Lisbon in December

Lisbon with kids: a 3 day itinerary

Feeling the warm sun on my face, my toe tapping to the buskers behind me, I couldn’t help but feel a little smug that we were visiting Lisbon in December. I was sat on the steps of the Tagus River at Comércio Plaza, whilst the boys chased the waves lapping up the steps, dodging tourists with their selfie-sticks.

Check out our video of what we got up to in Lisbon with kids.

 

Admittedly the warm winter sun and bright blue skies provided the perfect filter, but Lisbon was a city I instantly fell in love with; cobbled streets connecting grand architecture, restaurants spilling out onto expansive plazas, and brightly coloured buildings framed by terracotta rooftops. Plus, we found that there is so much to do in Lisbon for kids! The Oceanarium and Science Museum were a huge hit, but also riding the trams and metro, as well lots of open, pedestrianised squares for running and chasing pigeons. If you’re visiting Lisbon with kids, you should kind some inspiration here. There is particularly lots to do in Lisbon for toddlers.

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Our Lisbon with kids itinerary

We usually embrace slow travel and generally like some downtime of an afternoon. Not this time. The boys were on form this weekend and were happy to keep going and going (Portuguese ice-cream must contain magic beans, and it was also the first time they wore their hiking boots for a city break). Plus, there is really so much to do in Lisbon with kids, that we wanted to cram in as much as possible!

Lisbon with kids

We flew in to Lisbon in December on a Thursday morning, arriving at our hotel just before noon, and left on a Sunday morning. So we had 72 hours across 4 days.

Day 1 – Soak up the history

As we arrived at our hotel just before noon, our first day started around lunch time…

Begin your Lisbon family adventures in the heart of the old town at Comércio Plaza. If the sun is shining, head down to the steps on the river and soak up the atmosphere, before enjoying a short wander along the waterfront.

Lisbon with kids

Soaking in the sun and views of the Tagus River

Head back to the Comércio Plaza and through Arco da Rua Augusta to stroll along pedestrianised Rua Augusta towards Rossio. Give in to temptation and stop for a drink at one of the many restaurants spilling out on to the cobbled streets.

Take tram No.12 from Praça da Figueira towards São Jorge’s Castle (it’s a short walk up hill from the tram stop) to marvel the impressive views across the old city and over to the Tagus River and beyond, before exploring inside the castle. Unintentionally, we timed our visit perfectly with sunset.

Lisbon with kids

View from São Jorge’s Castle

We had wanted to have dinner in the area, but found restaurants closing. So instead we took a very crammed tram back to Comércio Plaza and found a restaurant along Rua Augusta.

Day 2 – Visit the ‘new’ Lisbon

The former industrial area of Lisbon was transformed into Parque das Nações for Expo98 and has been completely transformed into a modern and pedestrianised recreational area.

Just a 15 minute walk from our hotel, is Lisbon’s Oceanarium. This aquarium is considered one of the best in the world, and a must if visiting Lisbon with kids. The marine life seem to be very well looked after and it’s thrilling watching the sharks and rays brush past with just a sheet of glass separating you. They also have penguins, puffins, and some extremely cute otters. However, get there early. It was too busy for us and we left earlier that we would have liked as it felt rather claustrophobic.

Almost next to the Oceanarium is Pavilhão do conhecimento (Science Museum). This is honestly the BEST kids science museum we have ever been to. This museum is all about learning through play, and extremely fun play.  We spent a good few hours here, and there are friendly staff on hand to help kids work out how to to do things. My boys particularly loved playing with the wheels and cranes in the building area, driving the car with square wheels, creating flowers out of their heads through dance, and programming a robot around a maze. This would be our absolute must do if visiting Lisbon with kids.

Then for some chilled time, enjoy the cable car ride along the river and back again, before jumping on Bus no728 from here  to Comércio Plaza. Walk along Rua Augusta and select a spot for an early dinner.

Day 3 – Sintra and Belém

A 40 minute train journey from Lisbon (we took the train from Oriente) transports you to the fairytale-esque town of Sintra, complete with ornate castles and pastel-washed alleyways. We only had a couple of hours to wander around and unfortunately missed out on visiting the ‘must-see’ Pena Palace as buses were full and the boys were apparently too young to ride tuk-tuks. Our friends over at Wyld Family Travel suggest spending three days here (check out their Sintra post) and we can totally see why. However, a morning was just enough to get a vibe of the town before the throngs of tourists arrived.

Tip 1: Get there early!
Tip 2: Don’t wait for a bus into the town. It’s a lovely walk and only about 15 minutes.
Tip 3: Escape down the alleyways to avoid the crowds. You’ll have those instagrammable walls and doorways all to yourself. 

Lisbon with kids

Lisbon with kids

Back in the city, as we were visiting Lisbon in December, we visited Wonderland Lisboa to soak up some Christmas cheer. Being brutally honest, rides are over-priced and there were long queues. However, I don’t think that’s very different to any other Christmas markets across Europe. But we all loved the views from the top of the ferris wheel, even if the cabin did feel like a sauna in the winter sunshine.

