Portugal’s family-focused culture creates a welcoming atmosphere for even the youngest travelers. I think a large part of why I fell in love with Lisbon so quickly was how friendly Lisboetas were towards me and my son. Lisbon was my first trip after moving to Cambridge, England, and I was still new to traveling with a baby as our son was only 10 weeks old. My first experience in Portugal encouraged me not only to keep traveling, but to head back the following summer to explore more.
While the people are friendly, the city can be difficult to navigate with a baby or toddler in tow, or even a young child that doesn’t love hiking up hills all day. Walking is the best way to experience the city, but the hills, the stairs, and the beautiful but bumpy cobbled sidewalks require some effort. After spending a few months traipsing up and down the seven hills of Lisbon, these are my best tips for visiting Lisbon with kids.
1 Bring a baby carrier
Lisbon is one of those cities where it is best to ditch the stroller and use your baby carrier. With a nickname like The City of Seven Hills, finding yourself at the bottom of a set of stairs or steep hill is a common occurrence. Plus, narrow, cobbled sidewalks and streets can be difficult to navigate with a stroller. When my son was still newborn, I used a light fabric wrap like this one for travel and daily use. After a few months, we switched to the original Ergobaby carrier, and it’s been our go-to for almost two years. (For 10% off, use code BBMkp9VIniU at ergobaby.com)
2 If you do bring a stroller…
Bring one that is lightweight, easily folds, but has wheels that can handle the cobblestones. We have a Baby Jogger City Mini, which has been a great traveling stroller and fits those three criteria. An umbrella stroller with smaller wheels will get stuck on the little limestone squares that pattern the sidewalks, plazas and streets.
If I was walking a familiar path or Aaron was coming with us, I usually used the stroller since it could get incredibly hot on those summer days with my son strapped to my chest. It seems like if I ever veered off course, I would inevitably end up staring at a very long set of stairs. We’d usually each carry one end, or sometimes Aaron would show me up and take the stairs like the picture above.
3 Stay in a family friendly area
Most areas are very family friendly, so just avoid the few party neighborhoods if you want to get a solid night of sleep – mainly Barrio Alto and Cais do Sodré. Most hotels and apartments welcome all children, and often offer things like free baby cots. Here’s a few kid-friendly places to stay, all with full kitchens and baby cots or a child bed upon request.
Canto do 28 Apartment (Approx $97/night, fits 4) – One bedroom apartment in the historic Alfama neighborhood. Baby cots are an extra EUR 10 per night.
Mouraria Airbnb (Approx $150 per night, fits 4) – Two bedroom apartment in Mouraria near Castle São Jorge. When we stayed, our host provided a baby cot, baby bath and high chair free of charge.
Cozy Baixa Apartment (Approx $177/night, fits 6) – Two bedroom apartment with balcony in downtown Baixa neighborhood.
4 Find the family line
Places like the grocery store and the airport usually have a line marked specifically for families. At first I was a bit timid to head to the front if others were already in line. But, every time I went to the grocery store, I was gently guided past the other patrons if I didn’t go there myself. Lisboetas take this seriously, so don’t be surprised if someone starts shuttling you to the front of the line. This happened at a few historical sites too, like the Jerónimos Monastery. Someone told me to go to the front of the line, for which I was extremely grateful, because it was a hot day and a very long line (this rule seemed to be for younger kids, probably under 2). If you’re not sure, it never hurts to ask if there’s a specific family line.
5 Enjoy Lisbon’s beautiful parks
Lisbon has some amazing parks, you just have to go looking for them as they are not in the popular tourist neighborhoods like Biaxa, Chiado and the Alfama. Some have playgrounds, but they aren’t just for kids. Most neighborhoods have a park where everyone gathers in the evening to chat, play, and grab a drink at the convenient refreshment kiosks.
Here’s a few of my favorite parks around the city.
Jardim da Estrela – This large park was my go-to near our neighborhood of Campo de Ourique. It is ringed with a few walking paths, has a playground, café, little library, and a beautiful bandstand. Trams 25 and 28 stop at the front gates, the Estrela Basilica is across the street, and some of the best gelato in the city is a few blocks away at Gelataria Nannarella.
Jardim do Príncipe Real – This park is part of the reason Príncipe Real is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Lisbon. It has a playground, a larger café as well as two refreshment kiosks. On Saturdays you can visit the reservoir portion of Lisbon’s water museum that sits under the park. Plus, the large and ancient cedar tree in the middle of the grounds fans into a large circular shade, perfect for a sunny day.
Jardim do Campo do Ourique – This was our local park, and it was fun to see it come alive every night as the neighborhood meeting spot. I also loved stopping by during the day, where a group of older men would always gather to play card games in the afternoon.
Tapada das Necessidades – This park feels a bit forgotten with its dry fountains and empty greenhouse with a beautiful glass dome. It’s a peaceful spot with one of the rare large grassy fields in the center of Lisbon. The park also seems to be home to quite a few families of peacocks. Head out of the southern gate of the park and past the pink Necessidades Palace (housing the Portuguese Foreign Ministry) to a pretty fountain and great view of the 25 de Abril bridge.
Eduardo VII Park – For a unique view of Lisbon, head up the sloped, tree-lined path in Eduardo VII Park. At the top of the park, you’ll have a view over the geometric hedges that run the length of the park, straight down to the Marquis de Pombal statue. You can even see past the downtown area and to the Tagus river.
