Lisbon is definitely one of my favourite cities in Europe with kids. It’s colourful, charming, walkable, boasts wonderful weather and delicious food.
The city is home to some excellent museums as well as historical sites that will please even the most culture-wary kids. There’s a brilliant aquarium, a colourful palace (hello, Sintra!) and lots of fun shops, cafes and restaurants to discover in Lisbon with kids.
Lisbon is a great place for a quick city break or as part of a longer one-week Portugal itinerary.
Oh, and did I mention the tiles? It’s fair to say that each time I visit Lisbon I come home with a lot of photos of tiled buildings.
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Lisbon with children
Famously built on seven hills, walking around Lisbon requires some stamina. Fortunately, bright yellow and red trams ply the city streets to help when little legs get tired.
Colourful tuk-tuks are also plentiful and another good option for getting around the city.
The narrow cobbled streets and steep hills don’t, however, make Lisbon very pushchair-friendly. If you’re travelling with babies and toddlers, consider a baby carrier instead.
Lisbon itself is a warren of characterful neighbourhoods and colourful streets; wide plazas and dramatic lookout points; excellent eateries and shops that don’t appear to have changed in hundreds of years (some of them haven’t!).
Lisbon is also one of Europe’s sunniest cities – we visited for February half-term and enjoyed blue skies and sunshine every day. The other welcoming bit of news is that Lisbon is very affordable.
If you’re looking to explore more of Portugal with kids then this post has some good ideas.
[author][author_info]Don’t miss these 11 best shops in Lisbon when visiting. If you’re wondering where to eat in Lisbon then these are some of our favourite restaurants (including where to get the best custard tarts and ice cream). If you have more time then you should head to the coast and spend a few days at Martinhal Cascais, a luxury family-friendly hotel[/author_info] [/author]
Ride the Eléctrico 28
Riding a tram is a really fun thing to do when visiting Lisbon with kids. You can jump on any of the cable cars but for a tour through some of the city’s most popular neighbourhoods catch a ride on the hop on hop off tram Number 28.
Trolley number 28 rumbles and screeches through the narrow city streets taking in the Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela neighbourhoods.
A single ticket purchased on board the tram costs €3.00. A much better option is to buy a 24-hour public transport ticket from any metro station, which can be used on all the metro, tram and bus services. This ticket costs €6.40.
Make sure to keep an eye on your bags while on the tram. No. 28 gets very busy and apparently has become a popular spot for pickpockets.
Visit the Praça do Comércio
Lisbon’s biggest public square sits down by the waterfront and is a great place to let kids run around.
This square was the site of Portugal’s royal palace until the Great Earthquake of 1755; the Arco da Rua Augusta – the impressive Triumphal Arch – now stands there and was built to commemorate the city’s rebirth after the earthquake. You can climb to the top of the arch for a view over the Baixa neighbourhood and the river.
Discover the history of Lisbon at the Lisboa Story Centre
We loved the Lisbon Story Centre. Located on the Praça do Comércio, this interactive centre follows the history of Lisbon starting with Ulysses, who arrived at the place where Lisbon was founded on his return from the war in Troy, through to present day.
The 60-minute audio guide is very good and works well for both adults and kids as it follows the wars, quests, victories, creation and destruction that shaped the city.
One room focuses on the 1755 earthquake and involves a film that some children might find overwhelming. You can choose to skip this room if you like.
Eat at the Time Out Market
The Mercado da Ribeira first opened its doors in 1892 selling fresh fruit and veg, fish and flowers. These stalls are still here today but the other half of this historic market hall has been taken over by the Time Out Market.
Located in the city centre this indoor market is home to 26 restaurants, 8 bars, a handful of shops and even a music venue. this is a really fun place to eat in Lisbon with kids (for more restaurant recommendations, take a look at my where to eat in Lisbon post). You can find everything from sushi and salads to dishes by Michelin-starred chefs.
