Mamas! Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your beloved hubby gets to enjoy himself abroad on a business trip while you stay home on babysitting duty, with all the jealousy cleverly concealed underneath a “have fun, darling!” smile? Guilty!
That was what triggered me and resulted in our Lisbon family adventure!
When I heard that Khaled is in for a week in Lisbon, Portugal, I was hurt and upset. Business event or not, Portugal had been on my travel bucket list foreeeever, how come it’s not me going there? I sulked and pouted, and sulked some more. Then, a brilliant idea emerged: why don’t I join him with Adam once he’s done with his work obligations?
Sure, it required some advanced logistics, including me traveling for many hours with an overly excited toddler without an extra pair of hands to help. Yeah, whatever, PORTUGAL! Right??! Surfing on a wave of excitement I booked us tickets. Fast forward a couple of weeks and there I was, dragging little Adam (sleepy, but excited!) across Hamad International Airport, equipped with a million things that we might potentially need during our journey. You can read about what I’ve learned about packing for a family vacation HERE and I’ll just fast forward again. Touch down. Lisbon with kids!
Behold. Outlined below you will find the nitty-gritty of the Lisbon experience with a small child.
WHEN TO GO?
It all boils down to what are you planning to do there. We didn’t really have a choice in that matter and our trip took place in November. The weather was lovely – sunny for the whole week, with temperatures varying between 15-20 degrees (Celsius!). That would definitely be what I consider perfect weather for a city trip – you can walk all day (or however long your toddler allows you to), the air feels fresh and it’s neither too cold nor too hot. HOWEVER, if you are thinking of combining your city trip with a trip to one of the seaside towns, you might want to consider going during late spring/summer months. In November the seaside gets windy, water is cold and the beach is only good for short walks and taking photos while everyone pretends they’re not freezing their butts off.
Lisbon airport is officially on top of my Favorite Airports list. I’ve seen it recently at the bottom of some rating and it baffled me – my experience there was only positive! It’s not big or ultra-modern, but that’s not all that matters. It stands out due to being extremely family-friendly, both in terms of facilities and staff training. There are separate lines for families with small children which are actually used in accordance with their purpose (*cough cough* Doha!). When you travel with kids, you get priority everywhere (including the tax return desk, yay!), plus the airport staff is actually whisking you out of the crowd to offer you an easy way out! Never before have I felt so comfortable traveling with a child. Big thumbs up for that, Lisbon!
THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO SEE.
Obviously, I had my list of places to visit prepared beforehand in my bullet journal (you can read more about my bujo travel spreads HERE). As expected, we were not able to go through the whole list (unfortunately, Adam caught a cold towards the end of our trip), but we did see a lot and here are places that clearly stood out:
A brilliant way to see the Tagus riverfront without exhausting your small child with a long walk. Views are spectacular, and the whole experience of being in a glass gondola in the air is an unforgettable one, both for kids and adults. Tickets are fairly inexpensive, at 6 EUR per adult for a round trip and kids under 3 ride free of charge. It’s worth noting though that the telecabine is not operational in the 2nd half of November due to maintenance (we actually almost missed it!).
That must have been Adam’s highlight of the whole trip! If you’re in Lisbon with kids, it’s definitely a must. Conveniently located right next to the Telecabine, this massive Oceanarium provides a perfect blend of entertainment, education, and conservation. The permanent exhibition includes 4 marine habitats made so well that they give an illusion of a sole ocean. The main aquarium is truly spectacular with giant glass fronts and countless species of fish, invertebrates, and plants. Word of warning though: watch out for the crowds! The best idea would be to visit around the opening time (10 AM). Tickets are quite expensive, but damn it is so worth it! They do have a Family Ticket option allowing you to visit both permanent and temporary exhibitions, for 50 EUR. You can also purchase tickets online which can be a lifesaver, especially during peak season!
