Lisbon, Portugal with Kids
We ended our Portugal trip in Lisbon. Lately we’ve been ending trips in a larger city. We love that we get to dump the rental car and enjoy the city car-free for a few days. After great weather for most of the trip, we had terrible rain in Lisbon. Even with bad weather we were able to see and do a bit of what the city had to offer.
We drove directly to the Hotel Mundial to check in. We were able to park the rental car right out front while we unloaded. They had a room all ready for us, even though we were checking in around noon.
The family rooms had a third smaller bed tucked into a front area by the door. This was a perfect arrangement for our family. They mentioned they could also bring another cot to the room, but the cot never materialized and we didn’t inquire further. We had the small bassinet for the baby and did bed sharing with the Middle Little.
We hopped back into the car and Jeff drove us to the Lisbon Aquarium, which is a bit out of the city center. Jeff dropped us off while he drove over to the airport to return the car. We got a combo ticket to see both the temporary exhibit and the permanent exhibition.
The temporary exhibition was an art installation on underwater forests. They had music playing and the boys and I sat and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
Next we headed over the bridge into the main aquarium. Jeff, had hopped on the metro and was able to join us while we were still on the first floor of the aquarium. Perfect!
The aquarium has several really great, small exhibitions in addition to the large central tank. The kids loved getting close to the fish and animals. The sea otters and cuttlefish were the highlights.
There was a special frog exhibition that the kids loved. Searching for the frogs in each enclosure was really fun. The aquarium also has a little children’s play area. We stopped for lunch at the aquarium cafe on our way out. They had a good variety of food. Most importantly they were there and it was well past lunch time.
We hopped into a taxi and had the driver take us to Landeau Chocolate. This cafe only serves chocolate cake, coffee and port, but is listed in NYT 36 Hours. The long tables are full of sketchbooks for everyone to use. Our big little found a good space and worked on a drawing while the middle little napped in the stroller.
Jeff and I enjoyed some well deserved port and split a piece of the chocolate cake. It’s really good. Once you have a bite you’ll know why it’s the only thing on the menu.
We walked a few blocks to the Carmo Convent and Church. These ruins are now home to the Carmo Archeological Museum. The kids were free to run around in the courtyard while we enjoyed the beautiful blue sky above. We ventured into the museum, which is only a few rooms, but the kids were in no mood so we didn’t push it.
Just behind the church is Santa Justa Lift. This 1900’s elevator was part of a system of vertical lifts and funiculars that connected the city’s upper and lower streets. It is the only remaining elevator in Lisbon and is now a tourist attraction. It is worth checking out. If you’re accessing it from the convent, as we did, you’re already on the top. You can head out onto the platform and have a look. There is a charge to ride the elevator (~ 5 Euros). Instead we hopped on the elevator on the porch of the neighboring restaurant and took it down to street level to have a look from the bottom.
The kids still had a lot of energy to burn so when we encountered Cascais Square, with its beautiful black and white tile work, we set the kids free to chase pigeons. Jeff and I were able to admire the fountains and statues in the square while the kids made sure to keep the pigeons on their toes. (I have to pause here to recommend this great podcast about Pigeons from 99% Invisible.)
My train (tram) obsessed kiddos had been asking about riding the tram all day. Luckily, Tram 28 picked up right outside the hotel. As it is basically on everyone’s to-do list and is used by commuters, it’s best to try to do this off-peak. We hopped on the tram and rode it through town. (In order to make a circle you have to get off and walk across the street and hop back on with a new ticket.)
We noticed that a bit farther down the line the trams start to bunch up. So if you have time and a tram comes and is crowded, look down the line, there is likely to be an empty one right behind it! We hopped off about where you would get off to catch a return tram and walked to dinner instead.
Jeff found this incredible dinner place, Ze dos Cornos. It’s a local place. We walked in and were the only non locals in the joint. This went down as one of the best meals on our trip.
The middle little and I went really traditional. We split the salmon plate. It was so delicious.
The Big Little and Jeff split the cuttlefish. Yep. My five year old wanted to try cuttlefish and he loved it. He even got to keep the cuttlebone from his meal and it’s become one of his prized possessions.
I can’t say enough about what a good meal this was. In addition to the great food the staff went out of their way to be nice to us. They even sat and held our Little Little while we ate!