[author][author_info]One of the best ways to make the most of Lisbon for kids is to invest in the Lisboa Card. This card is available for 24, 48, or 72 hours and provides unlimited free access to Lisbon’s public transport systems and free or discounted admission at various landmarks. Lisbon cards start from £17.22 per person.[/author_info] [/author]
Go underwater at the Oceanário De Lisboa
Lisbon is home to the largest aquarium in Europe, the Oceanário De Lisboa. We visited on our final morning and it was one of our favourite things to do with kids in Lisbon.
This enormous underwater world is home to two curious sunfish, some hypnotic dragon sea horses, mammoth Manta rays, adorable sea otters and much more.
Particularly mind-boggling is the huge main aquarium that holds five million litres of seawater (yes, really!). It’s divided into four marine habitats where all manner of colourful sea creatures swim about. We also really enjoyed the “Forests Underwater” exhibition.
The aquarium holds classical music concerts for babies on Saturday mornings and overnight Sleeping with the Sharks experiences for older kids.
The aquarium is located 12 minutes from Lisbon’s airport and there are lockers for your luggage. We spent several hours here the morning of our departure date and headed straight from the aquarium to catch our flight. There’s also a good-looking cafeteria here if you want to grab something to eat.
Get hands-on at the Science Museum
Next door to the aquarium is the Pavilhão do Conhecimento, the Pavilion of Knowledge, Lisbon’s Science Museum. This excellent hands-on museum is a brilliant thing to do in Lisbon.
The museum is divided into a number of different worlds, including one that is aimed at younger children.
Some of the kids’ favourite activities included riding a bike – E.T. style – along a piece of rope suspended across the main hall, learning about the digestive system, building marble runs and creating electrical circuits for robots.
Travel in the Elevador de Santa Justa
Originally constructed to transport passengers up the steep Carmo Hill, the Elevador de Santa Justa first opened in 1902. Today, it’s primarily a tourist attraction and lines to ride up the elevator can be very long.
Even if you don’t take a ride, however, it’s worth visiting to see the structure, which is constructed from wrought iron and is quite beautiful.
The polished wood carriages travel up to a viewing platform, which affords wonderful panoramic views over the city. The good news is that you can get this same view without waiting in line; the terrace where the elevator stops is open to the public and can be accessed by foot.
Wander around the Alfama Neighbourhood
Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood is also its most charming; each narrow, windy street has a story to tell and you can simply wander along getting pleasantly lost.
See if you can spot the purple house, one of the few houses to remain standing after the 1755 earthquake.
This neighbourhood was founded by the Moors; the name Alfama comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning ‘hot fountains’. Many of the residents living here today have been here for decades. Wandering around you’ll spot more than one enterprising local selling Ginja (the local liquor) from outside their house.
This is the neighbourhood to visit if you want to eat a traditional meal and listen to some equally traditional fado music (you can also enjoy fado performances in other parts of town including Bairro Alto where nightly fado performances are held at Laia Fado.
You will need to reserve and there’s a minimum 50 Euro order per customer). If you want to learn more about this traditional Portuguese music genre, there’s the Museo de Fado in Alfama.
Go for a walk in the Jardim da Estrela
This large landscaped park sits in front of the Baroque Basilica da Estrela. It’s one of Lisbon’s biggest and best parks, home to duck ponds and a kid-pleasing playground. There’s a cafe in the middle that has a kids’ area which, in the summer months, is staffed with regular child-friendly activities. Summer weekends also see craft fairs spring up in the park and live music performances.
Visit the oldest bookstore in the world
Admittedly, we were a little underwhelmed by our visit to Livraria Bertrand but it’s still worth stopping by this bookstore, the oldest operating book shop in the world.
Livraria Bertrand was first opened in 1732 as a hub for the city’s intellectual scene. Since then, it has witnessed two world wars, sixteen presidents and six coups. It’s also become the cornerstone for the Bertrand bookstore chain.
Despite its grand heritage, however, the store does feel like a modern day bookstore. There’s a kids’ section at the back and a small cafe.
Explore the Pharmacy Museum
One of the more unusual things to do in Lisbon is to visit the Pharmacy Museum. I really enjoyed the discovering the history of medicine in Portugal and around the world but unfortunately the exhibits were a little dry for the kids.
