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A 10-Day Family Trip to Central and Northern Portugal

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Portugal is an ideal destination for a family vacation, offering a diverse range of enjoyable activities and attractions suitable for all ages. Explore the vibrant neighborhoods of Lisbon, tour the royal palaces in Sintra, and unwind on the stunning beaches of Cascais. Venture into the nature reserves and mountains in the north, and immerse yourself in the charming world of miniature houses in Coimbra. With something for everyone, Portugal promises a memorable holiday experience for the whole family!

Popular itinerary for A Family Trip in Portugal:

Day 1: Lisbon

Upon touching down at Lisbon‘s international airport, start your exploration of this lively city. Embark on a “tuk-tuk” ride winding through the picturesque streets of the Alfama neighborhood, pausing at the Santa Lucia terrace for a breathtaking view of the river and city. Venture onward to the ancient fortress of São Jorge, wandering along the millennia-old walls. From the observation terrace, you’ll have a spectacular view of the entire city, surrounded by historic cannons.

Continue your tour through the Rua Augusta, the heart of the lower city. Take an old-fashioned elevator, Santa Justa, which has been operating for over 120 years, and proceed to the impressive Commerce Square. Enjoy lunch at one of the various restaurants in the Augusta district and then proceed to the Adventure Park, situated among and above the trees within a nature reserve, with rope bridges and Omega slides.

A delightful experience awaits on the waters of Lisbon, the Aqueduto das Águas Livres. Stroll on the monumental structure, built about 300 years ago, and you’ll be higher than the highway below, with the entire city and the river spreading out before you. Proceed to explore a distinctive museum, featuring a structure that formerly served as a power station, coupled with a modern building that offers an accessible rooftop – the MAAT Museum. This museum, dedicated to design and technology, caters to visitors of all ages.

The Aqueduto das Águas Livres, Portugal

Cap off your day with a taste of Portugal’s most renowned pastry, Pastéis de Belém, at the oldest bakery in the Belém district, founded in 1834 and still serving its delectable treats to this day. Pair it with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee for the perfect culinary experience.

Spend the night in Lisbon.

Day 2: Sintra and Cascais

Set out from Lisbon towards the enchanting mountains of Sintra, just 40 minutes east of the city. Sintra, known as the city of kings and nobles, boasts palaces, mansions, and lush gardens. Your first destination is the vibrant and fairy-tale-like Pena Palace, perched atop a peak and providing breathtaking views of Lisbon and the ocean beyond. The palace is rich with surprises, fascinating rooms, and beautifully adorned courtyards.

A short distance away, explore the Moorish-Mudéjar Castle, an expansive archaeological site surrounded by walking trails. Immerse yourself in the rich history within and around the castle. In the ancient town of Sintra, wander through narrow streets, treating yourself to the local sweet pastries, particularly the queijada – a delightful concoction of cheese, sugar, and almonds.

Continuing your exploration in Sintra, discover the captivating Quinta da Regaleira—an estate adorned with intricately designed gardens, brimming with surprises and magical corners. Proceed westward to Cabo da Roca, a towering cliff with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Follow the cliffside trails at the westernmost point of mainland Europe, then descend to the coastline, passing through a nature reserve en route to the next destination—Cascais.

Stroll along the wooden pathways above the scenic dunes of Praia do Guincho, another stunning beach. Another notable attraction is Boca do Inferno, also known as Hell’s Mouth, where waves crash dramatically against the cliffs at the entrance to Cascais. Afterwards, enjoy a refreshing swim in the beautiful bay at the city center, featuring a tranquil, sandy beach.

Cascais boasts charming streets and culinary diversity, including cool ice cream, delectable pastries, grilled sardines, and fresh seafood sourced from the daily catch of local fishermen.

Spend the night in Lisbon.

Day 3: Lisbon

On the third day, start with a wonderful visit to the largest oceanarium in Europe, the Oceanário de Lisboa. Located in a large building on the shores of the Tagus River, it is situated in the modern Park of Nations (Parque das Nações). Afterward, enjoy a beautiful view from the river cable car (Telecabine), which operates most of the day. Not far from there is the Vasco da Gama shopping center for shopping or window shopping enthusiasts, as well as a large supermarket. Following a short break, continue with a unique adventure, the Hippotrip, a sightseeing vehicle that travels on the city’s streets before transitioning to a river tour on the Tagus. It promises a delightful and entertaining experience.

