Family Travel Tips: 3 Days In Lisbon
Updated: Aug 20
This summer we decided to make the trip across the Atlantic for our first family visit to Europe and Lisbon, Portugal was our destination of choice. Read more below for information about the destination and our itinerary complete with suggestions on where to stay, what to do and how to get around to make the most of the visit for the whole family.
Our trip followed this agenda:
With extra time in Lisbon, a trip to Sintra is highly recommended.
Europe is filled with many amazing sights and experiences, so why did we chose Lisbon?
Easy access: As far as international trips go, Lisbon is a fairly quick flight from the east coast of the US. With daily departures on United from both Newark and Washington-Dulles, we had plenty of options to pick from. An overnight flight lasting about 7 hours, it is long enough to get some sleep and hit the ground running on arrival.
Affordability: While not cheap, Lisbon is quite affordable in comparison to other major European cities like London or Paris. Like any major city, hotel rooms to meet any budget are available. Meals are around €20 and a decent bottle of wine is about the same. If you venture outside of Lisbon, prices decrease significantly.
Culture: This was a big factor for us in selecting a family vacation destination. Lisbon has a reputation for being family-friendly and it is well-deserved. Everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming, particularly to children. It started the moment we got off the plane and just got better throughout the week. Customs agents were chatting with my son. The hotel had a special welcome gift for children. Restaurants welcomed tiny diners and accommodated picky palates. Even public transportation was a breeze. In short, children – and the parents traveling with them! - are welcomed as a part of society.
A few additional tidbits on visiting Lisbon:
Be sure to learn the local greetings and a few local phrases. Hello: Olá Please: Por favor Thank you: Obrigado Good bye: Adeus
Dining: Tipping is not required, but rounding up the bill is appreciated. Dinner typically doesn’t start until 8 p.m., though in highly-trafficked tourist areas, there is much more flexibility. And yes – even those late dining times welcome children. We found plenty of options to snack throughout the day and keep our little one’s hunger at bay until the evening.
Walking: While this normally wouldn’t merit its own section, it is well worth mentioning for anyone planning a trip to Lisbon. A major part of the charm of the city are its hills and the unique sidewalks and streets that wind their way around them. The sidewalks are crafted from beautiful, but slippery, tiles. Strollers are an option, but it will be a bumpy ride. If your little one’s legs aren’t totally up to the journey, I recommend a child carrier that allows you to keep your hands free.
Transportation: Driving in Lisbon is not recommended. The public transportation system is fairly easy to navigate and for those who prefer private transport, there are a cabs and tuk tuks readily available.
Savings: If you’re planning to visit a number of attractions, check out the Lisboa card. This gets you discounted or free entry to many of the city’s top attractions as well as access to the trams, busses, metro and train system. For children 5 and under or if you’re only looking for transit access, simply get a metro card that can be reloaded as needed.
Plan ahead: many attractions are closed on Mondays, making it a great day to explore Sintra or Mafra.
Where to stay: For a short visit, I recommend staying in the Baixa-Chiado district. In the center of it all, you’ll have easy access to transportation, are within walking distance of many major sights and can enjoy the pedestrian-friendly Rua Augusta. After a good bit of research on both neighborhoods and specific establishments, we chose the Hotel Santa Justa for our trip.
Located just a block from Rossio Square, it provides easy access to public transportation yet is set away from the majority of the traffic.
We chose a family suite and had a spacious room with a king size bed and double sleeper-sofa for our son. When we checked in there was a welcome gift for us – and one for our son! He got his own amenity kit with a child’s toothbrush, toothpaste, a duck-shaped sponge and a coloring book with colored pencils. The bathroom was quite large with enough space for more than one person to get ready. The desk is equipped with USB and (US) power outlets for easy charging. The room also had air conditioning, which is a plus in Lisbon during the hot summer months.
The hotel restaurant has a good breakfast offering with something for the entire family. We opted to have dinner there one evening and it ended up being our best meal in Lisbon! The octopus was simply outstanding.
Other hotels we considered:
Day 1: Baixa-Chiado and Alfama
Our flight landed around 9:30 a.m. and it took us about an hour to get through the airport, through customs, collect our luggage and make our way to the taxi stand for the 20 minute ride to our hotel. After freshening up, we were off to explore the Rua Augusta, strolling past shops and restaurants on our way to the Praça do Comerico. Make sure to check out the Santa Justa lift on your way. If you want to ride it, your Lisboa card covers the fare.