If you do get the time, however, it’s worth visiting this museum as they have an incredible collection of medicinal lotions and potions dating back hundreds of years.
On display is the Apothecary Chest used by Henry Morton Stanley on his trip to Africa and the emergency medical kit used by Ernest Shackleton. Also on display are some very painful-looking chastity belts for both men and women – which may prompt some interesting discussions with kids!
Outside is the excellent, Pharmacia Felicidade, a terrace cafe serving medicinal themed cocktails. There is also a restaurant and the food is supposed to be very good.
Make Portuguese bracelets at Missangas & Co.
Making bracelets at Missangas & Co is a really fun thing to do in Lisbon with children. This jewellery store is home to thousands and thousands of beads, which you can use to create your own bracelets or necklaces. There are Portuguese-inspired beads, glass beads, metal beads, colourful beads, plain beads and anything else that you can think of. My kids each created and made a bracelet in the shop and wore it for the rest of the holiday.
Ride on a Funicular
There are three funiculars in Lisbon, designed to help locals and visitors tackle the city’s steep slopes. All three, the Elevador do Lavra, Elevador da Glória and Elevador da Bica, were designed by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, the same man who designed the Santa Justa Elevator. They are fun to ride and they also make a great photo opportunity! Tickets bought on board cost €2,90.
See the views from the Castelo de São Jorge
The Castelo de São Jorge (Lisbon Castle) sits high up on São Jorge hill, the highest hill in Lisbon. It’s a popular attraction and offers some of great views over the red-tiled roofs of the city.
The castle has housed Visigoths, Moors, Christians, royals and convicts but today welcomes visitors from across the world. Little remains of life inside the castle, instead you’ll have to content yourself with the views.
There is a camera obscura in the Tower of Ulysses, which offers a 360-degree view of Lisbon. You can buy your tickets ahead of time and skip the line via Get Your Guide.
Visit Lisbon’s coolest neighbourhood, the LX Factory
You’ll find Lisbon’s coolest neighbourhood in an old industrial strip beneath the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. This area used to be home to some of Lisbon’s most prosperous fabric factories but they were abandoned once the city’s golden age of industry finished.
The buildings lay derelict until 2008 when some innovative locals decided to breathe new life into the area and created the LX Factory. Today it’s home to shops, cafés, bars, art spaces, barbers, start-ups, tattoo studios and more.
There’s nothing in particular for kids here but it’s a fun place to wander around; time your visit for the afternoon when everything will be open. Visit on a Sunday for LX’s very own flea market.
Get your candy fix at Papabubble
This fun little emporium of all things sweet is another one of the cool stores in Lisbon that we discovered. Arrive between 11am and 3pm and you’ll see Lisbon’s answer to Willy Wonka creating rock candy behind the counter. Papabubble sells lollipops and sweets for sale in a range of tasty flavours.
Take a tour with With Locals
We spent an afternoon from Isabel, one of the guides from With Locals and it was an excellent introduction to Lisbon. We’ve taken a couple of With Locals tours now and I’ve found them to be a great way to get a feel for the city. Time your tour for your first afternoon and you’ll be armed with lots of local tips for the rest of your family vacation in Lisbon. We enjoyed a private three-hour Lisbon Like a Local Family tour and loved it.
Walk with the animals at Lisbon Zoo
We didn’t make it to the Jardim Zoologico on our Lisbon family trip but by all accounts it’s very good. Although not very large, the zoo is home to a wide variety of animals has a strong conservation ethos. The zoo is located in the north of the city.
Day trips from Lisbon
There are a number of day trips you can take from Lisbon including to see the big wave riders at Nazaré and the medieval town of Obidos. We didn’t make it to either of these on this trip but we did visit Belem and Sintra.
Sintra: Pena Palace
Don’t miss a day trip to Sintra, famous for the brightly hued Pena Palace and a fun day trip from Lisbon for kids of all ages.
