Lisbon is a great family destination. The Portuguese are generally very welcoming of children, and the city has a number of attractions and activities suitable for kids of all ages. This is also officially one of Europe’s safest capitals, and, as in any major city, there are all kinds of shops and pharmacies in almost every corner for a worry-free holiday.
These are the best places to go with the kids:
Parque das Nações and the Oceanarium
Parque das Nações is Lisbon’s most child-friendly district, with plenty of open space and educational attractions. There are many traffic-free streets and waterside walkways, bikes for hire and playgrounds, but the highlight is the Oceanarium, one of the world’s biggest aquariums, with thousands of sea creatures, including seahorses, sunfish, sharks, otters, and penguins.
A few feet from there are cable cars for thrilling rides with views over the city, and the Knowledge Pavilion, which is an interactive science museum where everyone is actually encouraged to touch the exhibits for a fun learning experience.
The Vasco da Gama shopping mall, which is connected to the metro and train station, has a good food court, with fast food and not-so-fast food restaurants.
Easy to reach by metro (“Jardim Zoológico” station on the blue line), Lisbon’s zoo is home to two thousand animals, but it’s the dolphins and the monkeys that most children enjoy seeing. It’s possible to spend an entire day here, as it also has a botanical garden and a small amusement park.
Praça Marechal Humberto Delgado
It opens every day
There are numerous beaches around Lisbon, but the most family-friendly are in Cascais. Praia da Conceição is right by the train station, and has soft golden sand and calm waters, as well as lifeguard supervision. Even better for small children is Praia da Rainha, a small beach with shallow waters, separated from Praia da Conceição by a large mansion which is now a hotel (the Albatroz Hotel). A short walk from there, following the promenade that starts in Praia da Conceição, is Praia das Moitas, a beach with a seawater swimming pool that delights children and teenagers (it’s always open and free).
On your way to Cascais you pass by Oeiras, a suburb with another child-friendly beach, Praia de Santo Amaro (pictured above). It’s easily accessible from the Santo Amaro train station, on the Lisbon-Cascais line.
See the Lisbon Beaches Guide
A tram tide can be fun for children and adults alike. Avoid the crowded commuter trams, and take the tourist service. These trams also screech through the narrow streets of the city, but always guarantee a seat. They’re a hop-on-hop-off service, which can be combined with the hop-on-hop-off bus route:
Although Belém is the museum district and home to the historical monuments that may not appeal to children, it does have wonderful green spaces and a couple of museums where school-age children won’t get bored at. One of them is the Coaches Museum, with its carriages that seem to have come out of a fairy tale, and another is the Maritime Museum, which displays “big toys” like the first airplane that made the first crossing of the South Atlantic (pictured above), and model ships from the Age of Discovery.
Next to Jerónimos Monastery is the Tropical Botanical Garden, with its peacocks, ducks, geese, swans and chickens roaming around the palm trees and ponds.
Across from the monastery is a park with a children’s playground, faced by a row of colorful houses with outdoor restaurants.
If the weather doesn't permit fun outdoors, look into the lovely Marionette Museum, which displays puppets from around the world and often stages shows for all ages.
See the Marionette Museum Visitor's Guide.
Edward VII Park
A short walk from the central Avenida da Liberdade (or just a metro ride away), this is the biggest park in the center of Lisbon. It has a children’s play area by its greatest attraction, a greenhouse with exotic plants and ponds.
See the Edward VII Park Visitor's Guide
Where to Stay - Family Hotels
Avoid staying in the hilly neighborhoods like Alfama. The most family-friendly hotels are around Avenida da Liberdade and in the Avenidas Novas district, as they’re bigger hotels with larger rooms. In Baixa and other central districts, hotels tend to be smaller, boutique properties. Avenida da Liberdade is within walking distance of most central attractions, but most hotels are of the 4- or 5-star category, and therefore more expensive. Avenidas Novas requires a metro ride to the center, but has a bigger variety of places to stay, for all budgets. Families who choose to stay in an apartment, will find that these parts of the city are also the best options, since, unlike the older parts of town, most of the buildings have elevators and the apartments are more spacious.
Staying by the Beach
In the warmer months, families may want to stay by the beach. The beachfront hotels in Cascais and Estoril are all a short walk from train stations that connect these seaside resorts to the capital. Cascais also has an attractive, largely-pedestrianized center.