LISBON: A LOVE FOR ALL AGES
Nathalie Marquez Courtney takes you on a familyfriendly tour of Portugal’s capital
Since relocating from Dublin to Lisbon, I’ve welcomed lots of friends and family to my adopted city, often with kids in tow. I’ve navigated Lisbon’s many steps with toddlers, pushed buggies across cobblestones, entertained bored ten-year-olds on packed trams, and brunched, lunched and dinner-ed with a baby on my lap. In each case, I’ve found Lisbon to be a wonderful place for families, its relaxed pace and warm weather adding to its appeal. So grab the fam, whatever their ages, and dive right in…
THE SLEEPLESS YEARS: BABIES
STAY You’ve managed to clean the smushed banana off the nappy bag and crawl through a haze of sodden bibs and airport queues to make it this far, so take it easy on yourself. Forgo the big tourist attractions and maddening crowds and instead live like a local in a nice, mellow neighbourhood like Campo de Ourique, with its abundance of coffee shops, children’s boutiques and cute parks, giving you plenty of opportunities to ease yourself in (and race home for naps if needs be).
EXPLORE A wander around the beautiful Gulbenkian Garden (a perfect picnic spot), which also houses the wonderful Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (gulbenkian.pt), home to an incredible collection of European art, makes for a pleasant afternoon.
EAT Follow the culture with some craft beer and the tastiest burgers in the city at Ground Burger (groundburger.com) and know that the vast El Corte Inglés department store is nearby if there are baby essentials you’ve forgotten – the children’s f loor is also home to a brilliant baby changing and feeding area (elcorteingles.pt).
YOU’LL LOVE You’ll be pleased to learn that even the hippest coffee shops and restaurants are very baby-friendly, and often have highchairs available. Portugal operates a fairly strict priority system: if you’re elderly, have a disability, are pregnant or with a baby, you jump to the top of the queue. It applies in supermarkets, coffee shops, high street stores, as well as on all public transport.
GOOD TO KNOW If you can, leave the buggy at home and opt for baby wearing, as the steep hills and bumpy cobbles make for an unpleasant pram experience. Older babies might be able to handle (and even enjoy) bumping along in a lightweight stroller.
ATTACK OF THE NAP: TODDLERS
STAY You may be at the mercy of the crucial midday nap, so instead of spending it tiptoeing around a hotel room, find a roomy self-catering spot you’ll enjoy hanging out in. Head to Kid & Coe (kidandcoe.com) and browse their curated edit of chic, family-friendly properties, often complete with playrooms, local tips from the owners, and outdoor areas.
EXPLORE If your toddler is obsessed with things that go, they’ve come to the right city. The bright yellow trams that criss-cross Lisbon are a little person’s dream. Kick things off with some of the best pastéis de nata in town at Manteigaria (Rua do Loreto 2). Your little one will love watching the custard tarts being made; you’ll love washing down the delicious cinnamon-dusted treats with a short, sharp espresso. Then hop on the nearby 24E tram at Praça Luís de Camões and enjoy a meander through the city centre.
EAT If you decide to ride the 24E tram right to its end in Campolide, reward yourself with either an artisan ice cream at LucDuc (Rua de Campolide 57A), or tuck into traditional frango assado (delicious chargrilled piri piri chicken) at local institution A Valenciana (Rua Marquês de Fronteira).
YOU’LL LOVE Kiosk cafés (called quiosque in Portuguese) are dotted all over the city. The small, ornate, open-sided structures are a big part of Lisbon life and are the perfect family-friendly place to chill. You’ll find them in many neighbourhood parks and squares, surrounded by tables and chairs and often alongside wonderfully maintained playgrounds. They serve pastries, snacks, local beers Sagres and Super Bock, as well as homemade lemonade, freshly squeezed orange juice, and tasty Portuguese wine. They can often be found at miradouros – those charming viewing points with postcard-worthy vistas – as well.
GOOD TO KNOW If you’ve travelled light, but fancy venturing further afield, download the Cabify app (cabify.com), which allows you to easily pre-book a taxi with a car seat.
THE CURIOUS YEARS: FOUR-TO-SIX-YEAR-OLDS
STAY It doesn’t get much more central or family-friendly than Martinhal, smack bang in the middle of the Chiado neighbourhood (martinhal.com). There are rooms with bunk beds, playrooms, a supervised kids’ club (open in the evening as well) and, best of all, it’s located just a few doors up from some of the best chocolate cake in town at Landeau (landeau.pt).
