The Lisbon region in Portugal is a wonderful destination for families and you don’t have to restrict yourself to the city. I suggest adding a few days to your city break, by combining the vibrant city of Lisbon with the allure of the charming beaches of Cascais, Sintra‘s fairytale Palace of Pena, Castle of the Moors and the utterly magical Quinta Regaleira and everything else in between.
As a Lisbon native, I already have quite a few articles on how to explore the city with children on this blog, but I wanted to share all my tips in one guide. As a parent I understand the need to include enough time to relax, and for the little ones to have free-play, and the bigger ones to have some of their own fun too.
It’s lengthy but worth it! To reach the section you’re looking for, browse the contents below.
When to visit Lisbon
Yearly temperatures average a lovely 24c, and the best times to visit Lisbon are in Spring (March to June) and in Autumn (September to November) which is perfect to avoid those peak prices too!
Even in the depths of winter the sun is nearly always out, with bright blue skies and a killer sunset. Of course most visit Lisbon in the Summer months, but with temperatures rising in Europe year-on-year, let me suggest you visit during the off season, when temperatures are milder, the landscapes greener, and the prices lower. If you’re travelling with small children I would avoid the months of July and August as thermostats can go over 35c which can be too much for little ones and will restrict what you can do. To find out more have a look at our month by month weather guide to Lisbon.
Family-friendly Accommodation in Lisbon
Lisbon is known as the city of 7 hills, which lends itself to breathtaking views, but difficult to navigate with a stroller after a day of sightseeing. Charming neighbourhoods like Alfama may sound perfect, but steep hills, cobbled streets and nearly non-existent sidewalks are a logistical nightmare for parents travelling with small children. Areas like Chiado are still hilly, but much more manageable and with everything within easy reach, and the slightly further Belém is full of things to do and see, is flat and has plenty of gardens for the children to unwind.
I’ve got a couple of guides on where to stay in Lisbon with children, where I share my tips on the the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon to stay with kids, and give hotel, serviced apartments and airbnb suggestions.
Child-friendly restaurants in Lisbon and Cascais
If you’re looking for family-friendly restaurants in Lisbon, I’ll just say that unless you’re going fine-dining, children are welcome in most restaurants, and Portuguese traditional food is child-friendly. Although the Portuguese don’t do ‘children’s menus’ most will have a ‘meia-dose‘ option on the menu, which means half plate (and usually enough for one adult!).
Portuguese food is very child-friendly too; there is usually the staple Bitoque (steak with rice and chips), a selection of grilled fish on the menu, which comes with potatoes and salad/vegetables, soup which they can blitz for you if your child doesn’t like ‘bits’ (ask for it to be “passada” for smoothness.
I have a post dedicated to some of my favourite family friendly restaurants in Lisbon.
Here are some handy Portuguese phrases that will help you when ordering at the restaurant:
Bitoque – Steak with rice, potatoes and salad and sometimes a fried egg (ovo estrelado)
Filetes de peixe com arroz – deep fried fish (like fish in chips) with rice
Sopa de legumes – vegetable soup /
Can you blitz it please? – Pode passar a sopa se faz favor?
Best Family Itineraries for Lisbon, Cascais & Sintra
3 Day Family Itinerary for Lisbon & Cascais
Heads up – this 3 day itinerary is busy! Look up some of the places and pick and choose what you fancy, so you don’t end up needing a holiday from your holiday. Having said that, it’s doable for those with older kids, especially if you’re just walking around and not going into museums, etc.
Depending on when you arrive in Lisbon, head to your hotel and try to fit in dinner in one of the city’s many sunset-worthy esplanadas (especially if you find a rooftop).
Morning: Alfama, Castelo S Jorge, Sé (Cathedral)
The first few hours of your first morning in Lisbon should be spent hunting down your local pastelaria (café) for breakfast, ordering a great meia de leite (flat white) and eating one of our many pastries. To avoid the queues, aim to visit the Castelo S. Jorge as early as possible, catching the traditional tram number 28 to skip the hills and get a few thrills! Kids will love running around the castle, climbing the walls and overlooking the city – can they spot the hotel or the 25 de Abril bridge?!
