In our next family vacation guide series, we’re sharing the experience from our last trip to Lisbon, Portugal. While we’ve spent a lot of time in Europe, we hadn’t made it to Lisbon until this trip.
We visited in January, which we found to be a great, non-crowded time to visit Lisbon.
Expect reviews on the hotels we stayed at: InterContinental Lisbon & Lisboa Carmo Hotel . As well as the top Lisbon attractions we visited, like Oceanário de Lisboa (Aquarium), Pavilhão do Conhecimento (Science Museum), Jardim Zoológico (Lisbon Zoo), and historic sites like Belem Tower. We even watched a football (soccer for Americans) match at Benfica stadium.
Or skip to the end to see if we’d return to this beautiful city in this 100% actual human-written article!
- We visited top Lisbon attractions like Oceanário de Lisboa, Pavilhão do Conhecimento,, and historic sites like Belem Tower. We even watched a football (soccer for Americans) match at Benfica stadium.
- We enjoy visiting new European cities with no crowds during the slow season. The most popular time to visit with kids is for good weather and outdoor fun from May to September, but you’ll find much bigger crowds then.
- Though we didn’t do it this trip, day trips to Sintra’s colorful Pena palace and Cascais’ beaches (in the summer) are good options.
- Plenty of kid-approved foods include the famous Pastel de Nata custard tarts.
Getting to Lisbon
We took American Airlines from Philadelphia (PHL) to Lisbon (LIS) for this trip. American flies 787s to Lisbon, and we used systemwide upgrades to upgrade to business class. This was a comfortable way to get to Portugal, and we were able to get a few hours of sleep on the way there.
As Lisbon is in Western Europe, it’s a relatively short flight from the U.S. Our flight time from take off to landing was just a bit over 6 hours, so there’s not much time to sleep on the way over.
Landing in Lisbon, we took the metro just outside the airport, to a station close to our hotel. On our first night, we stayed at Lisboa Carmo Hotel, a smaller hotel in a great location.
Getting Around Lisbon
Lisbon has efficient public transport, but it’s easy to get around using Bolt (Similar to Uber).
Tip: One mistake we made was thinking we’d use the metro system more than we did. We initially loaded $10 on each of our cards on arrival. We ended up leaving Lisbon with money remaining on the cards. Using the Bolt rideshare app was the best way to get around Lisbon.
Bolt is much faster and cheaper than using Uber in the United States. We’d request a ride for a 10-minute trip, which would cost around 4 Euros. And we’d be picked up within a minute or so!
The city’s cable cars and funiculars are also a must-do, even if you don’t need to get somewhere on them.
Things We Did in Lisbon
Pavilhão do Conhecimento (Science Museum for Kids)
Lisbon has fun, educational museums. And our first stop at Pavilhão do Conhecimento had plenty of things to do. Almost every exhibit here was a interactive hands-on experience.
It’s definitely one of the best museums we’ve been to regarding how many interactive exhibits there are.
Oceanário de Lisboa
Our next stop was Oceanário de Lisboa, one of the better aquariums we’ve visited. We spent about two hours here, but we could have spent longer.
The Oceanário de Lisboa has been ranked one of Europe’s leading aquariums, with a large central tank featuring sharks and fish – while the other exhibits surround the tank.
The next few stops are in the Belem area. It’s about 15 minutes from where we were near the Funicular, so we combined several of the attractions in the Belem area.
On the Tagus River, we also visited Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Belem Tower is a former military fort and prison. There’s a fee to get inside (and a line), where you can climb up the narrow stairs and reach the top.
From Belem Tower, we walked to the Maritime Museum, which is about 10 minutes away. It had started raining, so this was a good break from that. Most of the large exhibits in this museum focus on older Portuguese seafaring history. The museum contains maritime artifacts, interactive displays, and historic ships.
Next door to the Maritime Museum is the Jerónimos Monastery, one of the most visited sites in Lisbon. There’s a fee to enter the rest of the monastery, but the church part is free (we learned this from the horse carriage tour guide!).
We skipped the Monastery as the line was pretty long, and it was raining. But we went into the church, which was beautiful, to take some pictures.
Horse Carriage Ride
We found this horse and carriage ride just outside the monastery, with about a 20-minute tour of the local area, for 5 Euros per person. This was a great quick tour,, and we also learned a few things about the area.
While you’re in the area, stop by Pastéis de Belém, a bakery that’s been around since 1837, making this famous custardy treat with a flaky crust. Even if there’s a bit of a line, it’s worth a stop.
Tip: You usually don’t need to wait in line. The above of the outside is from the line waiting to get into the main restaurant. Many people join the wrong line, thinking they must wait in it to buy some Pasteis. Note the door on the left with no one waiting in line; that’s the entrance for the takeaway purchase area. We were in and out in about 30 seconds!
Jardim Zoológico (Lisbon Zoo)
Zoos are another place we try to see in new, larger cities. We visited, and we were impressed with the Jardim Zoológico.
The zoo has a few unique things we haven’t found elsewhere, like the small cable car ride that carries you around most of the park and the dolphin show, which are included in the ticket price.
Another favorite part (from our kids) is that it’s the only zoo we’ve been to with a McDonald in it. Watch out for the peacocks trying to steal food out of your hand!
A Football Match at Benfica Stadium
A football match is something we didn’t even plan to do. We showed up at the stadium for a tour, and there happened to be a game that day! So we bought tickets, then left to go to the zoo before returning that night.
With easy access to public transportation, visiting Benfica Stadium is convenient from anywhere in Lisbon. During a game, this is an excellent time to avoid using Bolt or Uber; there were road closers around the stadium. It ended up being much faster, taking the metro.
We hopped on the Bica Funicular for some Instagram-worthy pictures. You can either ride the round trip or one way.
We were already exploring the neighborhoods at the top of the funicular line, so we just rode it down to the bottom before grabbing a Bolt to the Belem Tower area.
Lisboa Carmo Hotel
We stayed at several hotels as part of our stay, including the Lisboa Carmo Hotel, a small, older hotel in a great location. We had a great stay here, even though we were only there for a night. We’d gladly return here.
Intercontinental Lisbon was an almost perfect hotel, but the opposite of the Lisboa Carmo (and many historic European hotels) —a newer, large hotel next to the Avenida da Liberdade park.
Lisbon is a unique city with beautiful historic areas and a tremendous kid-friendly museum. Getting around the city is accessible with Bolt or public transport, and the cost is lower than many other European cities we’ve been to. In January, the crowds were non-existent.
We’re glad we visited, but would we return? We’re glad we had the chance to explore Lisbon and had a great time. But we’ve still got plenty of places to visit, and Lisbon didn’t wow us the way some of our favorite places have. And in case you’re wondering, those places are Switzerland and New Zealand.
Thanks for reading!