Last updated on January 29th, 2024 at 07:21 pm
Lisbon is the ideal city break with kids. It’s less than 3 hours by plane from the UK. It’s compact and easy to get around. There’s plenty to see… and of course, there are those custard tarts! Whether you’re in need of a 1 day Lisbon itinerary, or you want to see Lisbon in 4 days, I’ve got you covered. Here are the best things to do in Lisbon:
1 Day Lisbon -first time in Lisbon
If Lisbon is a stop-over for you, you’re here for only a very short time or you’ve never been before, then read on for your 1 day Lisbon itinerary:
Take a ride on Tram 28
Not originally intended for tourists, the route of Tram 28 Lisbon has risen to the top of the list when it comes to things to do in Portugal’s capital city. It passes by most of Lisbon’s top sights and attractions – including the Cathedral Se, Castelo de Sao Jorge and the viewpoint Largo das Portas de Sol.
Because it’s so popular, as you’d expect it’s super busy. There’s nearly always a substantial queue at its starting point (Martim Moniz). There’s no getting around that unless you’re happy to stand (this is a surefire way to get on much quicker).
However, unless you’re short on time and the queue’s crazy, I’d recommend waiting. The journey will be so much better when you can sit back and enjoy the view. Tip: the best seats are on the left-hand side.
You can choose to take the tram part-way (hopping off at Castelo de Sao Jorge or Baixa) or take it the whole route, which ends at Campo de Ourique.
Travelling the full way will take around 45 minutes. Bear in mind you’re likely to have to queue to get back on the tram going the other way at Campo de Ourique (if you choose to travel back by tram).
Kids may lose patience with the queueing but they’re bound to love the experience of being on the tram! You can get a live update of the length of the queue for Tram 28 on Google.
Visit Castelo de Sao Jorge
Whether you hop off Tram 28 near the castle or choose to visit at another time, Castelo de Sao Jorge is a great place to visit in Lisbon with kids. The castle sits on top of a hill, overlooking the city – and is an imposing sight.
The castle dates back to the 11th century when the Moors ruled Lisbon. There are fantastic views from the castle over the red rooftops of Alfama. Inside, there’s a permanent exhibition about the role of the castle in Portugal’s battles over the centuries and showcasing some of the archaeological finds here. The gardens are also a pleasant place to spend time.
For kids, there’s the Children’s Interpretation Centre (an interactive experience with games and educational resources). There are also events such as story-telling and treasure hunts at the castle on certain days. Take a look at the castle’s website to see what’s on when you’re visiting.
Stroll through Alfama
Another stop on the 28 tram route, or easily walkable from Baixa is the pretty, traditional area of Alfama. If you’re visiting the castle, you can easily combine it with a walk around Alfama.
Alfama is famous for its tiles, narrow cobbled streets, bougainvillaea and breathtaking views. Walking around the neighbourhood is the best way to see it.
It’s a good place to capture a sense of everyday Lisbon life with locals conversing in the little alleyways you pass through. It definitely has a ‘Lisbon off the beaten path’ feel to it. Perhaps because it was the only neighbourhood in Lisbon to survive the 1755 earthquake unscathed.
Make sure your stroll around Alfama takes you to Miradouro de Santa Luzia. The blue and white tiles depict scenes from the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The bougainvillaea here is impressive and you’re guaranteed some Instagram-worthy pictures!
Other Alfama Miradouros (viewpoints) include Miradouro da Graca and Miradouro de Senhora do Monte.
2 Days In Lisbon
Spend the day in Belem
Belem is the place to head next if you’re considering a Lisbon 2 day itinerary (or 3 or 4 days in Lisbon, for that matter).
Belem is best known for its nautical history and impressive architecture. The river here (the Rio Tejo) is where the ships would return to following journies made during the Age of Discoveries.
The Monastery (Mosteiro des Jeronimos) is probably the main draw in Belem. There’s plenty to keep you busy here if you have 2 days in Lisbon and you’re looking for some culture!
Check out Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery)
Jeronimos Monastery, founded in 1501 by King Manuel I, is likely to be one of the most impressive you’ll come across in your lifetime. It was commissioned to commemorate the successful voyage to India of explorer Vasco Da Gama, who is also buried in the church.