View on Lisbon with the river Tagus in Portugal

Wrap up your Lisbon visit at the Museu da Marioneta (Puppet Museum) situated in Madragoa, one of the city’s quarters that is recommended to explore during your stay. Housed in a 17th-century monastery, the museum offers a glimpse into traditional Portuguese puppetry, boasting the country’s most extensive collection. Additionally, it showcases a fascinating array of African and Asian dolls and masks. Don’t pass up the opportunity to tour the football stadium of Benfica Lisbon, Portugal’s beloved team, and explore its team souvenir shop.

Spend the night in Lisbon.

Day 4: Northbound from Lisbon to Óbidos

Start your day heading north, and, after about an hour, you’ll arrive at the Buddha Eden Garden of Peace, the largest oriental garden in Europe. This enchanting sanctuary boasts an extraordinary collection of Buddhas, pagodas, diverse sculptures, goldfish, ponds, and a myriad of plant life. Nestled in the Portuguese countryside, this idyllic setting resembles a fairy tale, showcasing an abundance of artistic treasures from the Far East and around the world.

From there, drive a short distance to Óbidos, a medieval town surrounded by protective walls that you can leisurely walk on. Wander through its narrow and picturesque streets, enjoying a selection of local souvenir shops. Between the old town and the ocean shore lies the large lagoon of Óbidos, offering opportunities for horseback riding and canoeing. Continuing north, you’ll reach Nazaré, a stunning viewpoint above the bay where you can taste a vast selection of dried fruits and nuts from one of the vendors dressed in traditional colorful attire. Along the coastline, descend to bathe in the cool waters of the sea, perhaps renting a beach umbrella. The Nazaré bay also presents an excellent opportunity to learn the art of surfing, making it one of the finest locations for this exciting and popular water sport.

Spend the night in Coimbra.

Day 5: Coimbra

Start the day by exploring Portugal dos Pequenitos (Portugal of the Little Ones), an amusement park and cultural-educational center situated in the heart of Coimbra. The park showcases a scaled-down replica of Portugal’s noteworthy monuments, buildings, and landmarks, all designed with children in mind. Follow this with a serene boat excursion along the Mondego River, providing picturesque views of Coimbra. Sail past iconic landmarks such as the Santa Clara Bridge, the University of Coimbra, and the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery. This boat journey not only offers glimpses of the city’s highlights but also provides a great opportunity to appreciate its natural surroundings.

Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery, Coimbra, Portugal

Next on the itinerary is a visit to the Museum of Science and Technology (Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia), featuring a diverse array of interactive exhibitions and hands-on activities aimed at educating and engaging visitors in the latest advancements in science and technology. The Science and Technology Park is organized into thematic areas covering ecology, space, and the history of science.

Conclude the day with downtime at Jardim Botânico, the botanical garden established in 1772. As one of Portugal’s oldest botanical gardens, it boasts a rich collection of plants, flowers, and trees from various corners of the world, providing a tranquil and educational retreat.

Spend the night in Coimbra.

Day 6: Serra da Estrela – Exploring Eastern Portugal

Depart from Coimbra, the third-largest city in Portugal, and head north and east towards the country’s highest peak, Serra da Estrela, also known as the Star Mountain. En route to the mountain, stop in the town of Seia and visit the charming Toy Museum, Museu do Brinquedo, showcasing a collection of dolls, transportation toys, and childhood memorabilia from Portugal and around the world.

Also in Seia, engage in a delightful family activity at the Bread Museum, Museu do Pão, where you can participate in a hands-on workshop on bread preparation and baking. The museum offers insights into the historical aspects of traditional bread-making, showcasing milling tools and craftsmanship.

Continuing the journey, ascend to the mountain’s peak, the Tower (Torre), reaching an elevation of 6562 feet above sea level. Here, enjoy the opportunity to sample and acquire locally crafted cheeses, meat products, woolen attire, and souvenirs. It’s an incredible experience for visitors of all ages, featuring a cable car ride operational even in the summer months, offering unspoiled views of towering rocky landscapes and a panoramic view from one end to the other.

Later on, join a jeep tour that navigates through mountain trails, passing by refreshing springs, rainwater reservoirs, and impressive snow and ice formations. As the exciting day comes to a close, settle in one of the mountain hotels, located near the Spanish border.

Spend the night in Covilhã.