The next morning we woke up and the weather was terrible. Not ones to be bested by some rain, we hopped on a normal tram to head southwest of the city. The theme of the day would be that when we were inside (car, museum, castle) the rain would clear and reappear the moment we stepped outside.
Our first stop was Belem Tower. The walk across the lawn to the tower was out of control. The wind and rain were insane. I still managed to snap a great photo that really captures this magical little tower.
There is not much inside and I wouldn’t really reccomend a visit. However, we needed a place to hide from the rain so we paid admission and climbed the tower.
We got yelled at for touching some cannons -ha! and hid in fireplaces while waiting to walk up the stairs. They have a system that is designed to prevent people from having to pass each other in the stairwell. It doesn’t work very well. No, it actually doesn’t work at all. We got some nice views though and dried off a bit.
The plan was to walk to the city’s modern art museum (free admission), but as soon as we stepped outside the skies opened up. We hailed a cab and jumped in. He dropped us off just outside the museum. Even still, it was one of those cab rides that makes you wonder. It was a 5-block walk but the taxi had to take a 2.5-mile loop to get us there due to one-way streets.
The Museu Berardo, Lisbon’s modern art museum, is free. You will need to check your umbrellas and coats with the front desk. We explored some of the rooms and played a game of eye spy with this fun piece of art. Our Little Little had a blow out, and we were thankful for the changing tables in all the restrooms.
We walked past the Jeronimos Monastery and just poked in for a quick view of the church.
The outside is stunning. There are a variety of ticketed items inside but we decided it wasn’t worth the effort with the kids. The outside view was enough!
One block further is Pasteis De Belem. This is the original home of the custard tart treat that is so popular in Lisbon. Do not wait in the line outside. Even on a rain day the line was wrapped around the block. Instead, head inside until you find an empty seat. The place is huge, there will be a seat available. (They boast space for 400 inside). We ordered from the waitress and before we knew it our treats were at our table. (Jeff and I stuck with the classics but the boys wanted to choose something else. The waitress had photos on her phone of all the options so they were easily able to pick right from our table!)
Jeff found a tuktuk driver outside whose English was excellent and his price was right. The guy looked to be around our age and as it turned out, he had kids the age of ours. He agreed to give us the hour tour and drop us off back at the hotel. Just like our plan to use the rental car to pre-position Elizabeth and the boys early during our Lisbon stay, the tuktuk trip aided our logistical plan too. Not only did we get a great tour, but we also got delivered to where we needed to be. So we all piled into the tuktuck. Likely not the safest things we’ve ever done, but it was a great way to spend our rainy day. The driver was excellent and pointed out highlights all over town.
We stopped a few times to enjoy these incredible views of the city.
From these vantage points our driver was able to point out the different sections of town and we got a sense of how everything was laid out.
This is also where our trusty (free) travel umbrella met its end. (Goodbye old friend. You were so small and perfect for travel.)
The tour was fun for the kids and really educational for Jeff and I. We often struggle to get this sort of one-two combo. The tuktuk had shoulder seatbelts and had I had our mifold with us I could have easily used it.
When the tour ended, the rain was pouring down and everyone just looked drained. We went back to the hotel for a bit of quiet play time.
At dinner, we went the complete opposite way of the night before. We went to a fancy tapas place, Meson Andaluz, with excellent reviews. Was it child appropriate? Questionable. We gave the Big and Middle Littles the tablets and let them play all through dinner so we could enjoy our meal.
The food was delicious. We enjoyed some amazing sangria that I had been seeing everyone drinking on our trip, but had not yet tasted. When it was time to leave the rain was pouring down and the city was covered in gridlock traffic. The wait staff went out to find us a cab while we stayed dry in the restaurant. One of the workers did magic tricks for the boys. It was an amazing night.
The next morning we were up and out to the airport. We should have just taken the metro there as the cab ride took longer and was more expensive than what we had been quoted by the hotel (200% more expensive, actually). Once we got to the Lisbon airport though we found it to be incredibly kid friendly. There was a family-only security lane, strollers to borrow at the airport, vending machines full of kids stuff and a great little play area.
The boys were all smiles getting some energy out before the flight.
Portugal was an incredible trip that I think is well worth your time. It’s family friendly and has so much to offer!