Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is a fantastic destination for a family short break. The city offers a mix of historical sites, vibrant neighborhoods, family-friendly parks, as well as beautiful beaches to relax. Are you looking for a short family holiday in autumn? Lisbon will for sure keep your little ones happy! Here’s a suggested itinerary for your trip.
Day 1: Explore the Historic Center
Start your day in the Belém district at the westernmost end of Lisbon. The Belém district is a historic and culturally rich area that holds significant importance to the city's history and maritime heritage. Besides it is home to two stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are absolutely worth a visit. The first is the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém). This fortress was built in the 16th century as a defensive structure guarding the entrance to the city's harbor. The tower's architecture is a blend of Moorish, Gothic, and Manueline styles, and it offers fantastic views of the Tagus River. You can climb the tower (for the best views!) and see the different rooms inside.
Second, is the Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos). This magnificent monastery is known for its intricate details and decorations; it is an impressive example of Portuguese Manueline architecture. This grand religious building was founded by King Manuel I in celebration of the successful Portuguese voyages around the world such as Vasco da Gama who spent his last night before his trip to the Far East. Also, his tomb can be found here.
A visit to the Belém district cannot go without stepping into the Pastéis de Belém. This famous bakery is the birthplace of the traditional Portuguese custard tart known as "pastéis de nata.” This is a perfect treat for young and old!
You can easily reach the Belém district by train, but if you are feeling more active and if the kids are of a certain age it is also a wonderful experience to explore the area by bike on self-guided or guided cycling tour.
After a morning of history and culture, you can spend a relaxed afternoon on the beach. Lisbon city has some wonderful beaches. Praia de Carcavelos is one of the most famous beaches in the Lisbon area. It is a large and lively beach with good surfing conditions, making it a favorite spot for both locals and visitors. The beach has various bars, restaurants, and surf schools along the promenade. It's accessible by train from Cais do Sodré station, which is not far from Belém.
Day 2: Family-Friendly Fun
After a historic first day, the second day starts in a new part of Lisbon: in Parque das Nações, a modern waterfront district that was developed for the Expo '98 world exhibition. It's a vibrant area of Lisbon known for its contemporary architecture, recreational spaces, the Lisbon cable car, cultural attractions, and the Oceanário de Lisboa. This impressive aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe with no less than five million litres of seawater! You can get a fascinating insight into the lives of 450 species including sea otters, mighty sunfish, and also sharks, rays, and large spider crabs. The interactive exhibits make it both entertaining and educational.
After visiting the Oceanário, you can rest, take a ride on the cable car or explore the park and its beautifully landscaped gardens and green spaces where you can relax, have a picnic or play.
Parque das Nações also offers a pleasant promenade along the river, perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.
If the children’s legs are getting tired, you can opt for a Tuk-Tuk Tour. Tuk-tuks are small, motorized vehicles that can accommodate a small number of passengers and provide a personalized and intimate tour experience. It is a unique way to explore Lisbon, allowing you to navigate its narrow streets and discover its hidden gems!
Many tuk-tuk tours start from central locations, such as Praça do Comércio which is one of the main and most popular squares in Lisbon. It features an ornate archway, which opens up to one of the most popular, pedestrian streets in Lisbon, Rua Augusta.
With a Tuk-Tuk tour, you can head to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. This is one of the highest viewpoints in Lisbon, located in the Graça neighborhood. From this viewpoint, you can see the red rooftops of Alfama, the São Jorge Castle, the downtown Baixa district, the Tagus River, and beyond. The viewpoint is named after the Chapel of Senhora do Monte, a small white church located on the site. The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of the Mount and is a place of religious devotion. The viewpoint is also a great spot to watch the sunset and take in the city's beauty.
Day 3: Lisbon's Quaint Neighborhoods
Lisbon has many wonderful neighborhoods, each with its own character and charme. Most probably one of the most authentic neighborhoods in Lisbon is the Alfama district. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods with a history that dates back to Roman times. It is known for its narrow labyrinthine streets, traditional houses adorned with colorful tiles, and picturesque alleyways that create an enchanting ambiance.
Alfama is considered the birthplace of Fado, Portugal's traditional music genre. Many Fado houses are scattered throughout the neighborhood, offering live performances.
A wonderful way to explore the neighborhood is by taking the iconic Tram 28. Kids will likely enjoy a ride on this classic yellow tram, which winds its way through historic neighborhoods and offers a unique perspective of Lisbon.
Be sure to start early, because Tram 28 can get crowded, especially during peak tourist times.
Hop-off at São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge). It is a historic castle that stands proudly atop a hill overlooking the city of Lisbon. It's one of the most iconic landmarks in the city and offers a combination of historical significance, architectural beauty, and stunning panoramic views. For sure the kids will love to explore it! Within the castle complex, you'll find archaeological remains that provide insights into the lives of the people who once lived here. One of the main attractions of São Jorge Castle is its panoramic views of Lisbon and the Tagus River. From various points within the castle, you can enjoy breathtaking vistas of the city's rooftops, historic neighborhoods, and the river.
Just a few minutes away from the castle is Lisbon's Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa), one of the oldest and most impressive churches in the city. Its mix of architectural styles and serene atmosphere make it an interesting stop. From the cathedral's terrace, you can enjoy panoramic views of Lisbon's Alfama district and the São Jorge Castle.
If you are visiting the Alfama on Tuesdays and Saturdays, you can take a stroll on the Feira da Ladra. This flea market is one of the oldest markets in Lisbon where you can find a variety of items, from antiques to clothing and collectibles.
Leave Alfama and head for lunch in the Time Out Market, also known as the 'Mercado da Ribeira'. It is a vibrant and popular food and cultural market located in the Cais do Sodré district of Lisbon. It's an entertaining lunch spot where you can experience a wide range of culinary delights, local flavors, and cultural events all under one roof! The heart of the market is its diverse array of food stalls and restaurants. It brings together some of Lisbon's most renowned chefs and restaurants offering a large selection of dishes including seafood, charcuterie, pastries, artisanal ice cream, and more. Everyone will find something that suits his taste!
If you have one day more to stay in Lisbon, you can explore the Almada district, located across the Tagus River, which you can reach by taking the "Ponte da Paz," from Lisbon center. This pedestrian bridge offers a scenic way to cross the river. Besides it is parallel to the iconic 25 de Abril Bridge! One of Almada's most iconic landmarks is the Cristo Rei (Christ the King) statue. This towering monument resembles the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You can take an elevator to the top for panoramic views of Lisbon and the surrounding area. In the lively Cacilhas neighborhood of Almada is moored the replica of the Fragata D. Fernando II e Glória, a wood sailing ship of the Portuguese Navy. Great to see with kids. Besides Almada boasts a large park and is home to some beautiful beaches, including Praia da Costa da Caparica and Praia da Fonte da Telha.