Day 7: Northern Portugal

Start the morning by heading north along the eastern slopes of the Star Mountain, reaching the historic town of Guarda. Ascend one of the city’s ancient wall towers, Torre dos Ferreiros, for a panoramic view that, on a clear day, encompasses the eastern part of Spain, the towering mountain behind you, and Portugal’s northwest.

Serra da Estrela mountains, Portugal

Continuing northward, you’ll arrive in Lamego, where the terrace of the Our Lady of Remedies Church, Nossa Sra. dos Remédios, offers an excellent vantage point. The beautifully landscaped gardens, especially the charming staircases leading to the city center, promise a delightful visit. Explore the ancient citadel of the city, dating back to the 1100s, where the proclamation of Portugal’s first king took place.

Afterward, spend a few hours at Pena Aventura, an adventure park dedicated to recreational activities and challenging sports in nature. In this adventure park, you’ll have the opportunity to experience walking on rope bridges among the trees, canoeing, zip-lining, and obstacle courses. Be prepared for a few hours filled with adrenaline and enjoyment.

From there, proceed towards the city of Vila Real and tour the private palace, Mateus, along with its exquisitely designed gardens.

As the day concludes, opt for a charming guesthouse situated amidst the vineyards overlooking the Douro Valley, ensuring a peaceful night at one of the agricultural estates, Quinta.

Day 8: Douro Valley – Porto

Begin your day by visiting the town of Peso da Régua where you can explore a museum showcasing the unique agriculture of the region, detailing the grape-growing processes and the specific wine production methods of the area. Moving eastward, following the majestic flow of the Douro River, you’ll reach the historic town of Amarante. Stroll through the streets of the old town and cross the ancient bridge that spans the town.

Continuing on the east-southeastern route, your next destination is one of Portugal’s newest and most enjoyable attractions—the 516-Arouca Bridge. This suspended bridge, soaring above the Paiva River near the town of Arouca, offers a thrilling experience. In the same area, you’ll find wooden walkways that provide a delightful stroll along the river.

After enjoying the beauty of the Paiva River, proceed with your journey for approximately an hour towards Porto, the northern capital of Portugal. Stroll across the remarkable iron bridge constructed in 1886, bearing the name of King Louis I, and marvel at the illuminated cityscape from the Serra Do Pillar viewpoint. Take a delightful ride on the light rail crossing the bridge, culminating the day with an overnight stay at a hotel in the city.

Spend the night in Porto.

Day 9: Porto

Start the morning by exploring the sights and landmarks of Porto that served as inspiration for the legendary Harry Potter stories. Visit the café where J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter, uncover the locations that sparked her imagination, locate the ‘Gryffindor’ fountain, and savor the taste of a delectable Portuguese éclair. Descend to the picturesque riverside district of Ribeira and take a one-hour boat cruise along the Douro River, passing beneath the city’s impressive six bridges.

Beautiful panoramic view over Dom Luis I bridge and traditional boats on Rio Douro river in Porto, Portugal

Visit the wonderful bookshop, Lello, renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful. Wander through the paths of the nearby Crystal Garden, which is surrounded by lush trees, sculptures, colorful peacocks, and several viewpoints offering beautiful panoramas of the city and the river. Later, enjoy an innovative multimedia show projected onto the walls of the Clérigos church. Ascend to the pinnacle of the church’s bell tower, the city’s highest point. The next stop is the leisure and shopping area around Santa Catarina Street and the nearby historic market, Mercado do Bolhão, featuring a diverse array of food stalls and souvenir shops.

Spend the night in Porto.

Day 10: From North to South – Back to Lisbon

Set out from Porto, tracing the ocean coastline toward the delightful resort town of Aveiro. Enjoy a boat cruise and savor the distinctive culinary offerings of the region. Explore the operation and importance of local salt pans with a guided tour. Continuing along the coast, along the expansive lagoon, stroll through the enchanting streets of Costa Nova, renowned for its vibrantly painted houses. Relax on the picturesque beach of Costa Nova and discover the distinctive sand dunes in the area.

Venturing southward, explore the enchanting Mira de Aire Cave, located in the heart of Portugal. Formed approximately 150 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period, these caves preserve a glimpse of the past, showcasing visible dinosaur footprints. Illuminated with vibrant lights, the caves unveil the beauty of stalactites and stalagmites.

Conclude your Portugal adventure by returning to the capital city, Lisbon, before embarking on your journey back home.

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