You’ll be met by two separate queues when you get to Mosteiro dos Jeronimos – one for the cloisters and one for the church. If you want to visit the cloisters, be aware that there are queues for both ticket purchase and entry. You can either queue up to purchase tickets at the ticket office or buy tickets in advance with the QR code outside.
Entry to the church (on the right-hand side) is free and usually has a shorter queue. We visited the church in the morning and came back in the afternoon to see the cloisters when the queue was shorter.
Both the church and the cloisters are beautiful and worth seeing, but if you have time for only one queue (and both are long), I’d pick the cloisters. The architecture and stonework are so intricate and impressive – it should definitely make your itinerary in Lisbon.
Try a Pastel de Belem
If you visit Belem, you have to stop at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem (just across the road from the monastery), also known as Pasteis De Belem.
The most famous item on the menu is, of course, their custard tart (the pastel de Belem). Open since 1837, apparently, this is where it all began. The original recipe for the pastel de nata supposedly came from the Jeronimos monastery next door.
The sandwiches here are great, as are the other savoury and sweet pastries. It’s worth joining the queue to be seated (rather than the queue for takeaway coffees and pastries) for lunch. The queue moves quickly and there’s loads of seating. They run things efficiently here!
Walk by the waterfront
A stroll along the river will take you to several of Belem’s must-see sights. The Praco do Imperio (opposite the monastery) has an impressive fountain and gardens and it’s a nice spot to sit and relax for a while.
Continue on towards the river from here and you’ll come across the mosaic Maritime Map which charts the routes of Portuguese explorers and the dates they colonised certain lands. It’s both fun and educational for kids to inspect.
Next up, on the river, is the Padrao dos Descobrimentos – a giant statue which features those intrepid explorers.
Finally, if you turn right and carry on along the river you’ll see the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower). The tower (once used as a fortress and a viewing point over the river) is a Unesco World Heritage site. You can climb the narrow spiral staircase to the top if you want to sample those views.
Browse Modern Art at Museu Colecao Berardo
Whatever you think of modern art, there are some real talking points at this gallery. Highlights include pieces by Picasso, Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
It was quiet when we visited (clearly everyone was in the queue for the monastery). Tickets aren’t expensive and it’s a good option if you’re looking for indoor activities or it’s a rainy day in Lisbon.
It’s worth a visit if you’re in the area and want to add a bit of culture to your itinerary.
And that wraps up your 2 days in Lisbon itinerary!
Lisbon for 3 days
If you’re in Lisbon for 3 days, here’s what to prioritise next:
Visit Lisboa Story Centre
One of the best things to do in Lisbon when it rains, the Lisboa Story Centre is an interactive museum highlighting the most significant events in Lisbon’s history.
Your audio set will automatically connect to the section of the museum you’re in and give you details of what was happening in the city at that particular time. A significant focus of the Lisbon Story Centre is Lisbon’s huge 1755 earthquake, and how the city was reconstructed afterwards.
There’s a film shown on a three-sided screen which encapsulates this event really well – making you feel you’re actually part of this historic and terrifying event.
The museum is suitable for older kids (you have to use the audio for information – there’s no other source). The museum only takes around an hour to get around, making it a good length for families.
There’s a VR experience here as well which teenagers might enjoy (head up the stairs to get to it) – if you have older kids make sure you add it to your 4 day Lisbon itinerary.
Stop by Lisbon’s Main square (Praca do Comercio)
Lisbon’s gateway for centuries, this is where everyone arriving by boat would disembark. It was rebuilt following the 1755 earthquake, with the square changing significantly over the years (it was used as a car park in the 1980s)! Lisboa Story Centre is on the square, as are a number of wonderful restaurants and cafes.
If you visit Praca do Comercio, you’ll be right near Lisbon’s lively main pedestrian street, Rua Augusta and the Arco da Rua Augusta (Rua Augusta Arch). This is the place to head for shopping if you’re wanting to pick up something to take home.
