From school integration issues to where to go for a kid-friendly outing, here’s our guide to living in Portugal with children.
The Portuguese place a lot of importance on family life. Outsiders may even observe that Portuguese parents and grandparents appear to spoil and overprotect their children.
The social side of being a parent
You may find that relocating to Portugal with children will make you more approachable. Other parents are likely to invite you over or out to social events. Children are also quicker at picking up a new language and this can help the whole family integrate.
Public or private school?
The first decision you will have to make regarding your kids is whether to send them to public schools or to private, international schools. Public schools are free and will instruct in Portuguese. For the youngest, this may be the preferred option, as they will learn the language quickly and will eventually feel more at home in the community.
This will allow them, and perhaps the rest of the family to enjoy local customs and culture. However, there are many international schools to pick from. Older children may already be accustomed to the international or British systems and it makes sense to continue as they approach examinations. Also, if you plan to leave Portugal again soon, an international school is more likely to suit your children.
Your children will benefit from the warm climate and relatively safe streets. A lot of time is spent playing outdoors with friends. The beaches are great in summer, and in the winter there are many indoor activities to choose from.
Family attractions in Portugal
In Lisbon, in particular, there are many family attractions to visit. Children between four to 12 years receive 50 percent off tickets on railways, and those under four travel for free. Young children usually get into museums without charge and many restaurants will serve child-size portions for lower prices.
The Belem Tower and St. Georges Castle allow children to run around as you enjoy the sights. Kids will also enjoy a medieval story told in the Jeronimos Monastery. As for museums, there are many with various themes, you can see model ships at the Maritime Museum, peculiar objects at the Design Museum, sharks at the Oceanarium, puppets at the Marionette Museum and experiments at the Interactive Science Museum. The Parque das Nações is the district with the most family fun. It is mostly traffic-free and lined with riverside walkways. You can enjoy cable car rides, bikes for hire, water gardens, bowling, restaurants, and playgrounds.
Uptown is the Lisbon Zoo, with as many as two thousand animals. It puts on a dolphin show, has an elephant that knows tricks and a monkey village. In the Colombo Shopping Center, there is a funfair known as the largest European indoor amusement park. It has roller coasters, but also arcades and a go-cart track. This will keep your children entertained if you would like to do some shopping.
In Sintra, a region near Lisbon, there are many sights to appreciate. The children may want to visit the toy Museum, with old and new toys. The Pena Palace with its fairytale elements is a sight for sore eyes. Other than that there are gardens to visit, carriages and trams to ride and the beach to explore. The beaches near Lisbon offer many activities. You could take a boat out to see dolphins, participate in water sports or just play in the sand.
For events that will entertain your kids, check out the listings of the tourism office’s monthly Follow Me magazine.
Entertainment in the Algarve
Besides Lisbon, children will probably enjoy the Algarve region the most. Here they are kept occupied on the beaches, in the amusement parks, and cafes. They can learn new water sports or how to ride horses. There is also an extensive Algarve zoo with animals, mini-golf, swimming pools, and picnic areas. To see more animals there is a wildlife preserve that holds monkeys, deer, ostriches and other endangered, regional species.