Cool Things to Do in Lisbon – with Kids!

We recently explored Lisbon when we stayed with luxury family travel hotel Martinhal in the Chiado area of the city. We loved it, just me and Mr Tot doing our thang, and I think it's a really great city to explore with kids. Lots of open spaces, varied modes of transport, great food - it's got it all going on.

So much of what we did tied together so beautifully, so I’m simply writing this article chronologically to highlight what worked.

Day 1

Tempting seafood

By the time we’d transferred to our hotel it was lunchtime. A hungry time to start exploring.

Eat at Timeout

A two minute downhill walk, towards Cais do Sodre train station, took us to the Timeout Lisbon Food Market. A vast indoor dining hall, featuring about twenty stalls each selling their own produce. Handy for families as you don’t have to eat the same type of food. Also due to the dominance of tapas, many dishes come in small sizes, ideal for wee ones. There’s a buzz about the place, so children’s voices mix into the hubbub. Mr Tot and I love prawns so we opted for dishes from Monte Mar, but we could have selected paella, steaks, Italian, sangria, a range of seafood, and lots of Portuguese specialities.

[When you’re near the train station be sure to pick up day passes for public transport. It’s about half the price of paying onboard. We couldn’t do this as when we arrived at the station the queues were literally snaking around the building, so rather than pay €1.50, I paid €3.00 per ride, but it hardly broke the bank for the 2 trips we undertook.]

Catch the Number 28 Tram

Lisbon is known for its trams, and whilst the modern ones get you from A to B, the old school trams, such as the famous Number 28, are the ones tourists wish to experience. We genuinely needed to catch this tram to visit the Estrela Gardens that had caught my eye. A two minute walk uphill from the Martinhal hotel we hopped aboard the No.28. My guidebook had said it would be packed (and to be aware of pickpockets) and it was mobbed. Mr Tot clung to my leg, there was no chance of a seat, and a smart, helpful Portuguese man told me when to disembark to visit the Gardens, as I couldn’t really see anything and I didn’t know where I was going. It sounds hell but we really enjoyed it, especially as the route was entirely uphill all the way and I wouldn’t want to walk it.

Wander through Estrela Gardens and Hit the Playpark

The Estrela Gardens are a small oasis of calm in the city. On the Sunday afternoon there was a market, with various stalls selling crafts and clothes. The merchandise was really stylish, tasteful, imaginative and cool (no tat). We grabbed an ice-cream at the outdoor cafe, then I let Mr Tot loose in the playground. (He had caught a 6am flight that morning so I wanted him to get some child time!). The park is pretty cool, with a exotic animal theme of lions and giraffes. One unusual tip, don’t put your kid in crocs as the playground is padded with tiny pebbles. I have never removed so many pebbles from little shoes in all my days.

Walk Back, Following the Tram Route

By walking back you can see the Palacio da Assembleia (Portugal’s Parliament), the cityscape, beautiful tiled houses and tiled street signs which you simply wouldn’t spot on a crowded tram. It’s all downhill so pretty easy going. I was also dragged into the Lisbon Duck Store, for anyone interested in browsing a million rubber ducks, and talked into purchasing a souvenir for Mr Tot to take home to Junior. Suddenly I was carrying Batman and Spiderman ducks in my bag. By walking home we also hit an Elevator Stop, which wasn’t in my plans by Mr Tot was keen to try them out.

Catch an Elevator

As well as trams, Lisbon is known for its elevators – essentially lifts that allows Lisbonites to ascend and descend the city’s steep hills with ease. We jumped aboard Elevador da Bica. For a few euros we were transported back down hill, alighting pretty much where we started, next to Time Out Lisbon. A small step for most tourists, a giant leap for Mr Tot who absolutely loved the ride.

Main Square – Praca do Comercio

If you have the energy to walk to the Main Square, the main gathering point for Lisbon events, then do try to fit this in.

Dining Out – By the Wine

Across the road from our hotel was the tempting wine bar By the Wine. As Mr Tot was resolutely refusing to go to kids club I checked if he could accompany me. By the Wine is a smart wine bar serving tapas and vino, not a mobbed boozer, so it felt no different to dining in a restaurant. Portugal is noticeably child friendly, and we were eating early, around 7.00pm, so we had an evening of tapas, and nibbles of ham, cheese, olives and bread. And I got to sample some Portuguese wine too. Result.

Day 2

Scope Out Belem

Our hotel was in such a fab location. On Day 2 we walked two minutes downhill to Cais do Sodre train station, and picked up super cheap return train tickets to the Belem area of the city. The trains run so frequently, every 15 minutes or so, and the journey took about 15 minutes (3 stops) and we were there in no time. It was such an easy trip.

Riverside Walk and the Discoveries Monument

From the train station turn left and the river is in front of you. Walking by the water in the sun was really chilled. A pedestrian walkway allowed Mr Tot to run ahead without any worries.

