Lisbon is a vibrant and lively city, with so much variety to offer for families. There’s no need to compromise for parents and kids alike here. From engaging and interactive museums and one of Europe’s biggest aquariums, heaps of history to learn about, to incredible design and architecture, outstanding photography opportunities and some of the most exciting food scenes in Europe – plus incredible beaches and fairytale castles and palaces – Lisbon really is a fantastic destination for families.
Whether you have a weekend or a week, hopefully this post will help you plan your family holiday to Lisbon – we’ll keep you busy, don’t worry!
There are a few basic tips I’d like to share with you, which will hopefully help you while in Lisbon. If you’d like to read more about exploring Lisbon with children, full Lisbon itineraries based on the length of your stay, a guide to Lisbon’s neighbourhoods and suggestions on where to stay, ideas for what to do in Lisbon when it rains, the most family-friendly restaurants, and specific days out I have a range of articles exploring the Lisbon region.
Visit the aquarium (Oceanário)
Lisbon’s renowned Oceanário is located in Parque das Nações, a redeveloped quarter steeped in statuesque modern architecture, a long and scenic promenade, and a wealth of things to do for the whole family.
One of the largest aquariums in Europe, the Oceanário truly is one of Lisbon’s most impressive buildings – designed by the American architect Peter Chermeyeff, it is home to no less than 15,000 marine creatures and 500 species. We’ve been coming here yearly since my boy was born, and 12 years later it is just as impressive to return to see our underwater friends, the otters and penguins!
As you enter the building over the suspended bridge you gradually become immersed in the sounds of the ocean, with underwater acoustics surrounding you. Inside there are several distinct areas including a chilly Antarctica where the cute penguins live and the misty Tropical Indian zone.
The separate zones branch off from the aquarium proper, which has a huge perplex glass wall to bring you that much closer to dozens of species. While this is one of the city’s priciest visits, it’s definitely worth coming here for half a day. It’s a good alternative for a rainy day, in a fantastic location to boot.
Pavillion of Knowledge
Located a 5 minute walk from the Oceanário, this is a highly interactive and creative science museum, geared at children 4 years and above. Both the permanent and temporary exhibitions will entertain your children for a handful of hours, and engage them with their surroundings and science – the perfect add-on for a morning spent at the Oceanarium. There is a space specifically for children between the ages of 3-6.
SCIENCE MUSEUM LISBON
Under 3s go free, 3-11 €8, 12-17 €9, 18+ €11
(Free entrance on May 16th, July 25th & Nov 24th)
Weekdays: 10am – 6pm
Weekends: 10am – 7pm
During 1st September until 31st May, closed on Mondays
How to get to Parque das Nações
- Taxi (€8-€10 from Baixa/Chiado area)
- Bus: 5, 10, 19, 21, 28, 50, 68, 81, 82, 85 (exit at ‘Oriente’)
- Metro (exit at Oriente)
Hike up and explore the Sao George Castle
Wooden swords at the ready, it’s time to take on the windy, charming cobblestoned streets of Alfama and head to Castelo de Sao Jorge for some of the best views of the city, and a playground for little historians! They sometimes hold family-friendly events, and it’s worth checking the calendar before your visit.
Get lost in Alfama
Well, perhaps don’t actually get lost, but the windy (though very steep and can be slippery because of the cobblestones) streets of Alfama are perfect to get slightly lost on your way down from the castle.
From quirky backstreets with fresh, colourful drying laundry decorate the beautiful windows, locals may be watching life go by, or if you’re lucky enough to visit in June, then you’ve found the centre of Lisbon’s traditional festival, Festas de Santo António where you can experience cheesy music everywhere, sardines on makeshift barbecues and the whole city partying!
Relax like a local in Jardim da Estrela & Campo de Ourique
Jardim da Estrela is one of Lisbon’s most popular parks, and you can easily see why. This large green space is a haven despite being located in the centre of the city and it features two inviting cafés, a large playground with a separate climbing frame (next to the café), a garden library, a wonderful collection of exotic trees and lots of hidden treasures for you to find. I grew up coming here every weekend, and it’s just a great spot to people watch, whilst your little ones run around, or explore the playground.
We come here nearly every day and find it to be a fantastic spot perfect for families on holiday and locals alike. Make sure you visit the Basilica just over the road, and if you’ve got time to spare it’s worth walking 5 minutes uphill to Campo de Ourique and see all the gorgeous baby & children shops.
It’s full of immaculate outfits, cheap and great shoes, and wonderful wooden toy shops. If you’re a foodie, don’t miss out on the Mercado de Campo de Ourique, where you’ll find a welcoming market full to the brim with insanely good food. The little park is also very peaceful, with a café with some delicious burgers and a great little playground.
Street art tour of Lisbon
Discover a part of Lisbon that you won’t find in the guidebooks. Lisbon’s alternative culture is vibrant, and our street art is fun and unexpected, and this tour is perfect for older children keen to discover the city’s incredible murals. This three hour tour will take you around the city’s diverse range of street art, from large installations to smaller-scale murals.
Workshops & hands-on activities
Tile painting workshop
After a day or two of exploring the city and discovering its traditional Azulejos adorning buildings all over the city, your kids will be ready to learn a little thing or two of these historic ceramic tiles. Head to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo to take part on a workshop to get their artistic juices flowing and get a little messy creating a piece of art to take home. Make sure you book with plenty of time, ideally before you go to avoid disappointment. Book here.