Jardim do Torel – This garden is the closest to the downtown area, but seems to be the hardest to find. Head up a steep set of stairs, or use the Lavra lift to access this quiet and shady spot in the middle of the busy city.
6 Indulge in a treat or two
Or in my case, too many to count. Our son was too young to ask for treats, but Lisbon is a child’s paradise with a pastelaria on almost every street and so many amazing gelaterias around town. If you’re hunting for the best pastéis de nata, check out our post here on where to find them in Lisbon. And if you want a guide to everything else in the display case, see a list of our favorite Portuguese sweets here.
7 When/What/Where to eat
If you want to eat at a popular neighborhood tasca (restaurant) without the wait, head there early, around 6pm. Most Lisboetas tend to eat a bit later, so if we wanted good food without the long wait, we just ate an early dinner.
For a quick bite, grab a bifana, a Portuguese pork sandwich that is served at almost every café for about €2. The best are from O Trevo right off Praça Luís de Camões.
Another great place to sample food from some of Portugal’s best chefs in a casual setting is the Time Out Market (also known as the Mercado da Ribeira). This food hall was renovated within the past few years. It features places like the popular SEA ME restaurant and offerings by Portuguese chefs like Alexandre Silva. It’s some of the best food in Lisbon, all under one roof.
8 Best things to do in Lisbon with kids
Places like the zoo and oceanarium end up on lists of things to do when visiting Lisbon with kids pretty often, so we focused our suggestions on places that are unique to this amazing city. Just wandering the streets of colorful Lisboa could keep some kids interested for hours, but here’s a few of our favorite stops that kids will love too. For even more ideas on things to do in Lisbon, check out our Lisbon bucket list!
Jerónimos Monastery – Even if your kids are too young to appreciate this monastery’s role in Portugal’s golden age of discovery, they’ll love wandering the outdoor cloisters and searching for hidden rooms.
Monument of Discoveries – Portugal’s massive Monument of Discoveries is a great place to get a bird’s-eye view of Belém and the Tagus. You can also follow the path of Portuguese navigators in the stone mosaic map laid into the pavement in front of the monument.
Museu Nacional dos Coches – There’s no better place to imagine the life of royalty than a visit to Museu dos Coches. These ornate carriages befitting of a princess make up one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world.
Castelo de São Jorge – The oldest ruins of this Moorish castle overlooking Lisbon date from the 6th century, though most of it has been restored. The grounds are a fun place for kids to wander and explore.
Carmo Convent – This is a great place to learn about the history of Lisbon, because you can still see the evidence of the 1755 earthquake. The roof is missing on the convent, and the interior is just a shell. The attached museum has some interesting artifacts. Walk around the back for a view from the top of the Santa Justa elevator.
Electricity museum / MAAT – If your kids are big museum-goers, they’ll love Lisbon’s hands-on Electricity museum. The museum is housed in a beautiful brick building that used to serve as a thermoelectric plant. You can follow the productions of electricity starting in the boiler room, through the generator room and ending in the control room.
Ride on Tram 28 – This tram follows the best route through the old city. The tram line starts in Campo de Ourique and goes through Baixa, past the Sé Cathedral and through the Alfama to end at Martim Moniz. Hang on to your seat as you hurtle down steep streets and make sharp turns! Hitch a ride on this popular tourist tram first thing in the morning if you want a seat and to avoid being packed in like sardines. Trams 12 and 25 are also good options as they follow much of the same picturesque route, but tend to be less busy.
Tuk tuk ride – A tuk tuk ride is a fun way to see the streets of Lisboa at a faster pace. Plus it feels more like a Disneyland ride in a little cart on lots of steep and bumpy streets. Most of the tuk tuks are now electric to keep the noise pollution and gas fumes down to a minimum.
Street Art Tour – A street art tour is a great way to learn more about the current mindset of the city, and see the work of some contemporary Portuguese artists. Most kids can appreciate the vivid colors and bold lines in the street art around Lisbon. I highly recommend the tour with Lisbon Street Art Tours.
Day trip to Sintra – For fairytale castles and gardens that feel like they’re full of magic and mystery, you can’t miss a day trip to the hillside town of Sintra. See more information for a day trip to Sintra here.
9 Spend a relaxing day on the beach
When both you and your kids are exhausted from trekking through Lisbon, head to one of the beautiful beaches just a short train ride from Lisbon. Hop on the train at the Cais do Sodré railway station. Within 15 minutes you’ll be out of the Tagus estuary and on soft sandy beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Our favorite beaches along this route are Carcavelos, the beaches in Cascais, and Praia do Guincho. For some tips on a day trip to Cascais, including where to borrow free bikes, check out our post here.
10 Be prepared for hot summer temps
The warm summer temperatures feel even hotter in Lisbon, with the bright sun reflecting off the white limestone buildings and sidewalks. Put on your sunscreen before you head out the door, and remember to hydrate throughout the day. You can order a free glass of water from cafes by asking for a “copo de agua.” My favorite way to beat the heat was to eat lots and lots of ice cream and popsicles. 🙂
If I ever needed an easy place to stop and rest to grab a drink, use the restroom or change a diaper, my backup was the popular Portuguese chain A Padaria Portuguesa. It’s almost becoming the Starbucks equivalent in Lisbon where it’s on every corner. Plus, it’s an excellent excuse to pick up my favorite snack, Pão de Deus.
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