From the castle, you can roam down Alfama’s quaint and labyrinthian streets – get lost a few times while you do it, it’s all part of the fun. Try to stop at Miradouro Santa Luzia on your way down, a small viewpoint from which you get to look over the city’s red roofs, spires and of course, the river Tagus. Little known fact: my sister got married at the little chapel!
If you’ve got some time left, stop at Lisbon’s Sé (cathedral) on your way to lunch.
There are several restaurants in Alfama, but they’re quite touristic, but not necessarily bad… However, for lunch with a view at a great (legendary) spot head to Chapitô à Mesa, a restaurant that is attached to a circus school. Book in advance by calling +351 218 875 077.
Afternoon: Baixa, Chiado & Principe Real
From Alfama wander down to Baixa, starting in Praca do Comércio to admire the 18th century traditional commercial area of Lisbon, that was masterfully rebuilt by the Marques de Pombal after the Great Earthquake of 1755. If your kids have a scooter this is the time to let them go wild. I also suggest exploring this historical stores guide.
If you are fond of city hop on, hop off buses, this is a good spot to start your journey. If you opt to continue by foot, I suggest you slowly make your way up the streets of Baixa, making your way to Rua do Carmo towards Chiado. Stop at Santini in Rua do Carmo for a post-lunch ice cream break – one of Lisbon’s most famous ice-cream spots.
Spend the afternoon exploring Chiado’s wonderful architecture and shops, and if you have time (and energy) head to Carmo Convent, a Gothic convent destroyed by 1755 earthquake. It may seem like there is nothing to see, but it’s definitely worth a visit inside.
Chiado was the intellectual hub of turn-of-the-century Lisbon, with the city’s most prominent writers, poets and lawyers meeting here regularly to discuss the what-ifs of life. You can see a statue of Portugal’s most famous poet, Fernando Pessoa, outside the iconic Brasileira Café. If you’d like, have a coffee there, but eat at Tartine, a nearby bakery full of beautiful cakes and drinks. The neighbouring Bairro Alto district is traditionally a night-time hotspot, but is full of character in the daytime and worth a visit.
Depending on the age of your children, you may want to call it a day here and head for dinner, maybe somewhere where you can see the sun set. But in case you skipped some of the spots above, or your older children are still full of beans, keep on reading…
From here, you’ll want to continue your journey upwards towards Principe Real, one of Lisbon’s coolest (in an upmarket way) neighbourhoods. This is also where the Natural History Museum is found, and the Lisbon’s Botanical Garden (I love it there, it’s a true gem, and a great place to relax and escape the city’s noise, although the paths are steep, so beware if travelling with little ones).
Morning: Principe Real and/or Jardim da Estrela
Another day in Lisbon, another set of gorgeous (and rich!) pastries to choose from for your breakfast… Perhaps you’ll go for a Pao de Deus today?
Once you’re ready, if you skipped the Principe Real area the previous day, I suggest you begin here (see day 1). If somehow your legs managed to keep going, then head to the gorgeous Jardim da Estrela (tram 28 stops here) and visit one of the city’s most beloved parks and the nearby church (the Basilica da Estrela). It’s a great place to see locals just going about their day, and somewhere I hold many special memories from my own childhood. When in Lisbon you can often find us in Estrela on a weekend.
From there, stroll up to Campo de Ourique for some unique and local shopping experiences in independent boutiques.
Lunch: Campo de Ourique
This is a lunchtime wander in a traditional Lisbon neighbourhood, but if you spent the morning in Principe Real, this may now be your afternoon, in which case I suggest you go straight to Belem.
