Tucked away in the far south-west of Europe, Portugal is one of the most underrated destinations in western Europe. But despite its small size, there are a whole lot of fun things to do in Portugal with kids and in this post, you’ll find some of the best, ethical activities to do.
Get ready to explore fairy-tale castles, dinosaur footprints (YES! Real ones,) ancient caves, and wildlife. And of course no trip to Portugal is complete without building sand castles at the beach and going on at least one kayak trip. So let us make it epic for your family holiday memory book!
Things to do in Portugal with kids
See pink flamingos in Ria Formosa Natural Park
One of the highlights in southern Portugal that you should add to your Portugal bucket list is to watch wild flamingos. There is no better way for your kids to learn about wildlife than to see them in their own habitat.
A good place to base yourself for spotting these amazing birds is Faro. Between the city and Faro beach, you get a good chunk of Ria Formosa Natural Park’s marchland and saltwater lagoons where the flamingos flock, especially from October to March.
You can easily see them along the 7-kilometer Ludo Trail that is reached by car or by bus from the city.
Explore dinosaur footprints up close
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Did someone just say dinosaur footprints? This is actually a pretty cool attraction for all generations. In the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park you can visit the Pegadas de Dinossáurios (Dinosaur Footprints) and walk the 2-kilometer-long trail taking you past some of the longest sauropod trail in the world.
It is not allowed to walk on the actual footprints, so make sure your kids stay on the wooden footpath that is built along the prints. There is also a statue of a full-size dinosaur to give you an idea of how big the giants that walked there 175 million years ago actually were.
This trail has little to no shade so make sure you bring sunscreen and a hat or cap for yourself and your kids when the sun is out.
In the visitor center, there is a souvenir shop with dinosaur toys and they show a video and more information that is fun even for the children to learn more about the massive dinosaurs that once walked there.
If you travel with older kids and you would like to go for a little hike, there are trails starting from the visitor center and you can ask for information about them there.
Discover the fairy-tale castles of Sintra
What better place to take your children on your family vacation than to visit fairy-tale castles? Outside Lisbon, you can do exactly that. The most famous is the Pena Palace, a hilltop castle painted in pink and yellow – always topping every itinerary from Porto to Lisbon out there – but there are other cool castles in Sintra too.
Like a Dracula Castle surrounded by a labyrinth of paths in its large gardens with tunnels and towers ready to be discovered by little curious human beings. Find your way to the Quinta da Regaleira Well and explore the Moorish walls of Castelo dos Mouros.
Your kids will surely not mind a couple of days discovering this amazing place and we can assure you that you will too.
Go on a boat trip in Lagos
Any trip to Portugal should include a boat trip exploring the hidden beaches and sea caves along the rugged coastline of the southern region of the Algarve.
Some tours let you get off at some beaches and even go for a snorkel. This is the perfect activity for the children as they might see fish and underwater caves.
While going on a boat trip is the perfect activity, there are a lot more fantastic things to do in Lagos which makes it a good place to base yourself for a couple of days during your Algarve itinerary. Even if you rely on public transport, getting around the Algarve is quite straightforward.
Visit the Harry Potter library in Porto
One of the top places to visit in Portugal with kids is the Harry Potter library (Lello Library) in Porto. Though it is getting a lot of attention, and some worry it is overrated, it is a true winner among the kids.
From the moment you enter the magical library, you will be met by the Harry Potter and Hogwarts vibes. Any Harry Potter fan will be in awe by all the Harry Potter collections but even if you do not care about the J.R. Rollings series this is one of the world’s most beautiful libraries. So there is no reason to leave it out.
The Harry Potter library is one of the most popular attractions in the city and it is highly recommended to go there on weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds the best time of the day is when it opens at 09:30 in the morning.
Visit the caves around Fatima
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Fatima is mainly famous for being a religious center in Portugal with its splendid basilica. But around the city, there is a vast number of cave systems worth a visit.
This is a wonderful activity to take your kids to, especially on a rainy day when you need to escape the wet weather but still need to keep them active.
Caves worth mentioning are: Grutas de Mira de Aire, Grutas da Moeda, and the Coin Caves.
Go on a dolphin safari in the Algarve
Portugal is one of the few countries in Europe that still offer the unethical activity of swimming with captive dolphins. Unfortunately, many families take their kids there without knowing how it affects the animals.
Dolphins in captivity get depression and other illnesses from not eating the right diet, not being able to swim freely, and from performing and being used for tourist activities in a pool.
But there is no reason to see these animals in captivity while the ocean is full of them.
One of the best things to do with kids in Portugal is to take them on a dolphin safari off the Algarve coast.
There is a big chance to see them and often they freely play around the boat which gives you a chance to see them up close. Some tours even include a marine biologist that teaches you everything about dolphins and their habits.
Take surf lessons
Do you have adventurous and active children? Then this is for you! Portugal is known for being one of the best surf destinations in Europe and is a wonderful destination to take surf lessons for both big and small.
All over the Algarve you can find surf schools and yoga – surf retreats where you can send your kids or go as a family to try this fun water activity.
But also the west coast up to Lisbon and Ericeira have perfect learning conditions, so depending on where you base yourself on your Portugal trip, there are surf schools and beaches to choose from.
Ride a Moleiro-BOAT in Aveiro
Also known as Portugal’s Venice, Aveiro is a beautiful destination crisscrossed by canals. In the old days, they used long, wooden boats to pick up algae from the canals. That was before they got an automated system for it.
To not let the boats or the history go to waste, these boats have now been painted into colorful pieces of art and used to take tourists to see the city from its canals. This is a wonderful way to learn about the history of Aveiro while it is fun for the whole family to take one of these boats.
Kayak to Benagil Cave
One of Portugal’s highlights is the world-famous sea cave of Benagil. There are many boat trips taking you there, but the boats are not allowed to let you off inside the cave.
Since it is only a short kayak trip from Benagil beach, it is the perfect activity to do with kids and you can get off inside the cave and explore the massive cave. In fact, this spot could easily be on the list of the best places in the world for kayaking. Inside, you will step onto a golden beach lit up by the sunlight coming through the huge sinkhole in the ceiling.
If you prefer going paddleboarding, there is rental for that too. Depending on your (and your kid’s) kayaking/paddleboarding level you can choose to rent gear individually or go on an organized tour with a guide. But no matter what you choose, this is an experience of a lifetime for the whole family.
Reflections on Portugal with kids
Portugal with kids is definitely not going to be boring. With so many outdoor activities, excellent weather (especially in the south where you will see more than 300 days of sun in a year,) and incredible nature there is something to do with your children all over the country.
This tiny corner in Europe offers surprisingly much to do both to keep your kids active but also to give them an educational vacation. Learning while traveling is so underrated and Portugal scores high on the list.
Linn Haglund runs Amused by Algarve, a site that helps you discover the best of Algarve through curated guides, itineraries, and travel tips so that you can confidently explore Portugal’s most amazing region independently!