EXPLORE Little eyes will open wide at Lisbon’s wonderful oceanarium, Oceanário de Lisboa. Located to the east of the city in the sleek and strikingly contemporary Parque das Nações area (the neighbourhood was completely regenerated for the city’s Expo in 1998), it will make a change from the crumbly charm of the city centre. Once you’re done seeing eye-to-eye with all manner of wild and wonderful sea life – including sharks, penguins and sea otters – you can hop on a Telecabine cable car and take in gorgeous views over the Tagus River and
Vasco da Gama Bridge (telecabinelisboa.pt).
EAT Brunch with a babysitter? It can be done. The newly opened family café A Partilhar com a Família (Rua das Trinas 67) boasts a tasty €15 brunch menu and huge play area, complete with two friendly babysitters available for €5 per hour, allowing you to tuck into your croissants and coffee while the kids burn off some energy.
YOU’LL LOVE A few minutes’ walk from A Partilhar com a Família is Jardim da Estrela (Praça da Estrela 12), one of Lisbon’s prettiest parks. There’s a playground, a café and even a duck pond (with the odd turtle, swan or peacock). At the weekends, look out for pop-up craft and design markets and spot musicians playing in the wrought-iron bandstand.
GOOD TO KNOW If you’re relying on Google Maps to get around, make sure to keep an eye on altitude changes. A quick ten-minute stroll with a couple of kids in tow might seem completely doable – until you realise it involves a 100-plus-step f light of stairs.
BEAT THE SCREENS: EIGHT-TO-TEN-YEAR-OLDS
STAY The wide-open spaces overlooking the Tagus River and laid-back vibe that define the Belém neighbourhood are great for older kids. The beautiful Pestana Palace is housed in a 19th century building and comes with two pools, a kids’ club and outdoor gardens as well as a wide range of family-friendly amenities (pestanacollection.com).
EXPLORE Estufa Fria, Lisbon’s vibrant greenhouse, is a magical, jungle-like space almost hidden in the the city’s huge Eduardo VII Park. It makes for a fun place to wander with kids; there are creeks and mini caves, statues and tiny babbling brooks, as well as an impressive cactus garden and lots of beautiful fauna (estufafria.cm-lisboa.pt). There’s also a great playground, complete with a mini zip line, right next door as well as a miradouro with stunning views across the city.
EAT Head to Zero Zero for the tasty pizzas, stay for the beautiful outdoor terrace (pizzeriazerozero.pt). Located in the hip Principe Real neighbourhood, it’s across the road from the area’s gorgeous park, where you’ll find a 100-year-old cedar tree “umbrella”.
YOU’LL LOVE Many of Lisbon’s museums and galleries offer free entry on the first Sunday of the month. Several also have excellent kids’ and family-specific programmes, and the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (known as the MAAT) is one of them. Home to cool exhibitions as well as immersive tours of what used to be the Tejo Power Station, it’s a great place to spend a morning or rainy afternoon (maat.pt).
GOOD TO KNOW Special children’s fares apply on public transport right up to age 12 – most tickets are half price on buses, trains, the Metro and trams.
ALMOST TOO COOL: 11+
STAY Elegant, yet warm and cosy, a stay at The Lisboans is like hanging out with your (way cooler) older cousin. Many of the rooms come equipped with kitchenettes, and breakfast is left hanging on your door in a handy linen bag, easily catering for any late risers (thelisboans.com).
EXPLORE The city’s cute and crumbly old district, including neighbourhoods Mouraria, Alfama and Graça is also surprisingly home to a huge collection of contemporary street art. The Escadinhas de São Cristóvão is the most Lisboan, dedicated to all things Fado, but it’s near impossible not to stumble across some as you wander, much of it by well-known European street artists.
EAT There is no shortage of Instagram-perfect eateries in Lisbon. Two of the prettiest are Amélia, which offers a great-value brunch and little play area for smaller kids (ilovenicolau.com), and Union Empanadas, a tiny little spot selling fresh, moreish empanadas whose gorgeous, brightly coloured ornate interior was painted by Gonçalo Jordão, a Portuguese artist who worked on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Rua São Cristóvão 27).
YOU’LL LOVE The cool LX Factory neighbourhood, located to the west of the city, was once a cluster of abandoned factories, but is now home to lots of independent boutiques, a rooftop bar (kids welcome) and one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. It’s one long self-contained stretch, so can be a good spot to let people wander off and do their own thing.
GOOD TO KNOW Many restaurants remain child-friendly well into the evening, and it’s not uncommon to see kids out dining with their families as late as 9pm or 10pm.
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT You don’t have to go far to find a playground in Lisbon; beautiful, ornate azulejos (painted tiles) are dotted all across the city; looking out towards São Jorge Castle; delicious pastéis de nata at Manteigaria in Time Out Market; the wild and wonderful gardens of the Estufa Fria greenhouse
Nathalie and her son Ari in the pretty Eduardo VII Park; RIGHT A riot of colour in Lisbon’s Old Town