Best activities to do in Lisbon with kids for a luxury city break
6 April 2019
Are you tempted by Lisbon? Everyone talks about it, everyone goes there, the Portuguese city is definitely an ultra-plebiscite destination! But did you know that Lisbon is very good for family holiday? Together, let’s discover a city where hospitality is combined with delicacy.
I already had the opportunity to write it, I dragged my feet for a long time before taking the plunge and boarding my little family in Lisbon. Probably because of my rebellious spirit, the desire not to do like everyone else… And yet, staying in Lisbon with kids promises happy moments thanks to a warm welcome, lively days and the well-knbown Lisbon inhabitants joy. The Portuguese capital and its pretty colorful buildings offer a city break you will love for sure!
1 – An easily reachable destination
From many European cities, Lisbon can be reached by plane in a few hours. This is a good point because relatively short journeys are preferred in order to travel more serenely with kids, so here is the first good reason to visit the city with your little ones! From Brussels, Paris or Marseille, it will take you about 2,5 hours to reach Lisbon (3 hours from London).
If you have the opportunity, avoid the summer period during which the hot weather is harder to bear, especially for the kids.
But don’t worry: Portugal remains attractive even in summer due to its location at the edge of the ocean. The trade winds, which are the famous measured winds of the inter-tropical zones, bring a relative coolness and some fresh air during the long summer days.
Going to Lisbon with your family requires some organization and anticipation! You have to keep in mind that the place is called the “City of Seven Hills”. In other words, it is full of hilly areas which makes the use of a stroller quite difficult! Also, the street are known for its (beautifully) paved and narrow streets… not ideal! To make it easier for you, I would recommend the use of a baby carrier or an ultra-lightweight cane stroller.
For more information, the tourist office of Portugal provides all the useful advice you need to prepare your city break.
2 – The place is made up of the best kid-friendly luxury hotels
To sleep and relax after a long day of sightseeing and strolling, I undoubtedly recommend to choose one of the Martinhal Hotels. This Portuguese brand offers luxury holidays for families.
To feel the city’s heart beat and enjoy its atmosphere, book a room at the Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites located in the historic center. A very contemporary and innovative concept that combines happiness and freedom. The entire family benefits from the comfort and services of a high-quality hotel. As a matter of fact, babies and children from 6 months love the kids-club! This elegant and family-friendly place offers well-equipped apartments with an incredible casually designed restaurant.
The kids-club, being very professional, can also watch over the younger ones while you escape a few hours in peace, leaving your toddlers in good hands. The program includes festivities, fun and artistic activities, evenings in pajamas, a baby-sitting service… All baby equipment is also available to families (bottle warmers, sterilizers, safety barriers, children’s beds …).
The hotel is located in one of the liveliest areas of the capital and offers quick access to Avenida da Libertade, the equivalent of the Portuguese Champs-Elysées, for a delicious shopping session.
However, if you prefer to stay away from the city, opt for the Martinhal Lisbon Cascais Family Hotel, beautifully located on the Atlantic coast, just 20 minutes by train or 30 minutes’ drive from Lisbon. We are this time in resort mode within a natural setting where 72 rooms and 12 villas are nestled, whose contemporary and minimalist style retain the codes of authentic Portuguese houses. Three restaurants, a spa, three pools, one indoor and a kids-club with 2,300 m² of playgrounds make the stay more enjoyable. A real paradise for families!
3 – What to visit now?
Here is my advice if you want to quickly get acquainted with the city and immediately feel its special atmosphere: Do not hesitate to take a ride on board the tourist bus that crosses Lisbon, upon arrival. Yes, I know it’s ultra-touristic and the concept is never very glamorous. And yet, it has the advantage of delighting the little ones who discover many nice things while being well seated.
That being said, I also suggest a much more attractive alternative to consider the city as a whole. A boat trip on the Tagus, aboard the very surprising Hippotrip, an original bus that turns into an amphibious vehicle to discover the main attractions of Lisbon and to then join Belém.
Other great transport for kids, the very authentic trams. The must-see Electric Tramway No28 winds its way through the winding little streets of the historic district, to the delight of little ones. You will find the starting point of this beautiful white and yellow Tram on Martim Moniz Square. Small tip, try to climb the Tram 28 outside rush hours, that is, before 10 am or after 3 pm, the experience will be more serene.
4 – Appreciate the Mediterranean architecture
Impossible to discover Lisbon, the vibrant and joyful capital, without getting lost in the maze of its pretty charming streets. They are within themselves a real open-air museum, you can walk there for hours to admire the pretty Mediterranean houses at the option of narrow and winding streets. Do not forget to look up because every corner holds a marvel! Discovering these colorful houses, we understand why Lisbon people are so cheerful and friendly.