3 hour TukTuk tour of Lisbon
Hopping on a TukTuk is a really fun, and energy-saving, way of exploring Lisbon’s steepest hills!
This 3 hour ride will take you on a bumpy journey through Lisbon’s most historic neighbourhoods, discovering its highlights and watching daily life go by as your English-speaking guide will fill you in with all the local inside knowledge.
Days out from Lisbon
Lisbon is lucky to have such a variety of beautiful spots within an hour’s distance, from some outstanding beaches, to the fairy-tale like Sintra, or the incredible Arrábida National Park. Keep reading to find some of my favourite family activities within an hour’s away from Lisbon.
Full adventure day kayaking and snorkeling in Arrábida National Park
The perfect day out for families with older kids wanting to taste a bit of adventure on their holiday to Lisbon. This 7 hour tour to the incredible Arrábida National Park, snorkelling in its crystal clear waters and kayaking in beautiful beaches and the famous Anicha Rock. Keep in mind everything is included (wetsuits too), but the water here is very (very!) cold.
Coasteering & speedboat experience in Arrábida
For those searching for a real thrill, this coasteering and speedboat experience will have your adrenaline pumping! We absolutely love coasteering and my son has been doing it since he was 9 and we are all hooked. Jump off cliffs into crystal clear waters, and ride around Arrábida’s stunning bays.
For Lisboetas (Lisbon inhabitants), one of the best things about the city is just how close it is to a range of beaches. Within 15-30 minutes you can get to several stretches of gorgeous coast. I’ve put together a short list of different beaches, and how to get to each, and linked up their names with Google maps to make it easier for you to reach them. You can also read my guide to the best beaches in Lisbon.
CLOSEST TO THE CITY: The closest beach is the Costa da Caparica stretch, which at a mere 15 minutes drive from Lisbon is a dream on those hot summer days. It’s not very easy to reach by public transport, but a taxi will probably cost about €15. TIP: catch the taxi in Alcantara as it’s the closest to the bridge entrance you can get, this will lower your fare. We usually go to Sao Joao, with its lovely restaurants and excellent (paid) parking. FYI: At the entrance of Sao Joao, there is a great zip-lining centre and bouncy-castle soft play which is well worth a visit.
BEACH BY TRAIN: The train line that links Lisbon to Cascais is a lovely ride, offering stunning views of the city’s river Tagus merging with the sea, and lovely cities like Estoril and Paco de Arcos. Exit at Estoril for Praia do Tamariz (no steps, so good for buggies), a quintessentially cool beach that for many years was the playground of the city’s most glamorous crowd.
BEACH BY CAR: If you’re ready for a day out (and I would most definitely recommend this), then drive up to Cascais, visit the city and follow the coastline to Guincho, my favourite Lisbon beach. From here you can drive through the Sintra mountain into the historical city itself. To read more about the different beaches and Sintra, simply click on the links above.
Parque Infantil do Alvito (Monsanto)
When looking for large playgrounds to take our son to, I hadn’t really thought about Monsanto National Park. Even though it’s only a 5 minute drive from central Lisbon, it’s just something we never did as kids. Once we stepped foot in the Alvito Playground though, I knew Cholly would love it.
This is a gigantic 3-level playground, complete with teepees, swings, a pirate ship climbing structure, and endless amounts of slides for kids of all ages to enjoy. In the summer it also has a public swimming pool, which is why I intend on spending much of my non-working week-days there.
The park is located in the beautiful area of Monsanto, a protected national park within the city, usually called ‘Lisbon’s lungs’. From here there are a few nice trails you can follow to pretend you’re hanging out in the mountains – we do this often to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s free to get in, and your kids will definitely enjoy it.
How to get there: Bus 24 | Taxi €4 – €8
Food: Monsanto has lots of designated picnic areas, so bring your own. There is also a small cafe on site, and a few restaurants in the area.
Tips for exploring Lisbon with littler ones:
Leave the buggy at home
If you’re visiting Lisbon with a baby/toddler, then we strongly recommend leaving your buggy at home and bringing a baby sling or carrier (I love the Ergobaby). That’s because, although Lisbon’s cobbled streets are fascinatingly beautiful, they can be a nightmare for getting wheels stuck. Pavements can also be narrow, and the whole city is built on steep hills. We tend to use our buggy only when we really need it.
Eating out in Lisbon with kids
Lisbon is a child-friendly city, and despite lacking on some basics like offering child-seats and child-menus, restaurants will offer a ‘meia-dose’ (generous half-portion), or will blitz the daily soup for your baby/child. Menus also usually have omelets, great grilled fish and meat and other child-friendly foods like rissois (pastries with fish or meat filling) and croquetes (usually meat-filled). Find out my favourite Lisbon family-friendly restaurants.
Where to stay in Lisbon
The city has a wealth of apartments and hotels, but not all are suitable for families. We’re partial to an apartment instead of a hotel in the city, as it will give you the option of being able to cook/warm bottles/have a peaceful nights’ sleep. Find out more with my guide to where to stay in Lisbon with kids.
Getting around in Lisbon
The metro system is fantastic, but not widely available, so you’re probably going to be travelling on the bus and by taxi. Babies don’t need a car seat when riding in a taxi in Lisbon, and prices are fairly cheap so for a family of 4 it may be worth considering. The 28 tram used to be a must, but it’s such a tourist trap nowadays that you’re better experiencing it from the streets in Alfama. If you do go beware of pick-pockets, they’re rife on this ride.