In our latest Quick Guide, Stephanie Smith shares her tips for a city break in Lisbon with the family.
With its steep hills and sea views, this charming, colourful capital is a world away from Amsterdam. Escape to the beach and jump on free bikes if the city heat becomes too much.
Top Five Things to Do and See
1. Walk under the triumphal arch into Rua Augusta – a pedestrianised shopping street lined with mosaic buildings – to Praca do Comercio’s sparkling view of the Tagus Estuary
2. Take the iconic No.28 yellow tram and explore the old hilly quarter of Lisbon. Jump off at the Castelo de Sao Jorge for great views of the city and admire the peacocks strutting round the ramparts.
3. Every Tuesday and Saturday, browse the Feira da Ladra flea market for toys and crafts in the Alfama – street stalls start at the Arco de São Vicente. Order the best hot chocolate at the market café.
4. A 30-minute cheap train ride takes you to Cascais, a charming fishing port with wonderful beaches. Here you can rent free bikes from a kiosk opposite the train station (be early, passport needed) and cycle the buzzing 2km esplanade to Estoril.
5. Closer to town, you can also feel the sea breeze at Belem. Waterside cafés, parks, and the historic tower provide interesting spaces to relax and let off some steam.
Neighbourhood playgrounds are fairly limited in central Lisbon but the following parks and gardens have great free play areas:
1. A favourite with families, Jardim da Estrela is one of the loveliest parks in the city with a big playground and kiosk café to please all ages. The more formal Parque Eduardo VII provides iconic views overlooking the Tagus River. Halfway down the hill, on the righthand side, is a nice sandy playground.
2. Praca das Amoreiras, a charming square next to a viaduct, has a kiosk café (serving excellent Caldo Verde soup) where you can sit and eat next to the small playground.
3. Animax is a small amusement park located next to the Zoo, free to enter and open daily. Should you venture into the popular zoo, don’t miss the ‘Aerial Safari’ cable-car ride and daily dolphin show.
The weather is so good in Lisbon you’ll probably spend most of your time exploring outside, but here are some indoor activities should you need to seek shelter:
1. The outstanding Oceanarium is split up into different oceans and climates. You can actually feel the temperature and humidity change as you pass through different areas, adding to the whole experience. Voted best aquarium in the world by Trip Advisor.
2. Heading out of town from the Zoo is the Columbo Centro shopping centre. On the first floor is a funky play area with slides, tunnels, and interactive games for ages 2-9. Open daily.
3. The Science Museum (Pavilhão do Conhecimento), in the Parque das Nacoes neighbourhood, has fun construction and crafting zones to keep little hands busy. Go at lunch time and pay half price. When you’ve finished exploring the museum, take a cable car ride. Children under 7 are free.
1. Eat your way round the Mercado da Ribeira, an incredible food hall and daily market near the Cais do Sodre train station.
2. Make the most of al fresco fun at kiosks located in shady parks serving decent snacks, fresh juices, coffee, and beer.
3. Enjoy a delicious scoop of organic ice-cream at the Amorino Baixa gelato parlour, R. Augusta 209.
4. And of course no trip to Lisbon would be complete without trying a pastel del nata (custard tart). Belem café Antiga Confeitaria is the most famous place to buy them but they’re utterly delicious wherever you go!
1. Central Lisbon: Locate yourself up high to savour the city views and escape the heat. The Torel Palace Hotel is a beautiful, spacious hotel with swimming pool, located next to a funicular.
2. Casa Oliver B&B is a funky family option, located in a square next to the beautiful Botanical Garden.
3. The Inspira Santa Marta Hotel is a serene haven in a fantastic location just off Avenida de Liberdade.
4. Cascais: Villa Cascais Guesthouse is an absolute gem, located right on the beach. Guests can make free use of the swimming pool at its sister hotel The Albatross.
1. Unlike Amsterdam, taxis are gloriously cheap, so make the most of them!
2. Going around with a baby in a stroller can be a bit challenging. Public transport is usually packed and there are lots of cobbled streets.
3. The cheapest way to get about is to buy a Bilhete TurÍstico (travel pass) for unlimited use of trams, buses, metro and elevators. You’ll first need to buy a rechargable Viva Viagem card, available from Metro ticket desks and city kiosks. There is also an open-top Hop on, Hop off bus.
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Stephanie Smith is a freelance travel writer and Amsterdam Mama always on the look-out for the next adventure...and best ice cream.