Deep down we were on the hunt for explorers. Suddenly the iconic Discoveries statue loomed in the distance, and it’s so much more beautiful than a photograph expresses. The Discoveries Monument (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) commemorates Portugal’s explorers who set sail and discovered so much of the world. My son was transfixed by this creation so we spent about forty minutes there. Strangely he showed no interest in Belem Tower, just a few minutes further walk downriver, but I think most kids would dig this defensive riverside fort.

Monastery Jeronimos, Jardim Vasco da Gama, and the Museum Quarter

There’s a plethora of museums, galleries, a monastery and an observatory literally across the road from the Padrão dos Descobrimentos statue. Lots on offer if you have a particular interest but, admittedly, we just enjoyed the sun, wandered around the formal Vasco da Gama gardens (Mr Tot liked the water fountain) and I admired the architecture of the Jeronimos Monastery.

Eat Pastries At Pasteis De Belem

This is a key experience in Lisbon, just a few metres away from Monastery Jeronimos. Everything is so compact for tourists in this area, which really helps when travelling with wee ones, doing their best to walk on wee legs, or if you’re pushing a buggy.

The city’s custard tarts are famous, and this is probably the most famous baker in town. There are often big queues for the takeaway counter at Pasteis de Belem, but there’s vast seating indoors (it’s a labyrinth) with swift service, so we had a break, had some tarts, had a drink. Delicious.

Botanic Gardens

This was my favourite part of the day. Located a few minutes walk behind Pasteis de Belem, these botanic gardens cost a few euros, and they’re a vast haven of tranquillity. Beautiful gardens to explore, a lot of birdlife to entertain children including numerous peacocks sauntering around, lots of different zones to discover, a wee cafe for a drink in the heat, a wonderful space to chill out. We spent over two hours here, in many ways doing very little.

Dining in Belem

Right next to Jardim Vasco da Gama, on Travessa da Praça, is a row of restaurants, all overlooking the park. Unexpectedly one of these picturesque venues is a Macdonalds (the nicest location for a fast food chain I’ve seen in a long while) so there several dining choices to suit a mix of tastes and budgets. After eating there’s a playground a few feet away for kids to let off steam, before retracing your steps to the Belem station, and heading back to the city centre.

Suddenly our time in the capital was up. We couldn’t do everything. If I return I’d prioritise the castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge), Parque Eduardo VII and the modern Park of Nations (home to the aquarium and cable car).

 

The next stop for us was Cascais and the Portuguese riviera – a region of glamour, casinos, James Bond, fairytale castles and WW2 espionage. More to come on that soon.

OUR STORY –  We flew from Edinburgh to Lisbon with Easyjet. We spent 2 nights in Lisbon, 2 nights in Cascais, before our return.

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46 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lydia

    June 3, 2018

    Lisbon is truly magnificent and I completely fell in love with it when I visited a couple of months ago, Scots! These are some exceptional ideas to spend time there. The Pasteis de Belem are still making my mouth water!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      It’s great to take a well earned break in the day, eat pastries, but still feel like you’re authentically sight-seeing!

  2. Reply

    Ryan Biddulph

    June 3, 2018

    I betcha the kiddies love that tram Janice. I saw a tram last month in Christchurch but recall watching one on the streets of Istanbul too. Fun. Neat. Blast from the transport past, with an emphasis on slowing things down and traveling in style.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      It was pretty crammed, but still a cool experience, and it got us from A to B, delivered to the park we wanted to visit. The Elevator was cool too, and much more spacious 🙂

  3. Reply

    michelle twin mum

    June 3, 2018

    You look like you had a great time, I’d happily visit Lisbon and I only hear good things about the Martinhal resorts. Mich x

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      They offer luxury specifically for families, which is hard to come by.

  4. Reply

    Baby Loves Travel

    June 4, 2018

    I agree that the playground in the Estrela Gardens is a good spot for little ones to have a run around – we spent a while there when we were in Lisbon recently! #MondayEscapes

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      That’s a coincidence. Did the pebbles drive you nuts too?! 🙂 Belem was our favourite day out. Fantastic city.

  5. Reply

    Donna Vallance

    June 4, 2018

    I love this, We are going next year this is really helpful! I love the trams too.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      The day out in Belem sounds like quite a big undertaking but it’s super easy, compact and ties together beautifully. Glad this helps. Bookmark it!!

  6. Reply

    Jane the Raincity Librarian

    June 4, 2018

    What a stunning city! I’m planning my first-ever trip to Europe, and my itinerary keeps expanding as I learn more about each incredible city – alas, I’ve only got 3 weeks, I’m going to need to start making some serious decisions! 😉

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      That’s going to be tough. Hopefully you can include Lisbon.

  7. Reply

    Skyler - Learningbrave

    June 4, 2018

    Those botanical garden looks wonderful! We have actually spent half a day in Lisbon as a family due to a missed flight. I still dream about those custard tarts, soooooo delicious!! This was a helpful post for one-day when I hopefully get to go back and explore more of Lisbon with my kids, thanks! #MondayEscapes

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 4, 2018

      It was so easy with kids. The city has a great reputation for night life too, so whether with friends, a partner or family, it’s a city that works. Chilled too.