The neighborhood of Alfama, located near the Tagus and a living witness of the Moorish heritage of the city, is for me one of the most beautiful and most picturesque of the city. We appreciate its beautiful wooded esplanades and shady terraces that embellish the promenade.
Alfama is also famous for being the birthplace of Fado, a melancholy Portuguese song that UNESCO has even decided to classify as intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The Fado Museum, is particularly suitable for children because it is very interactive, and helps in the discovery this Portuguese cultural curiosity. I consider it very important to introduce children to other cultures and cultural sensitivities since an early age in order to enrich them and make them curious about the world around them.
Another curiosity which is 100% Made in Lisbon, the wall art, by that we mean the art of graffiti. If the city is now famous for its long tradition of mural art, it is thanks to the municipality that actively supports Street Art artists. We find nearly 6,000 works on the walls of houses of the city with a thousand colors. In Portugal, we also often find graffiti authorized on the electrical cabinets of the meters. With the older ones, do not hesitate to go in search of these magnificent graffiti which embellish the city.
Open to the sky and water, Lisbon also enjoys sublime views of the city and the river. Several watchtowers serve to enjoy a breathtaking view. A nice spot for a little gourmet break is the Café da Garagem, located in the Teatro da Garagem which offers a splendid view of the old town around some good pastries and a coffee shop. A nice time with the family.
You can also refer to my article about Portugal, which lists the best viewpoints of Lisbon.
5 – A pinch of culture, a splash of leisure
Did you know that Lisbon hosted the 1998 Universal Exhibition? Witness of this event, the Park of the Nations has today become an ultra-contemporary touristic complex, with a Casino and magnificent gardens. Largely dedicated to the oceans, it will not fail to delight your children.
Never forget to introduce the little ones to history by introducing them to the famous Casteo São Jorge, an impressive remnant of the Islamic era of the 11th century city. This beautiful fortress is perched on the highest hill in the city and benefits from one of the most impressive panoramas on Lisbon. Many recreational activities are especially planned for families on weekends. A beautiful garden surrounds this remarkable heritage.
There is indeed the Oceanarium, one of the largest oceanographic parks in Europe, a must-see for the whole family. The park is built around a spectacular giant pond, containing no less than 5 million liters of salt water, in which all kinds of fish evolve. Many activities are offered for families. I strongly recommend you take the cable car that allows you to travel more quickly within the Park.
In the heart of Lisbon, you will discover the Puppet Museum, which offers original exhibitions from around the world. Located in the Estrela district and housed in a former convent founded in the 17th century, this museum offers one of the largest collections of puppets. It teaches you everything you need to know about this popular art and the art of telling and playing stories. All enhanced by an impressive collection of African and Asian puppets and masks.
6 – Not to forget the inescapable gourmet breaks
A little away from the city center, the Belém district was the starting point of the conquistadors in the 15th century. The caravel of one of the most famous, Vasco de Gama, also left Belém to discover the sea route to India. One can visit the famous Tower of Belém, a true architectural gem, and its delightful gardens with his family. And to reward the small troupe after this cultural episode, a visit to the Antiga Confeitarias of Belém is essential. Children will learn Portuguese gastronomy at the best address in Lisbon. You can enjoy the famous little round cakes with cream called Pasteis de Nata. Composed of a very thin puff pastry and a melting cream, they are served, according to the ancestral recipe, warm sprinkled with a hint of cinnamon and icing sugar. You will have to be a little patient because you often come from far to enjoy these authentic Portuguese pastries but it is really worth it…
Nothing like a brunch to enjoy a good time with the family. Saturday noon, I invite you to discover the one at Café Com Calma, located in Rua do Açucar at Marvila. This kids-friendly address offers a vintage-style decoration that has nothing to do with classic Lisbon decors and postcard images where Azulejos holds a place of honor. The furniture is mismatched in a « recycling » spirit, a beautiful marble counter decorates the back of the room and you can enjoy a wide selection of sweet and savory treats. And to extend the moment, a stroll in the district of Marvila is essential. A creative wind blows indeed on this formerly abandoned district of Lisbon, which is today in the process of becoming the new Brooklyn, according to some! Along the Tagus, one walks with pleasure in the footsteps of the rich industrial past of the city, to discover old warehouses transformed into art galleries, design stores or antique shops.
I wish you a wonderful family trip to Lisbon!
Até a vista!