A two week itinerary in Portugal with a toddler

When my husband and I were trying to figure out our next big family vacation we wanted to try somewhere new. We also recently have fallen in love with surfing (not that either of us are any good at it) and so we wanted to go somewhere unique where we could hit the waves – and we all know the biggest waves in the world are in Portugal so that’s where we decided to go.

No, we weren’t planning to surf the 100 foot wave, but rather take in the beauty of the Algarve, drink wine in the Duoro Valley, and take in the culture of Lisbon. But there is one thing we had to keep in mind while planning, how will we also entertain our one and a half year old?

The more research we did, we realized Portugal is actually an incredible place to take a toddler. They let you skip the line at most museums and castles, they have a lot of toddler friendly beaches and parks, and lots of delicious food.

I wanted to share our two week itinerary with you – and honestly we fell so in love with this place, it is one of the few I hope I will get to travel back to someday.

Day 1-2 :Douro Valley

We decided to start in the North of the country. Flying into Porto, the Douro region is just a short 3 hour drive from there. The Douro Valley is Portugal’s wine region, maybe less famous than Italy or France, the wine is a true hidden gem, and the region is absolutely stunning, in fact it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And while maybe not as famous as some of the other European wine regions, it is considered the oldest (and in my opinion most beautiful).

We stayed at the beautiful Ventozelo Hotel and Quinta. The hotel was incredible, we honestly didn’t have to leave the site, and it was perfect for families. On site there was a swimming pool with stunning views of the valley, a vegetable garden, in which the restaurant sourced their veggies, a wine museum, and lots of beautiful trails to explore. The onsite restaurant also served in season breakfast, lunch and an early dinner seating perfect for a toddler.

Despite not having to leave the hotel, we still did want to get out and explore. We decided to take a boat tour with Anima Durius. They offer private boat tours of the river, and ones that only last a couple hours, which was perfect for a toddler. We had a chance to ride on the “Baco” boat – a wooden classic James Bond style boat. The captain even let Max have a turn at the helm.

After the boat ride we explored the small town before stopping for lunch on the river called ironically, The River. 

Day 2-6 :Lisbon

There are many reasons I wanted to visit Lisbon. I loved the fact that it combined the old and the new in its architecture and  culture. I loved the colours of the azulejos, and the incredible seafood dishes that welcomed you at every restaurant.  We knew this trip would be a little different, instead of late nights dancing to fado music, we had to plan trips around naps and early bed times. We decided to stay at the Chiado Apartments. There were lots of great apartments available and we loved having the extra room with our toddler.

Day 1

Our first day in Lisbon we decided to walk around and explore a little.  We walked to Castelo de S. Jorge and the Lisbon Cathedral. We then stopped for lunch at the TimeOut  Market ( an absolute must). After lunch we walked around Praça do Comércio. We then walked through Pink Street and made our way to the Santa Catarina viewpoint for sunset.

Day 2

Day 2 we did a day trip to Jerónimos Monastery. This former monastery is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I love that with a toddler you are able to skip the long lines. Max really enjoyed exploring and we had a chance to learn about the incredible history. After the tour we went to see the Belem Tower. Finding meals early for Max was surprisingly easy. We decided to try a tapas restaurant called Grau Douro – it was delicious.

Day 3

Day 3 we set out to explore the gardens. Lisbon is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. We started off the day at Parque Eduardo XVII, which had beautiful views of the city and water. We then went to explore the neighbourhood we were staying in. We decided to take a ride on the Elevador de Santa Justa and then walked down the Rue Alfama  to see the famous Tram 28. We also decided to pick up a famous azulejos – or tile – as a souvenir from the trip

Day 4

Day 4 we saved the best for last – and did a little tour to find the best Pastal de Nata (a famous Portuguese pastry). Our favourites were from Manteigaria. We then stopped by the oldest book store in the world, Livraria Bertrand. We then went to stop by Tu e Eu 2 for lunch – a local favourite. We then ended the day at Miradouro De Santa Luzia, one of the best places to watch the famous Portugal sunsets.

Day 5

Day 5 was a really special day because we took a day trip to Sintra. I really wanted to visit the Pena Palace. We took the train to Sintra and then decided to take the bus to the castle. We had purchased our tickets ahead of time so that we could pick the time that worked best for nap time, and once again with our toddler we were able to skip the line. The palace was every bit as beautiful as the pictures online. After the tour of the castle, we went to  Romaria de Baco for some delicious seafood. Unfortunately because of Max’s schedule we didn’t have time to visit Quinta da Regaleira, but I have heard it is worth it if timing allows.

Day 7-14: Sagres, The Algarve

This was the moment we had been waiting for, the reason we booked this trip and so we decided we wanted  a whole week of surfing, sand, and sun. When we were looking at booking the trip, we thought about staying in a few different places in the Algarve, including Lagos, but we really fell in love with the idea of staying put in a small surf town like – especially with a toddler. We stayed at the Memmo Baleeira Hotel – a family friendly hotel in the perfect location.

Since our main goal was surfing first thing we did was find a few beginner/intermediate friendly surf beaches.

Firstly, as a beginner surfers, we wanted to find beaches were the waves weren’t too overwhelming. We tried out a few including Praia Da Mareta and Praia Do Tonel, which was our favourite. Not only were the cliffs and views absolutely breathtaking but there were some decent waves to surf and some calm areas we could take Max for a swim.

Other must do’s:

  1. We did venture away from the beach to try a few other activities. One absolutely must do in the Algarves is the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.  The hike is about 6km total and will take about 2 hours to complete. We started this hike in  Praia da Marinha, and while we didn’t complete the full 6km ( as we were carrying a baby on our back) but we did make it to the famous Bengali Cave. Along the way we saw the most breathtaking views of limestone cliffs, caves, and picturesque beaches along the way.

2. Another must was a sunrise boat tour to Bengali Cave.  We booked a sunrise tour with Get Your Guide. Be prepared to reschedule because you can only get into the cave when the conditions are perfect. While the cave itself was a little underwhelming ( it was extremely busy and you can’t even get off the boat to see the beach) however the actual boat ride along the coast was stunning. Seeing the extravagant cliffs from a different angle was incredible, and we got some amazing views you can only see from the water like the famous Farol de Alfanzina lighthouse.

3. The lighthouse in Sagres is a must see but seeing it at sunset is even more special. We grabbed            some gelato Alice Gelateria and made our way over to the lighthouse. It was stunning watching the         sunset behind the cliffs and the surfers catching those last rays of sunlight on the water.

4. My favourite part of the trip though might of been the food. While I loved all the fresh seafood in           Lisbon, the food here was a bit more international but there were some incredible spots.

Some absolute highlights for us were Three Little Birds – this is the perfect apres surf spot. They had some delicious cocktails and one of the best veggie burgers I have ever tasted.

We also loved the Laundry Lounge – yes it is a laundry mat but it is also a great cafe with incredible coffee and some tasty brunch options.

If you are looking for the famous Portugal fresh fish and a stunning view, A Tasca is a must.

The Hangout is an absolute must. A super friendly atmosphere and their delicious pasta dishes are big enough for the whole family to enjoy.

Our trip to Portugal was an amazing experience, and made us realize that life doesn’t end with a toddler. We were able to fall in love with a new country and travel the way we love and it was so special to be able to share our passion of travel with our little guy – also a bonus that he helped us get into museums without waiting in long lines ( I really do love Portugal for making it easy for family’s with young kids). I am excited to see where our next adventure will take us but in the meantime happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

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