centry fort overlooks the water and makes for a great sunrise or sunset spot!
Jerónimos Monastery – I know what you’re thinking, another monastery! I promise, it’s worth it — just plan to arrive early to queue.
We didn’t get to eat a ton of meals in Lisbon (the joy of traveling with kids!), but the ones we did have were incredible:
Time Out Market
As I mentioned above, we stayed in Cascais and split our time between Lisbon and Sintra. It’s important to note that Sintra is a VERY small town with almost no parking. And many of the main sites either: a. do not have parking or b. do not even allow car access. So the only way to visit is by public transit or a taxi. We drove into Sintra twice; we grouped together things we could drive to and things we could not drive to to make our lives a bit easier. TLDR; do research between planning your Sintra itinerary — this is not a place you can wing it!
On Day 1 we went to Quinta de la Regaleira and Monserrate Palace.
On Day 2, we went to Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros.
Sintra (and Cascais!) are right near the beach, so we also visited Praia das Azenhas do Mar and Boca do Inferno.
We definitely kept ourselves busy while in Lisbon/Sintra, so we planned our second week to be in the Algarve region so we could relax! The beaches here are unreal — some of the prettiest in Europe, if not all of the world. I was surprised to find they had soft, not rocky, sand, and very clear water. A bit of seaweed was really the only disturbance and even that was minor. Most of our days were spent at our pool or the beach, but we also did a bit of exploring as well. Some highlight include:
Lagos – The Algarve Region is HUGE and it can take over an hour to get from one end to the other due to the small road. We wanted to spend some time in one of the other popular areas and loved all the view points in Lagos. Some of our favorite spots were: Praia deo Camilo, Praia de Dona Ana, and Ponta da Piedade. Be sure to stop at Beats and Burritos for an amazing lunch!
Seven Hanging Valleys –
Benagil Caves – Access to this iconic cave is only via water, so you have to plan a boat/kayak/etc ride to get in here! My mom and I went on a kayak tour at sunrise and then went back with the whole family later in the afternoon via boat! The boat tour allowed us to see much more of the coastline but the kayak tour was very intimate, so I was glad to have experienced both!
Rob and I’s anniversary fell right in the middle of our vacation, so we took a short overnight trip to Seville. On the well (or, well, out of the way), we stopped in Ronda as I’ve always wanted to see this mountaintop city. After a short visit, we head to Seville and started off our evening with tapas and sangria (of course!) at El Rinconcillo — a 350 year old bar and restaurant. The food was incredible and I loved how they wrote your tab on the table! After dinner, we headed straight to Las Setas which is a modern art installation that has a stunning view of the city. If you stay past sunset, they even have a calming light show! We grabbed some churros with drinking chocolate before heading back. The next day, we visited as many highlights as possible: The Spanish Square, Royal Alcázar, and the Cathedral of Seville. I had no idea what to expect, but the opulence of the Cathedral was unlike any I had ever visited — possibly even more than Notre Dame! It was a full, busy day, but we wanted to fit as much into our day as possible before heading back to Algarve!
If you have any questions or need help with your itinerary, drop a comment below!