The UNESCO World Heritage town sits at the foothills of the Sintra mountains where cooling breezes offer respite from the Lisbon’s summer heat. This is one of the reasons why Roman, Moorish and Portuguese royalty chose to build their summer homes here.
Lisbon to Sintra only takes 30-40 minutes on the train.
Belem: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Adults will love visiting the Jeronimos Monastery (also called the Hieronymites Monastery) in Belem. It’s one of the most visited sites in the capital and for good reason, it’s absolutely stunning.
It was built to commemorate the return of Vasco de Gama, a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. Construction began on January 6, 1501 and wasn’t completed until nearly 100 years later as designs for the monastery became more and more elaborate and ornate as the country’s wealth grew.
Truthfully, the monastery might not win many favours with young kids but Belem itself is a lovely day trip from Lisbon, and you can always bribe them with Portuguese tarts!
If you do visit make sure you get there early as there is always a long line. To try and avoid standing in line for too long, buy your ticket from the Archaeology Museum instead of the main monastery entrance, your wait time will be much shorter. You can’t buy tickets online but Get Your Guide do offer a skip the line ticket.
Pastéis de Belém
There’s a lot to love about Portugal but there’s one thing that you’ll probably love a little bit more than anything else and that’s the pasteis de nata, custard tarts. You can find pasteis de nata almost anywhere in Lisbon but for the real deal, head to the world-famous Pastéis de Belém pastry shop located very near the Jeronimos Monastery.
The pasteis de nata actually originated from the monastery itself; the story goes that a monk sold the recipe to a bakery in the Belém district in 1834, after the monasteries were closed by the state. The family went on to found the famous bakery in Belem where the original tarts are still made – and the exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret!
For more ideas on where to get delicious pasteis de nata, take a look at this post.
Torre de Belém and Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Near the monastery are two landmarks commissioned to celebrate Portugal’s significant role in the Age of the Discoveries, including Vasco da Gama.
Immediately opposite the monastery, on the bank of the river Tagus, is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is a monument that pays tribute to the 33 prominent figures in the country’s age of exploration.
Further along the riverside is the Belem Tower (Torre de Belém) that was commissioned by King John II to defend the coast from foreign invaders.
Both are very impressive but younger children in particular will probably prefer the gargoyles, dungeons and cannons of the Belém Tower. They can also look out for the rhino carved in stone on the tower’s rampart. It is possible to climb to the top of the tower but the stairs are narrow so be careful with little kids.
Where to stay in Lisbon with kids
The first time I visited Portugal was with the Martinhal hotel group that own four family-friendly properties in Portugal; two in the Algarve one in Cascais and one in central Lisbon. I spent one night at the Martinhal Chiado hotel and this really is the best kid-friendly hotel in Lisbon.
Conveniently located in the area known as “Pombaline Baixa”, where the historical old town meets the newer business area, it’s a brilliant location for exploring Lisbon.
The hotel has 37 apartments (ranging from studios to two-bedrooms) that have everything you might need to make a family city break easy. Each apartment has a kitchen complete with a stove, dishwasher, washer-dryer, fridge, crockery and plastic plates and bowls for kids.
As with all Martinhal properties it is very, very family-friendly; there are stair gates wherever needed, stools so younger children can reach the sink, bottle sterilising equipment, pushchairs – literally anything you think of, they have.
There is even a mini climbing wall for kids. Best of all, however, is the complimentary kids’ club that welcomes children from the age of six months to early teens.
The second time we visited we rented a lovely apartment from The Plum Guide. It was the first time I had used the company (it’s like a more curated version of AirBnB) and I was really pleased with the number of apartments on offer within a good price range. We rented the Un-Covent, a three-bedroom apartment just 10 minutes walk from the Time Out Market and it was comfortable, stylish and very well-priced.
The best time to visit Lisbon
Lisbon is one of the sunniest cities in Europe and is pretty fabulous at any time of year. However, summer gets very busy so if you can time your visit between March and May or September to October, you’ll enjoy great weather but less people. We visited during February and had excellent weather with blue skies, sunshine and temperatures averaging 16C.