Back on the Rua Augusta, we stopped along the way to get a traditional pastry before snapping pictures at the Arco da Rua Augusta as we entered the plaza. There’s plenty of space for little ones to stretch their legs and burn some energy after a long flight and for those who want to learn more about this wonderful city, check out the Lisboa Story Centre.
After that it was across the street to the Cais das Colunas for beautiful views of the Tagus river. Stroll along the water and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the city. After that it was back to the Rua Augusta for lunch. The next stop was the opposite end of the Rua Augusta, Rossio Square. After our son chased more than a few pigeons, we hopped in a tuk tuk to take us up to the Castelo de São Jorge. With its cobblestone plazas and impressive views, there are plenty of opportunities to climb and explore. And don’t miss the peacocks that inhabit the grounds! Stay for the sunset views if you can.
After a short 15-minute walk back down to the hotel, it is time to get ready for dinner. There are plenty of options right on Rua Augusta, but going a block in either direction you’ll find delicious options with fewer crowds. The nighttime street entertainers kept our little one amazed well into the night.
Day 1 Summary:
- Rua Augusta
- Praça do Comerica
- Santa Justa Lift
- Cais dos Colunas
- Rossio Square
- Castelo de São Jorge
Day 2 – Belem and Tram 28
Day 2 begins with breakfast at the hotel and a short walk up to Praça da Figuera to catch the bus over to Belem. After about 30 minutes, you’ll arrive just outside the Jerónimos Monastery. From here, stroll through the Jardim da Praça do Império and Jardim Vasco da Gama (which has a playground!). Our son loved running through the gardens and even dipped his toes in the fountain to cool off on a hot summer day.
When you’re ready, head over to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and check out the inlaid map of the Portuguese empire and monument to maritime explorers. For an amazing view, take the elevator to the top of the monument.
From here, check out one of the many food stands along the banks of the Tagus as you make your way down to the iconic Torre de Belém. There’s no shade while you wait to enter the tower, so a good hat comes in handy here. And don’t forget the sunscreen! You’ll get to enter over a drawbridge and make the climb up multiple levels to the top of the tower. Access to each level is controlled as there is only one small spiral staircase providing access to each of the upper levels. Plan to spend about an hour once you’re inside the tower.
After the tower visit, head back to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. It will take 30 to 45 minutes to wander through the main part of the monastery. Enjoy the cool shade and gaze at the beautiful architecture. There’s a separate line for the sanctuary, again, with no shade while you wait.
Once you’re finished, make your way over to Campo Ourique to pick up the Tram 28. Getting there later in the day will help avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, pickpockets are very common on Tram 28. Be sure protect your valuables! Ride the Tram 28 all the way to the last stop at Martim Moniz. You’ll get to see the major sights and experience an old streetcar! After departing the Tram, it is a short 5-minute walk back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
Take the metro from Rossio Square to Cais do Sodré. From here, walk a few blocks to the iconic Pink Street then make your way over to the Time Out Market Lisboa – a unique food hall experience with something to eat and drink for everyone. Find a seat in the hall or get food to go and head to the park outside to dine outdoors. There’s a small playground for little ones and bar for adults. Our little one played here until close to midnight while we met local families and a few American ex-pats.
Day 2 Summary:
Jardim da Praça do Império
Jardim Vasco da Gama
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Torre de Belém
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Day 3: Avenida da Liberdad and Oceanário de Lisboa
Following two packed days, day three is designed to be a bit more low-key, particularly for little explorers. If your crew is a bit more energetic, check out the yellow boat hop-on, hop-off tours or take an early walk through the Alfama district for a different perspective. For the evening, a dinner cruise on the Tagus is another option to provide a memorable experience.
After a leisurely, late breakfast at the hotel, it is time to head out to the Oceanário de Lisboa. And take a ride on the cable car to get great views of the Tagus river. You can get a combined ticket for both the aquarium and the cable car in advance. The cable car doesn’t open until late morning, so there’s no need to rush in the morning.
After exploring all that the aquarium – rated the top aquarium in Europe! – has to offer, head back to Rossio Square and head north to the Avenida da Liberdade. Stroll along the long boulevard to the Parque Eduardo VII. There are plenty of restaurants along the way to stop and enjoy. Then either enjoy the evening walk back to the hotel or take the metro if little feet are tired.
Day 3 Summary: Oceanário de Lisboa
Avenida da Liberdade
Parque Eduardo VII
If you’ve got more time in Lisbon, we highly recommend day trips to Sintra and Mafra.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Lisbon and can't wait to go back and explore more of this beautiful, friendly and welcoming country.
Visit Lisbon? Leave us a comment and share your experience and recommendations with us!