Sara’s Completely Biased Guide to Holiday Travel, Part 2: Portugal

Strolling in Obidos

It’s time for Part 2 of my little totally biased guide (and if you missed it, check out Part 1, here). This time we head to Portugal, with kids! Lisbon and Portugal have become incredibly trendy of late, making the top places to travel in lists put out by major travel publications. We went a couple years before it became trendy, so look to me for more on-the-cusp-of-cool travel locations 😊.

Portugal is perfect for travel with kids. The food is simple and delicious; the people are welcoming; the sites are fun and kid friendly. We took our daughter when she was 18 months old and divided our 10 days among Nazare, Evora, and Lisbon.  In late November/early December, the weather is perfect – about 55-65 every day, the crowds are nil, the restaurants are cozy, and there are palm trees! Like Paris, the Christmas decorations are up, and the markets are open.

This is not an exhaustive list of everything we have done in Portugal, just some ideas for easy holiday travel. Keep your eyes open for a more extensive location guide for travel with kids to southern Portugal.

What to do:

Nazare – our base for 5 days because of its proximity to so many things we wanted to see. The small town itself is a beach and surfing destination, with the biggest waves in Europe. In the off-season, it is exceptionally sleepy and exceedingly friendly. For day trips, you will most definitely need a car, but during the off-season, traffic is easy and the roads in Portugal are great.

Obidos – the cutest little, Instagram worthy, bougainvillea dripping off buildings town you will ever see. The thing to do here is just wander the streets, climb the steps behind the castle to the city walls, buy a Christmas ornament off the street, stop for street snacks, and keep your camera handy.

Bougainvillea in Obidos
Locked out in Obidos

Sintra – this is probably what you think of when you think of traveling to Portugal. It was also where we encountered the most fellow tourists. Sintra is chock full of interesting palaces and castles. We went to the Palacio da Pena and from there did the hike up the hill to the Castelo dos Mouros, which I thought was the more interesting of the two and highly recommend (but I love a good hill-top ruined castle). It is not that the Palacio is not spectacular; it is. It was that it was so full of other tourists and after enjoying the peaceful countryside of Portugal, it was a bit of shock. However, if you like palaces – go! I do not regret visiting at all. The colors are amazing, and like other places, it was decorated for Christmas. You will need to take a shuttle bus up the hill from the parking lot to the Palacio, but it was a short wait. We decided to hike back down after our tours, which was possible with the little one in the carrier, but would be hard for younger walking kids, not in a carrier.

Palacio da Pena
Touristing at Castelo dos Mouros

Lisbon – there is so much to see in this amazing European capital. We stayed in an apartment in the Rossio neighborhood, an easy walk to both the Baixa and Chaido areas of the city. We went to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. We rode cable cars and the funiculars. We ran around the Praca do Comercio and watched the sunset while sitting on water’s edge. We went Christmas shopping with everyone else in the Chiado neighborhood. We walked past the oldest ginjinha (a famous Lisbon liquor – try it) place on our way from our apartment to the Rua Augusta, the main throughfare in this part of the city, where someone is always playing live music. We dropped in on a Christmas market. This city should not be missed, especially during the holidays. It is rich and kid friendly – if they can walk up and down hills.

Sunset at Praca do Comercio
Sunset in Lisbon
Sometimes traveling with kids is like this

Where to stay:

In Nazare we stayed at the Quinta do Campo, a few minutes outside of the town. Quinta means farm, and this one must have been grand, with the big main house built in the 1800’s. We had our own one-bedroom apartment, with a working fireplace, kitchen, and gorgeous views out the back patio. There are other apartments and single rooms available in the main house. Breakfast is available and a simple affair – think cereal, yogurt, and strong coffee. The host was gracious and accommodating. There are also some resident dogs we found to be friendly and precocious. The buildings itself are so photogenic, it will almost make you cry.

Baby and Buggy the Pug at Quinta do Campo
Morning at the Quinta
The view from the patio

In Lisbon we stayed in the Rossio Convento da Encarnação apartment, which we found through Booking. Three bedrooms and filled with light, it was a perfect location. Again, remember Lisbon is a city built on hills, with stairs and steep streets. There are markets within easy walking distance of the apartment to pick up some eggs and pastries, and many restaurants.

Morning hair and breakfast in our Lisbon apartment

Where to eat:

In Nazare, I suggest two outstanding places. One is the Taberna d’Adelia. Not only is the food at this seafood restaurant ridiculously fresh and delicious (it’s a block from the sea), the servers are some of the friendliest we have ever encountered. They took turns carrying our 18-month-old around, showing her the lobster tanks and fresh fish. The other is the Meu Jardim, which is a few minutes outside of town. The roast chicken here is to die for and they were more than accommodating to young children. No one spoke more than a few words of English, and us a few words of Portuguese, but it worked out deliciously. In Lisbon, we found the food to be overall, wonderful. One night we had Indian (Goa was a Portuguese colony until the 1960’s), but on Thanksgiving we enjoyed Bonjardim, which is famous for spit-roasted chicken. Oh. My. It’s unassuming, but the food makes up for the atmosphere.

Perusing the offerings at Taberna d’Adelia
Checking out Meu Jardim
Best Chicken ever at Bonjardim

Next up, Italy!

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  1. Pingback: Sara’s Completely Biased Guide to Holiday Travel, Part 3: Italy - Juggling Normal

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