Lisbon, the oldest city in Western Europe and the largest Portuguese city, is a hilly spot and can be difficult to navigate with a stroller. We spent three days exploring the many uphill cobbled streets, meeting the wonderful locals and learning about their culinary and musical culture. We lucked out with gorgeously sunny days during our mid May visit with the kids and the grand parents, which meant that we explored the city by foot and a few (cheap) taxis. The transportation infrastructure in Lisbon is fabulous and far reaching but the trams we saw were quite busy and even thinking about taking the double stroller in there gave me a headache. So remember, the hills are many and the cabs are cheap! Also ensure you bring a heavy duty stroller with sturdy tires. Our Mountain Buggy got a flat tire on our last day in Lisbon and it was quite an inconvenience. All that said, the Portuguese culture is extremely family friendly and Lisbon was full of local families and kids at every street corner.
Where to Sleep
Lisbon’s districts are many, and each of them has a charm that will keep you exploring the area. As with any big city, there’s no shortage of accommodation options. We decided to stay at this 4 bedroom apartment that not only had A.C but also an elevator! We walked from here for the most part and took a couple cabs as well. We met the owner and her mom on our last day and can tell you that they’re lovely, have thought about everything and had a crib and high chair on offer (She was expecting her 1st when we met her!). Lisbon is one of the few places where I think you don’t have to worry about your location. Why? Simply because the city is spread out but with many attractions and restaurants within walking distance, no matter where you are! Most buildings are old so the elevator and a.c were our main requirements.
Where to Play
For the most part, Lisbon’s charm is exploring the back alleys, watching the old ladies and the laundry in the balconies. However, there’s no shortage of museums and architectural and food tours that one could do. During our two days, we walked and we walked. We looked up, we looked sideways and we simply soaked in the Lisboa vibe over pastries, sangria and beer. We could have done a lot more, like visit the famous aquarium, but we decided to take things a bit slow and only got around to the following spots.
Sandeman’s New Europe Tour : Having done their tour in Ireland and recommended them to many travelling friends, I knew this would be the best start to our trip. We made it to the 2 p.m. tour and spent three hours with our friendly guide who was a Canadian, madly in love with Lisbon. It was on this tour that we really got to SEE Lisbon. We were taken to major fountains and told about the history and the culinary culture of the city. Their tours are not only free (but do tip your guide!) but they’re also stroller friendly. We did hit some stairs, especially near the Santa Justa Elevator, but our guide told us of an alternate route and we were able to link up with the group, easily. Most of my pictures of Lisbon are from this tour because we walked through historically rich Bairro Alto.
Music: One of my Portuguese missions was to experience the traditional Fados that I had heard much about. I was hoping to catch one in Porto but that didn’t happen and the options in Lisbon were a bit harder to come by. Most of them involved a dinner show and we didn’t have time for that. What we did have time for was a visit to a cute little bar, Mascote DA Atalaia, once we tucked the kids in bed under the watchful eyes of their grandparents! There wasn’t a soul that wasn’t moved by the passionate singer. Fado is a bit melancholy but it tugs at the heartstrings, even though you don’t speak the language. I was told there’s many Fado spots that welcome kids and I can see how the dinner options would work well with little ones. That night walking up and down the tiny cobbled stones, bar hopping (by that I mean, looking at the bouncers, the flashing lights and saying … oh gosh we’re too old for that!) with the hubs reminded us of our honeymoon in Buenos Aires!
Tram 28 : Everyone we met told us we had to take the Tram 28 for a tour of Lisbon and we attempted a couple times but failed miserably. If you plan to go with kids, try and avoid the rush hours and keep the stroller at home (unless it’s a small umbrella one). We nearly got on it at 10 a.m. one day but we were running late and opted to eat an early lunch instead! On my final day in Lisbon, the father in law and I woke up bright and early to catch an 8:30 tram and what do you know… there was a strike! This is quite common in Lisbon and sadly I missed out on sleep that morning but it was nice seeing the city so deserted. I was highly advised to not carry much on us when we went on the tram because it is riddled with pick-pocketers and since we’d be busy watching the kids, we wouldn’t have even noticed them. Tuk Tuks would be a more family friendly way to tour the city, in my opinion!
Where to Dine
Lisbon is home to many fine restaurants and pop up shops and yet during our visit, we didn’t make it out to many. Instead we took cues from the locals and visited a couple spots that seemed to cater to the general public. I was given the following advice “if they have a menu in 10 different languages, don’t bother. If they give you a hand written menu, go for it!”. What this meant was that I ate at spots that I can’t remember the name for and so I’m a bit useless here. If you like fish just ask for the fish of the day and leave it up to the Chef to cook it any way he pleases. Potato lovers can also rejoice because we saw that on every menu.
Many told us we HAD to dine at Cervejaria Ramiro. Well I’m disappointed to report that after waiting in line for an hour and being pushed back in favour of the locals, we finally got in only to realize that in Canada we get fish that’s just as good and the oysters are even better! It was an interesting experience having boiled/steamed and raw seafood thrown on our table (because the fish is THAT good and they’re right, no curries or spices were required) but I wouldn’t put this on a top Lisbon eats list, as many have in Lisbon. On a side note, our server was NOT impressed when we ordered a bottle of red to accompany our meal versus a white! Opps!
Definitely pop by Cerveteca Lisboa for craft beer and grab some sardines from the shop next door. The sardines were our souvenirs for family and friends, this time around! We walked here but cabbed back and loved that there was a couple restaurant options in the area and a small playground for the kids.
As you walk through the main square and hear the bells toll at Manteigara Lisboa, do run there and grab a sleeve of their pastéis de nata! It’s delicious but I still say that the one I had at the Fenix hotel in Porto was the best one!
As I sit and reflect about our two days in Lisbon, I’m left with memories of people watching and navigating the tiny uphill road with a stroller. You need some muscle to roam around this city and I’m glad we had the hubs and his dad along. Most visitors to Portugal use Lisbon as a base for their day trips to nearby towns like Sintra, Obidos and Belem. Two days and three nights were plenty for us and while I don’t see Lisbon has a ‘must visit’ spot in this fair country, I know it’s a major hub and many families will be flying or out of here. For me Portugal is all about the smaller towns like Cascais, Obidos and the Algarve.