Supposedly one of the most overrated attractions in Lisbon. 🙂 Well, not if you have a child as obsessed with trams as my boy! Thing is, those trams are so crowded that it doesn’t make much sense to hop on them unless of course, you need to get somewhere fast. They’re also infamous for pickpockets. What we did was strolling around the small charming streets along the tram’s route and stopping whenever one was passing, to have a closer look. Adam seemed to be completely satisfied with this way of admiring the trams. In case you decide to take a ride, better do so early in the morning. The ticket will cost you 3 EUR, but if you’re planning to move around Lisbon with your kids, it’s a better idea to get yourself a 24h public transport ticket, which is also valid for trams.
Ponte 25 de Abril and the area around it.
Ok, so there are two awesome bridges in Lisbon. One is the famous Vasco da Gama bridge (you can see it in the background of my About Me page. 🙂 ), the other one is much older Ponte 25 de Abril. Vasco da Gama bridge can be easily admired from the glass gondola during the Telecabine ride. Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of Ponte 25 de Abril. Granted, it takes some time and effort to get there (we used public transport), but the bridge itself is spectacular and the riverfront calm and perfect for casual walks. It’s a great alternative for those who seek a calmer place to enjoy a stroll. We went there for a sunset and it didn’t disappoint! While hubby was happily making one of his famous time-lapses, Adam ran around happily and I was simply enjoying the views.
BONUS #1: A PLACE WITH POTENTIAL.
That would be the famous Lisbon Zoo. Why is it not on the main list? Well, when we got there Adam was already starting to feel under the weather and therefore going anywhere with him presented a huge challenge and weighed heavily on our patience. So much, in fact, that we didn’t really manage to fully enjoy the Zoo, focusing too much on providing snacks and comfort to a grumpy toddler. If you’re in Lisbon with your kids, you should definitely consider it though. What stood out for me and Khaled was an open-air Cable Car that took us all around the Zoo! It was a great experience to be able to see it all from above. So what did stand out for Adam? McDonald’s most probably, as he seemed unable to fully enjoy anything else.
BONUS #2: A PLACE WE’D LOVE TO VISIT IF WE HAD MORE TIME.
Definitely Monsanto Forest Park. I’ve heard so much about it and it was such a bummer that we didn’t get to go! It’s the largest green patch in Lisbon and includes picnic areas, gardens, restaurants, playgrounds etc. It’s surely a must-go if your kids enjoy their time outdoors!
HOW TO MOVE AROUND?
I’d say public transport all the way! Buses, trams, metro, trains, ferries… You might think that taxis would be more convenient if you’re visiting Lisbon with your kids, but I must disagree. Public transport there is really well developed and not pricey at all – we used it all the time, except for the trip from and to the airport. There are several options you get to choose from when it comes to tickets. HERE you can find it all explained.
Another fun way to travel are tuk-tuks, try it and your toddler will love you for the rest of the trip.
You can choose to move around by taxi or Uber. Word of warning though: Uber drivers are not allowed to pick you up if there’s a child traveling and they don’t happen to have a car seat (great initiative, but it can take you by surprise as it happened to us!). On the other hand, child car seats are not obligatory in taxis.
WHERE TO EAT AND WHAT TO EAT?
I loved the abundance of fresh produce available in market places throughout Lisbon. Also, coming from a country where alcohol is available to the public only inside hotels, having a genuine sangria together with my meal was a mind-blowing experience! 🙂 Below restaurants come highly recommended for families, although we didn’t get a chance to visit them all:
Mercado de Campo de Orique.
You could call it a “high-end food court”. It’s a great place to eat if you come to Lisbon with kids, because of the variety of options (hello, fellow parents of a picky eater!), and it’s lack of formality (I’m pretty sure that nobody would even notice your toddler having a meltdown!). Food is fresh and delicious, there’s plenty of room to sit AND you can buy local produce, too! Most food stalls open around 9-10 AM.
Chapito a Mesa.