Go to Oceanario Aquarium
This should be near the top of your list if you’re visiting Lisbon with kids or if you’re wondering what to do when it rains in Lisbon. Oceanario Aquarium is the second largest aquarium in Europe (after Nausiccaa Aquarium in France). It features tiger sharks, stingrays, penguins and sea otters.
Its main tank (holding 5 million litres of saltwater) is the top attraction and the sharks, stingrays and fish can be seen from a number of different viewpoints.
Oceanario Aquarium is involved in educational programs and conservation work – as well as being a fun family day out. There are always lots of special activities on for kids, such as kids’ concerts and guided tours for families. Children under 12 years old go free during Children’s Month in June.
Lisbon in 4 days
If you’re lucky enough to have time to see Lisbon in 4 days, then the beach makes a great option for day 4. This might particularly be the case if you need some chill-out time after walking around the city.
Head to the Beach
Lisbon’s not far at all from some great beaches making this a great choice for day 4 of your Lisbon in 4 days itinerary. Hop on a train or rent a car for the day to get there. Here are some of the best options for a beach day:
- Praia de Carcavelos: around 20 kilometres west of Lisbon, Praia de Carcavelos is one of the most popular (and closest) beaches to the city. Golden sand, great surf conditions, a lively atmosphere and lots of beach bars and restaurants make this a brilliant choice.
- Praia Da Figueirinha: this beach is around an hour’s drive from the city centre. It’s located in the beautiful Arrabida Natural Park. It’s a quieter beach than some of the others with fewer amenities but this will no doubt suit some!
- Praia de Santo Amaro de Oeiras: you’ll find this beach in the town of Oeiras, about 15 kilometres west of Lisbon. Praia de Santo Amaro de Oeiras is another attractive beach. It features a mix of sandy and rocky areas, making it suitable for sunbathing and exploring tidal pools. The beach is known for its calm waters, making it a great choice for families.
The Best Place for Pastel de Nata
We kept hearing that the best place for Pastel de nata (other than Pasteis De Belem) was Manteigaria. There are currently 6 branches in and around the city with the original and main branch in Chiado.
Not only are the custard tarts amazing here (warm custard, flaky pastry, just the right amount of cinnamon), but you can also watch them make the tarts as you buy/ eat. Kids and adults alike will be in heaven.
How to get around Lisbon
Lisbon’s transport system is cheap and pretty easy to use. You have several different options: the train, the tram, the bus, taxi and walking.
It’s straightforward to reach the centre of Lisbon from the airport by train. The metro system has its own stop for the airport (‘Aeroporto on the red line). The journey into the city centre will take you around half an hour.
The Metro has 4 lines (red, blue, green and yellow). It will take you to most of Lisbon’s neighbourhoods and sights. You can purchase a rechargeable card called a ‘Viva Viagem’ if you are likely to take multiple journies during your stay – or you can purchase individual tickets from the ticket machines at the metro stations.
As noted earlier, the city’s trams are also a great way to get around and see what Lisbon has to offer at the same time. Tram 28 is the most popular and a tourist attraction in its own right.
You can purchase a 24-hour ticket which will allow you to take as many journeys as you want on the train or tram.
There’s a good bus network in Lisbon (the carrier is Carris) and it covers a wider area than the metro. You can use the ‘Viva Viagem’ on buses too so you can combine metro travel with bus travel.
Taxis are readily available and Uber and Bolt are popular here.
Walking around the city is definitely feasible – and enjoyable. We probably opted for this mode of transport over all others most of the time. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes though – Lisbon is a city with lots of hills and steep streets.
The Lisboa Card includes free access to transport (and many attractions) around the city for however many days you’ve bought it for.
I hope this Lisbon in 4 Days itinerary has been helpful! If you’d love to see more of Portugal, consider spending a long weekend in Porto – it’s equally beautiful! Or, if you want to include Spain in your trip, there’s the option of a Lisbon to Seville road trip.
For more ideas on family travel in Europe, take a look at Itinerary for 4 Days in Paris – Paris with Teenagers, The Best Itinerary For a Family Holiday in Croatia and 12 Best Things To Do in Taormina (Sicily).