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Portugal town

Best family holiday: Portugal

Portugal has a lot more going for it than peri-peri sauce with chicken. It not only has beautiful architecture, beaches and sea views, but enjoys a warm climate all year round.

A short flight time of just less than three hours and the open attitude of Portuguese people towards families,make this the ideal destination to take the nippers.

Geography: Situated in the lower southwestern region of mainland Europe, Portugal is bordered by Spain to the north and east, with the Atlantic Ocean covering the west.


Oporto by night

The basics

Currency: Euros

Climate: Although none of Portugal touches the Med, it has a typically Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry, particularly towards the south and mild in the winters. The north of the country is more temperate than the rest of the country.

Map: Portugal

GMT: Portugal is GMT +1

Visa: If you hold a valid British passport, you will not need a visa for a visit of less than 90 days.

Language: Portuguese

Do's & don'ts

  • Do wear conservative clothes when visiting religious buildings and traditional communities.
  • Don't eat with your hands. Even fruit and cheese is eaten with utensils.

Getting there/getting around

Portuguese airline TAP Portugal and easyJet have regular flights to popular destinations in Portugal. It's also possible to get to Portugal by train. The RailEurope website has more details. Urban Portugal have a good transport infrastructure so getting around shouldn't be a problem.


When holidaying in Portugal you may choose to stay in a hotel, guesthouse or camping site. 4 Hotels lists the best places to stay.

Sightseeing & activities

The customs and traditions in Portugal are amazingly varied for such a small country. The famous Parque das Nacoes (Park of nations) in Lisbon (Portugal's capital) remains a big draw for Lisbon's visiting families. The park houses many attractions, including the Lisbon Oceanarium, which showcases the eco-systems of the world's oceans. The ancient Sao Jorge Castle and Santa Justa Elevator should also not be missed.


The lush island of Madeira

The Algarve, once the reserve of the seriously loaded, is no longer exclusively a playboy's paradise and is now a great destination for families. The Algarve has miles of clean, sandy beaches, family-friendly restaurants and medical facilities. The region has lots of sporting activities for children and adults to get involved in, such as horse riding and crazy golf for the kids. One of the Algarve's liveliest towns, Albufeira, attracts lots of young people, because of the great nightlife. Clubs, bars and cheap restaurants line most of the streets in the main areas.

It's worth visiting Portugal's second largest city, Oporto, home to Portugal's famous port wine. Delights on offer include the magnificent Sao Francisco Church and the Eiffel-esque Dom Luis I Bridge.

The lush island of Madeira is not only famous for cake and wine, it's also home to an awesome volcanic landscape. Funchal, the island's capital, is set against a backdrop of soaring green mountains. Visit the islands spas, botanical regions and unforgettable Monte toboggan.

Entertainment & nightlife

Lisbon's nightlife is probably the most diverse of any city in Portugal. You'll have the opportunity to take in open-air cafés, bars, tavernas and nightclubs. You could also sample a slice of the city's fado culture. Fado is Portuguese folk music with a blues and soul edge. Fado houses can be found all around the city.

The Algarve also gets interesting when the sun goes down. The standout towns are Albufeira, Vilamoura, Praia da Rocha and Lagos. Albufeira is best known for its streets, markets, restaurants, cafés and discos. The area nicknamed 'The Strip' is home to some of Portugal's liveliest clubs. Vilamoura is just as lively and has the added incentive of extensive sport and leisure facilities. Praia da Rocha is more refined with an old-style promenade-lined with modern bars. For the best restaurants in the region, at reasonable prices, head for Lagos.

Food & drink

For a relatively small nation, Portugal has surprising variety when it comes to food. It's often confused with Spanish food but it is in fact, quite distinct. Portuguese food uses simple ingredients beautifully prepared. Based on regional produce, emphasising fish, meat, olive oil, tomato, and spices, it features cured sausage, homemade bread and cheeses, as well as unexpected combinations of meat and shellfish.

Portugal's wine industry may not have the profile of France or Italy, but they do produce some great wine. While you're there sample some port or a nice bottle of Bastardo.

The final word

Lena Gillian, 21, from London recently visited Portugal: "I went with my family to The Algarve last year. In the hotel we were fully catered for and there were a couple of large swimming pools and a small golf course. Away from the hotel we went horse riding, and made day trips to the closest town - Albufeira. We were just spoiled for choice on what to do."

Updated: 16/04/2010

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