Take the metro back to Comércio Plaza (we keep ending up here!) and board the Yellow Boat Tour to Belém. Do check the website for times as the boat only runs four times a day in winter. It’s lovely seeing the city from the water and many people opt to stay on the boat to return to Comércio Plaza. However, we jumped off to take a closer look at the impressive Belém Tower before walking along the waterfront and then catching a tram back to Comércio Plaza.

And whilst we found ourselves back at Comércio Plaza yet again, we felt it suitable to enjoy dinner for a third night in a row along one of Rua Augusta’s side streets. If visiting Lisbon with toddlers, this area is perfect for dining as you can sit outside and it’s pedestrianised for your little one to wander around close to the table.

Day 4 – Return home

Our flight back home departed at 10:20 am. We therefore only had time for breakfast, before catching the 15 minute metro to Lisbon airport. If you are departing from Terminal 2, allow enough time to get the transfer bus as the metro takes you to Terminal 1.

If you have more time…

You could also visit the Puppet Museum, Lisbon Zoo, and Kidzania.

Christmas in Lisbon

Lisbon in December isn’t the obvious choice if you’re looking for a Christmas family city break. Many head to the traditional Christmas markets of Germany and Belgium. But perhaps consider a little sunshine and warmth with your mulled wine and Christmas shopping?

We visited Lisbon in the second weekend of December and found that the city really comes alive at this time of year. There are Christmas markets at seemingly every main square. Or your can head to Wonderland Lisboa to go ice-skating, meet Father Christmas, ride the Ferris Wheel and peruse even more Christmas markets.

Wonderland Lisboa runs from the 1st December to 1st January. 

You will also find the main shopping streets decorated with twinkling lights, and we absolutely loved the conical tree in the main square of Comércio Plaza, which you can sit inside and looks magical when lit up at night.

Lisbon with kids

Plus Lisbon is perhaps a more affordable option compared to the traditional Christmas market cities of Germany and Belgium. Check out this post – How much does it cost to travel to Lisbon?

Where to stay in Lisbon with kids

Visit Lisboa kindly arranged and paid for our accommodation at TRYP Lisboa Oriente Hotel and we would certainly recommend it to those visiting Lisbon with kids. Check out the tripadvisor reviews.

The location is fantastic for the Oceanarium and Pavilhão do conhecimento (Science Museum), and there is a massive supermarket in the mall across the road. Plus, it’s only three stops away from the airport. However, we only spent half a day at these places and seemed to gravitate more towards Comércio Plaza and its surrounding streets. To get to Comércio Plaza you either have to take a bus or the metro (including a change). Although this wasn’t too much of a problem as my boys loved riding the public transport.

Book TRYP Lisboa Oriente Hotel on booking.com

We had a family room on the 10th floor overlooking the Oriente train station; my train-obsessed boys loved this, although personally I would have preferred a river view. Rooms are modern, clean and a good size. There’s a fridge in the room, although unfortunately no coffee and tea making facilities. We had a double bed and a bunk bed for the boys. Do note that the sides of the beds in the bunks aren’t entirely safe, as there are big gaps where they could fall out. We filled these gaps with pillows and bedding, which worked, but wouldn’t be ideal for very young children.

A buffet breakfast is provided, including a full English, pancakes, omelettes, breads, meats, cheeses – it really is an impressive spread! Although do note that the hotel is popular with tour buses and so breakfast does get busy at all times.

Getting around Lisbon with kids

We advise getting the Lisboa Card for unlimited free travel by bus, metro and tram. You can get this for 24, 48, or 72 hours. The card also includes free or discounted entry to many museums and attractions, and also free travel by train to Sintra and Cascais.

It is very easy to navigate the public transport system and signage is very clear. Plus, we never seemed to be too far from a metro, bus or tram stop; and rarely had to wait long.

Be warned though that from our experience, Lisbon public transport gets extremely busy, especially around rush hour. We were lucky on a few occasions to actually get a seat. If travelling with babies and toddlers, I would imagine that getting a pushchair on and off would be hard work. Consider taking a carrier.

Getting to Lisbon

We flew direct from Manchester, UK, to Lisbon in December with easyJet. It’s a 2 hour 50 minute flight.

Manchester airport is only a one hour hour drive from our home and we left our car at the airport using the Meet & Greet option booked with Holiday Extras. This is super easy. Drive to the Meet & Greet drop off following the signs (M+G), pass through the inspection area that automatically scans your car to record its condition, park up, drop keys into the machine, and walk the 2 minutes into the terminal. On return, pick up your keys from the collection point in arrivals and you will find your car parked in the short-term car-park. It was 15 minutes from walking off our flight to stepping into our car and driving home.

“Holiday Extras is the market leader in UK airport parking, hotels and lounges, and in 2018 customers who pre-booked their parking with Holiday Extras saved an average of £59 each vs the price they’d have paid on the day. Meet and Greet parking takes the hassle out of your trip to the airport and is the best way to start your holiday with a smile.”