Indulge in a delicious meal at one of the neighbourhood’s charming cafés or restaurants, such as A Trempe for some traditional fare, or for a casual lunch, I highly recommend the burger kiosk at Jardim da Parada – treat yourself to a juicy burger and an Imperial (glass of beer) while you take in the people-watching scene, and the kids can run around, or go to the small playground. If you’re in the mood for something different, make a quick two-minute walk to Mercado de Campo de Ourique, a market with a diverse range of dining options.
Tip: If you’d like to savor a Pastel de Nata without the crowds of Belém, give the ones at the local Pastelaria Aloma a try – they’ve won awards and, in my opinion, surpass the ones in Belém in taste.
Afternoon: LX Factory and/or Belem
Those with teens may want to have a pit-stop in LX Factory – catch a taxi as it’s very close. This formerly derelict warehouse area has been rejuvenated and is now home to some great street-art, stacks of independent cafés, excellent restaurants, start-up businesses and very cool shops. A must-visit if you like to roam hip urban environments. If not, feel free to skip ahead!
From LX Factory, you can catch the tram number 15 to Belem, or if travelling from Campo de Ourique, you’ll want to jump on a taxi as there is no direct public transport.
Exit at the Palácio de Belém stop, to explore a historic area that includes the Monastery of Jerónimos, the beautifully landscaped Gardens of Belém, the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology), the Cultural Centre (inc. Museum of Modern Art). If you have the extra time and like mature (slightly derelict) gardens, then a visit to the Ajuda Botanical Gardens is always one of my favourite spots.
Take one of the foot-bridges or the underpass (located right in front of the Discoveries Monument either side of the train tracks) to cross over to the waterfront, where you can have a leisurely stroll along the vibrant-blue River Tagus, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument), pictured just above that features Portugal’s great explorers, the Tower of Belém, and the War Memorial. Well worth a stop is the café/bar A Margem, which offers unparalleled views over the Tagus and a chilled-out vibe, although a sometimes over-relaxed service. It’s particularly nice at sunset, but it does get busy so be prepared to wait for a table.
Enjoy dinner overlooking the river…
On your last day in Lisbon, I recommend catching up with anything you didn’t have time for, or head to Lisbon’s most modern area (Parque das Naçoes, former home of Expo 98) towards the city’s very impressive aquarium, or Oceanário (pre-book tickets here). We visit each time we’re in Lisbon, and it never fails to impress. It’s a large structure that deserves time to be properly explored, so reserve at least a few hours.
The area is also home to the excellent Science Museum, and generally just a great place to wander around and do some last minute shopping at the Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre.
You’ll want to squeeze in every bit of Lisbon, so I recommend booking a yacht sunset cruise to add a cherry on top. An alternative is catching the commuter ferry at Cais do Sodré towards Cacilhas, and eating a sunset dinner overlooking Lisbon from the other side of the river. Nothing quite beats it.
5 Day Family Itinerary
So you have 5 whole days to spend in Lisbon… you’re in for a treat.
I suggest taking the previous 3 days a little bit more slowly if you’ve got the time, and to that add a day out in Cascais and/or Sintra.
Day out from Lisbon to Cascais and Sintra
If you want your day out to be as hassle-free as possible, then I recommend joining a small-group tour so you don’t have to think about how to get from A to B. I’m not a huge fan as it doesn’t allow for wrong-turns and time just relaxing, but it does make sense when with littler ones.
If you want to DIY-it, then continue reading…
How to get to Sintra and Cascais from Lisbon
If travelling by public transport, you can either buy an all-in Cascais and Sintra one day ticket which gives you access to train and bus routes, or if you want to buy individual tickets (considerably cheaper) you can do it at the station.
Lisbon to Sintra by train
From Lisbon’s Rossio station (near Baixa), you can get a train to Sintra, which will take you there in about 40 minutes.