Sadly we didn’t get to visit this awesome place that a friend of mine recommended. It’s famous for spectacular views and great Mediterranean cuisine. I was also told that the staff is particularly fond of children which makes the whole experience so much more worth it.
Also known as the Ultimate Dessert Spot. I am the biggest fan of the traditional Portuguese dessert – pasteis de nata. And Pasteis de Belem are supposedly the best at baking those! Your kids will love you and you will end up coming back for more. 🙂 It is a bit of a tourist trap though, so save some time and provide the little ones with extra entertainment while you queue for the sweet goodness!
Yes, you read it right. Portugal’s markets are full of fresh and delicious ingredients. If you came to Lisbon with your kids, happened to rent a full apartment (like we did, read below) and you enjoy cooking at home, the quality of ingredients will bring your dish to the next level. Except for pasteis de nata, those are a b*tch to put together! 😀
WHY IS LISBON FAMILY FRIENDLY?
First of all, it’s a really “walkable” city.
If your offspring is able to withstand half a day of walking, Lisbon is a perfect destination. It’s generally safe in the streets, there are many zones where cars are not allowed (aside of people who live there, obviously). And those whose kids tire easily can find a tram or a bus stop around every corner. One major downside that has to be mentioned though: COBBLESTONES! If your child doesn’t walk yet, it’s wise to invest in (or borrow) a carrier for this trip. The cobblestones combined with hilly terrain transform pushing a stroller into a real challenge!
Another great thing to mention: people in Portugal love children (as a rule).
They usually are really friendly and understanding of families with little ones. While in a bus, Adam was always a center of attention among elderly local ladies, who talked to him (in Portuguese), distributed lovely smiles and ruffled his hair. Needless to say, he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Aside from the above, if you come to Lisbon with kids, you will definitely appreciate many children-oriented facilities around the city. It’s full of playgrounds, child-friendly eateries, and entertainment. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the famous tourist attractions are free for babies and toddlers.
WHERE WE STAYED AND WHAT WE THOUGHT ABOUT IT?
While doing research about places to stay in Lisbon with kids, one thing stood out: most of the families who’ve been there strongly advised to book an apartment instead of a hotel suite. With one exception. If you’re traveling on an unlimited budget, you definitely need to check out THIS HOTEL. It looks amaaaazing! Unfortunately, costed way more than we were ready to spend on accommodation. So we settled on an apartment. Our top pick was Localtraveling Remedios. There are various different apartments available for rent in their portfolio and we’ve decided to go for a 2 bedroom one located in Alfama.
To begin with, Alfama is an amazing place to stay.
Why? Because it’s so walkable with an abundance of small grocery shops and cozy cafes. It’s gorgeous and it is also full of apartments for short-term rental. 🙂
What about the accommodation itself?
Let me start with saying that when it comes to customer service, I can definitely recommend Localtraveling Remedios. They’re super responsive and extremely accommodating. Also, great with kids – they let my son make a holy mess in their office supplies while we waited for our airport taxi to arrive.
All their apartments are gorgeous and centrally located, with fully equipped kitchens, big windows and plenty of room for kids to run around.
So where’s the catch…?
The only thing that I would consider a disadvantage for someone who came to Lisbon with kids? The fact that the apartment we rented was on a 2nd floor, there was no lift and the stairs were super steep! A big issue when you have to carry your toddler up and down! It was our fault though. We got lured by the wonderful view over the Tagus river and forgot that historic buildings might not necessarily be equipped with lifts. 😀
Me: “Adam, did you like Lisbon?”
Me: “What did you like the most?”
Adam: “Trams and fish and fire hydrants!” *
*Yes, you can easily spot those red fire hydrants all over the city and yes, we had to stop next to every single one of them so that Adam could explore it properly. He loved those!
OUR RATING – DESTINATION:
Family friendliness (general feeling)
Variety of activities for families ——
Overall experience —————————
OUR RATING – ACCOMMODATION:
Child-friendliness —– (would be 4 if it wasn’t for those damned stairs!)
Overall experience —