2 Days in Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon has become a well visited city for families with many places to bring the kids and explore. The Portuguese welcome families and Lisbon is a great and affordable European destination.
I can remember visiting Lisbon in the late 80’s early 90’s. It was a gritty city with some sites to visit, but not a place worth staying for more that one or two nights. This is no longer the case. Lisbon is a truly remarkable city, transformed from the grit to chic neighborhoods and great places to eat, shop and stay.
We booked at Pestana Pousada Lisboa in the Praca Do Comercio district of Lisbon. This was a great central location for some of the historical sights and shopping areas. The hotel is a stately building, painted a bright Lisbon yellow, that used to be the Ministry of the Interior building. The location is on a waterfront square. We found it easy to get a taxi to places and was well lit at night. We received a great rate and were able to get all of us in one room. The only downside was breakfast was not included, but kids were discounted so we ended up having breakfast at the hotel anyway as the buffet was beautiful.
We started out our first day of two days in Lisbon at the Praça do Comércio, overlooking the water, while letting our kids run around for a bit before heading down the wide Rua Augusta, Lisbon’s pedestrian street. This street was once filled with commercial vehicles but is now a great pedestrian walkway for families to enjoy some shopping and cafes.
After following the road for a bit, we had to grab snacks for the kids who had just finished breakfast a little bit ago. Fortunately, Rua Augusta is teaming with places to quell the hunger of any child, so we were happy to have opted to start our day with a morning walk along the pedestrian street. We continued our walk a bit longer until we came to our next destination, the Santa Justa Lift.
Santa Justa Elevator
As we arrived to the elevator, our kids were a bit confused why there was an elevator right in the middle of a street. We were struck by the beauty of the steel craftmanship. We explained that the Santa Justa Elevator was originally built to connect the lower neighborhoods to the upper neighborhoods of Lisbon. Now instead of confusion, there was excitement to ride the only vertical steel elevator completed in 1902 Fortunately, there was not much of a line and for a small fee, we rode to the top. Upon exiting, there is an observation tower at the top giving us a view of the lower neighborhoods, from where we were all just strolling along the pedestrian Rua Augusta Street. Tickets can be bought on site.
The Castelo de Sao Jorge
After the ride up the elevator, we were now in the upper neighborhood of Lisbon. We walked through the windy streets headed to The Castelo de Sao Jorge. The walk from the Santa Jorge Elevator is about ½ miles and should take 25-30 minutes. It took us longer as we had to stop and look at different things along the route. Of course interesting to point out how the homes were built into the hill with narrow streets, stairs for streets, and not many cars.
Upon arrival to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the kids were famished, and we popped into a small Indian restaurant to refuel and rest.
Our day continued in the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The Castelo served as a medieval fortress, a royal castle, and for our kids a place to run up and down historic stairs. They ran around courtyards, up and down steep stairs, climbed over rocks and looked over the side to the long drop down. It served as a fantastic view point of the city below and we spent a long time strolling through the Castelo while learning and teaching our kids about the fortification and the many uses of the Castelo. Interestingly, while the kids are running around, you can sip on superb wine and port from a stand inside castle that showcasing the country’s delicious products. If you go on a Sunday, the day is fully dedicated to families and learning about the castle through different activities. Open November 1- February 28 9:00AM to 6:00PM and March 1-October 21 from 9:00AM to 9:00PM
Museu Do Aljube
We decided to walk back to our hotel after the Castelo de Sao Jorge. Along our path we came across the Museu Do Alljube, a museum dedicated to Portugals time during the dictatorship during the 1920’s-1970’s. Our middle child insisted we had to go in. The building itself was a former prison during the time of the dictatorship and the museum is dedicated to showing how fear from dictators can keep people scared and yet also build resistance.
A lot of the museum was lost on our kids as the subject matter was a bit more mature for them, but we did the best to explain. However, we learned a lot about a time in Portugal’s history we didn’t know a lot about.
Oceanario de Lisboa
We started out day two of our two days in Lisbon by taking our kids to the Oceanario de Lisboa. Our kids love aquariums, especially ones that let you touch the sea life. The Lisbon Aquarium blew us away. It was so visually appealing and perfect viewing sights for little ones. We spent hours here and loved it. Definitely worth the visit when in Lisbon. One of the best aquariums of the world, Lisbon has made this place fully family and kid friendly. The massive tank in the middle kept out kids (and adults) mesmerized for a very long time.
Mosteiros dos Jeronimos
A UNESCO World Heritage Sight built in 1502 is one of the most impressive buildings in Lisbon. We took the kids right after the aquarium. Although they were impressed by the monastery, they were still laughing about the shark with the crooked teeth they nicknamed grumpy at the aquarium. In hindsight, we should’ve done the monastery first followed by the aquarium. In my opinion, no 14th century architectural feat can every trump an aquarium filled with marine animals when it comes to kids.
Where to Eat
- Doca Peixe Dinner with a view. Our meal overlooked the Targus River with the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge just in the background, the restaurant is really spectacular as is the seafood. After being seated and served cocktails, the waiter will bring you back to show you a seafood display for your choice of dinner. The kids will love seeing all of the different fish, shellfish and other fresh seafood being offered at the restaurant. We did enjoy the meal and the atmosphere and the staff was gracious and kid friendly
- Peixaria Da Esquina This gem of a restaurant in Lisbon should not be missed. Their innovative approach to seafood leaves you wanting more. This was our favorite meal in Lisbon. The seafood is kept to the highest standard with a variety of preparations. The service is outstanding and the kitchen is open which is fun for kids to watch the flow and rhythm of the chefs as they prepare dishes for the patrons. One note, the restaurant is in a neighborhood outside of city center so if you are taking a cab, they may get a bit lost, ours did.
A trip to Portugal should not be limited to the big cities. Some of the best beaches in Europe can be found throughout Portugal. A short 2-3 hour drive will take you down to the southern most region of Algarve. You can find small hidden beaches, to endless long beaches of golden sand. There are hundreds to choose from, you can’t go wrong.
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