  8. Reply

    Rachel

    June 4, 2018

    I love the look of the trams and the elevator – I like alternative transport like that which you don’t see at home. Some great recommendations and tips here.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 5, 2018

      Variety is the spice of life. Kids loved different modes of transport too.

  9. Reply

    Sarah Christie

    June 4, 2018

    This is no my wish list, our boys really want to visit to its seems such a cool place and how amazing is By The Wine omg, Thanks for linking up #MondayEscapes x

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 5, 2018

      By the Wine was lovely, even with a wee one accompanying me. He had a diet coke (which is a HUGE treat for him).

  10. Reply

    California Globetrotter

    June 5, 2018

    Lisbon is such a beautiful city and sometimes with all the posts I see about it, it feels like I’ve already been there! But i know I need to go myself one day! #CityTripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 5, 2018

      Yes, a popular stop. As a capital city that’s kinda natural, but yes, you’ll find your own vibe when you visit in person.

  11. Reply

    Tanja

    June 5, 2018

    I loved the ride on tram 28 and Belem and the pasteis cakes when I was in Lisbon too:) #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 5, 2018

      A great offering from start to finish really isn’t it!

  12. Reply

    Elizabeth (Wander Mum)

    June 5, 2018

    What a wonderful few days. Lisbon is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a while so interested in your itinerary! Trams are a great way to travel uphill and i can’t resist the custard tarts. Love the look of those handbags at the market too. Thanks for linking #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 6, 2018

      Glad to hear it. And, as I mentioned, there’s still more to see. Hope your tribe can visit soon. All the best.

  13. Reply

    Nicola

    June 6, 2018

    I love those pastries in Belem, delicious
    #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 6, 2018

      Sightseeing and eating pastries – ideal isn’t it!

  14. Reply

    Cathy Glynn

    June 6, 2018

    I need to go to Lisbon, it looks so beautiful and those bags, just love them x

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 6, 2018

      I was seriously tempted. The wares on the stalls looked lovely, really impressed with the offering.

  15. Reply

    Cindy G

    June 6, 2018

    Great recommendations here, I’m bookmarking this for when hopefully we’ll be planning our visit to Lisbon next spring! Such a beautiful city and the Martinhal hotel sounds fantastic and conveniently located #MondayEscapes

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 6, 2018

      Excellent facilities and the location was spot on. Everything is so compact and accessible in Lisbon, it’s a great city for families to get around. Enjoy your trip.

  16. Reply

    Zena's Suitcase

    June 6, 2018

    I already knew I wanted to go to Lisbon, but now you have m utterly convinced. This is very much my kind of holiday. It sounds like you both had a lovely time

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 6, 2018

      We then nipped over to the Portuguese riviera, basing ourselves in Cascais, for sun and beach time. The mix of city break with Cascais was a great balance too.

  17. Reply

    Alex - My LIfe Long Holiday

    June 6, 2018

    We really haven’t seen the best of Lisbon, we were only there for 24 hours sadly, but oh the tiles. I love Portugal and we go every summer as my parents live there now, however the last few times we’ve flown to Porto so Lisbon has been off the cards – I shall save this for when we next get there #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 6, 2018

      I can see why you’re naturally going to head where your parents are based, but if one time you can make it to Lisbon, for even a couple of nights, it’s worth it.

  18. Reply

    bavariansojourn

    June 7, 2018

    It’s somewhere I haven’t made it to yet, but would really love to visit. The food also sounds amazing! 🙂 x #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 11, 2018

      Add it to the city. Fantastic city.

  19. Reply

    Sara

    June 7, 2018

    One of my friends is hoping to take her two girls to Portugal this summer, so I’ll definitely be sharing your post with her! Lisbon keeps getting higher and higher on my list as well. I love the colors and all the outdoor spaces! #CityTripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 11, 2018

      Please do. If I can manage these time frames with a four year old I’m sure it will suit your friend. Hope she has a great time.

  20. Reply

    Chloe: Picture Taker Memory Maker

    June 7, 2018

    I’ve been wanting to visit Lisbon for ages. It looks like such a colourful, fun city to explore. I’d definitely seek out the Botanical Gardens I think, I love escaping to a bit of greenery in the middle of a city.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 11, 2018

      It feels like a rest, even though you’re still sight-seeing.

  21. Reply

    Claire at Tin Box Traveller

    June 10, 2018

    I loved my all too brief day in Lisbon last month. It would be great to go back and do a few of the things you managed to pack in. What a brilliant city! #MondayEscapes

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 11, 2018

      Yes, do try to return. It’s so vibrant.

  22. Reply

    Cultural Wednesday

    June 11, 2018

    Love Lisbon but not been for years, time for a family visit methinks #CityTripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 11, 2018

      Laying temptation in your way. I think you should do it 🙂

  23. Reply

    Sanna Burns

    June 19, 2018

    I totally loved Lisbon and having seen your pics I want to go back – fab for us vegans too. Such a stunning city, the trams, architecture, the tiles… #mondayescapes

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      June 19, 2018

      It’s got it all. Great that you found quality food, it makes such a difference.

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