Sintra to Cascais by bus
From Sintra, you’ll want to catch bus number 1623 for the quickest route (30 mins) to Cascais, or the 1624, which stops at Cabo da Roca, Europe’s most western point (worth a go, but it’s a 1hr journey). Both buses depart in the bus station and will drop you off at the shopping center Cascais Villa, which is located in the centre of town, by the train station.
Sintra from Cascais by bus
Catch the train to Cascais from Cais do Sodré (near Baixa), Belém or Algés. It’s a beautiful journey by the sea, and at around 40 minutes, the best way to travel from Cascais to Sintra.
How to spend a day in Sintra and Cascais
Tip: You can swap around the journey as you wish, but Sintra gets very busy, so be prepared with some pre-bought entrance tickets, and go early to avoid most of the crowds and tour buses.
Begin your day in Sintra, a place where fairy tales come to life. Begin your day by exploring the town’s winding roads, stopping for a little coffee and one of Sintra’s traditional pastries – the Queijadas de Sintra. From here, you can either catch a tuc tuc, a bus, taxi or for those who like a hike, you can wander up to the Castelo dos Mouros, a fortified castle dating to VIII, and at 412m above sea-level, it offers panoramic views over the forest and the ocean beyond. From here continue towards the iconic Palácio Nacional da Pena, perched majestically atop the Sintra Mountains. Its vivid colors and whimsical design are stunning, and again, you’ll be treated to those views once again.
If you have time, I highly recommend a visit to Quinta da Regaleira, with its mystical gardens and hidden tunnels it’s a truly enchanting place. Make your way back to Sintra to catch the bus to Cascais.
The bus will drop you off in the centre of the city, and if you didn’t get lunch in Sintra, I suggest you head to the Mercado da Vila, a bustling market with some great options for a bite. After lunch, stroll along the cobbled streets of the centre of Cascais, before making your way to the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego which offers a captivating glimpse into the world of contemporary art. The museum is by the city’s biggest park, Marechal Carmona, which perfect for little ones to blow off some energy before relaxing on one of the town’s cute beaches.
7 Day Family Itinerary
With two more days in Lisbon, this is the perfect opportunity to take things slowly, and add some beach time if you’re travelling in the summer months, or another day out from the city.
I have a guide to my favourite beaches around Lisbon, which will help you choose which is best for you. If the beach is not for you, and you’d prefer a full day out exploring, then keep reading…
Day out in Obidos from Lisbon
How to get to Obidos by public transportation
You can take the express bus which takes around 1hr from Lisbon’s Campo Grande bus station towards Obidos. Check here for a timetable.
Alternatively, you can choose to hire a car which allows you to make other stops along the way, and travel back to Lisbon by the coast, which is well worth doing if you can.
Spending a day in Obidos
Escape the bustling streets of Lisbon for a day of in the medieval town of Óbidos. Nestled within ancient walls, Óbidos exudes a fairy-tale atmosphere with its cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses adorned with vibrant bougainvillaeas, and charming artisan shops. Start by exploring the iconic Óbidos Castle, a historic gem that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Wander through the narrow streets, stopping to sample the Ginja liqueur, a local specialty.
The town’s unique blend of medieval and Moorish influences creates a fun ambiance that transports you back in time, including little ones.
After immersing yourself in Óbidos’ medieval charm, venture towards the rugged coastline of Adraga, stopping at the surf town of Ericeira on the way. If you have time, a stop at Azenhas do Mar is also well worth your time.
Arriving at Praia da Adraga, you’ll be greeted by dramatic cliffs, golden sands, and crashing waves. It’s an ideal spot for an afternoon, whether you choose to soak up the sun or take a refreshing dip in the sea – the water here isn’t the calmest, but there are lots of coves to explore at low-tide. The beach Adraga Restaurant is renowned for its fresh seafood, one of my favourites, perfect for a dinner with the sun setting behind.
As the day draws to a close, consider making a brief stop at Cabo da Roca, continental Europe’s westernmost point. The rugged cliffs and endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean create a poignant atmosphere.