Lisbon with kids

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Disclaimer: Our visit to Lisbon was hosted by Visit Lisboa who provided us with three nights bed and breakfast at TRYP Lisboa Oriente Hotel as well as a complimentary 72 hour Lisboa Card for unlimited free travel by bus, metro and tram. Our visit to the Oceanarium, Pavilhão do conhecimento, São Jorge Castle, and our Yellow Boat Tour was also complimentary. We paid for our own flights with Easy Jet. This post also contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no cost to you, though I receive a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog. 


Where would we be without our Lonely Planet guide book?

You may also like to read:
Nuremberg with kids: Top 10 things to do
Lanzarote with kids: off the beaten track
Best château to visit in the Loire with kids

 

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35 Comments

  1. HI.

    So cool to read about your trip to our city, so many places we know so well 🙂 Happy to know you all loved our city!!

  2. Helen

    Aww I love to idea of celebrating the run up to Christmas in Lisbon. It’s on my wishlist of places I’d like to visit 🙂

    • TraveLynn Family

      Not exactly your typical Christmas market getaway, but we absolutely loved it!

  3. pigeonpairandme

    How great that the boys obliged by upping their energy levels so you could do lots while you were there! Comercio Plaza looks beautiful. My friend grew up in Lisbon – I really need to visit soon!

    • TraveLynn Family

      Oh you must! And always fab having an insiders knowledge to exploring the city 🙂

  4. I didn’t get to visit Sintra when I was in Lisbon so obviously I will need to return soon! Like you, I fell in love with Lisbon, it’s such a wonderful city and so easy with kids. It looks like you had the most wonderful winter getaway and I love the sound of the Science Museum and the Oceanarium!

    • TraveLynn Family

      Obviously 😉 But yes – we totally fell in love with the city. The Science Museum is definitely the best one the boys have ever been to.

  5. I loved watching your video! I’ve never been to Portugal!

  6. ChelseaMamma

    We fell in love with Lisbon in February but only had a weekend, so would love to return. Christmas looks amazing there

  7. Lisbon looks like a lovely city. It would be nice to get to visit the city one day.

  8. Ohh.. I went to Porto last year and loved it.. now I really want to visit Lisbon too. December sounds like a great time of year to visit actually!

  9. I love Portugal but I’ve never considered going in December. Sounds much nicer than being stuck here with all the Christmas shopping craziness!

  10. ecofamilytravel

    Sounds fabulous. I have travelled a lot in Europe but never been to Portugal. Thanks for all the info. #fearlessfamtrav

  11. Momma To Go

    Portugal seems to be the hot destination and this post makes me want to go ASAP!!!!

  12. I am absolutely dying to visit Sintra #fearlessfamtrav

  13. We’re really hoping to make it to Lisbon in 2019, and your post only made my resolve to get there stronger! Looks like a place we could easily fall in love with. #fearlessfamtrav

  14. what a beautiful pre xmas trip. Love the late autumn lights on your photos.

  15. Wow what a great idea for a winter city break – I definitely wouldn’t have considered Lisbon in December beforehand, but it sounds like a fascinating place to visit with kids – great tips! #fearlessfamtrav

  16. Our family had a terrible drama last year and missed a connecting international flight in Lisbon, as a result we got to wander around this lovely city for one evening. Your post definitely makes me wish to return and explore some more, especially Sintra, it looks stunning!! I also love a good children’s museum, and the science museum does sound wonderful! Thank you for all of your thorough tips and tricks. #fearlessfamtrav

  17. We absolutely lived Lisbon when we visited during our road trip at the end of the summer. We managed an hour in Pena Palace on the way down from Nazaré but want to revisit and spend longer there. We somehow missed the Science Museum despite going to the aquarium. Lisbon is only a 30 minute flight (or 2.5 hr drive) so I can see another trip happening this year. #fearlessfamtrav

  18. I can’t believe how much you managed to fit into a weekend! I have such great memories of that city and it is definitely one I would love to return to. #fearlessfamtrav

  19. Thanks for all the great ideas! We’re hoping to visit soon – it goes to the top of our list ever time we think about a trip, but we haven’t made it yet. #fearlessfamtrav

  20. I’ve never been to Lisbon but your post makes me want to book a trip there straightaway- even in the wintertime! Thanks for all the family friendly tips. #fearlessfamtrav

  21. I’ve been once to Lisbon for a whistlestop tour. Love to visit Sintra next time too #fearlessfamtrav

  22. Wow! You did a lot in 72 hours, but it certainly makes me interested to go and visit! #fearlessfamtrav

  23. Loved watching your video you did loads of the same things as we did when we stayed. Such a fab city isn’t it. Thanks for hosting #fearlessfamtrav

  24. Lisa (Travel Loving Family)

    Love your video Jenny! Lisbon is such a cool city isn’t it. I’ve only ever been as a cruise passenger, so one day stops only. I would love to go back and stay for a few days to really discover what the city has to offer:) Thanks for hosting #fearlessfamtrav

  25. Wow! What a lot you managed to fit into a long weekend! Lisbon looks fab. It’s not somewhere we’ve been but keen to go there now.

  26. I keep hearing such good things about Lisbon! I probably wouldn’t have thought about it for a Christmas break, but it does look very festive and a bit of warmth could only be a good thing! Love the Belem Tower, and my kids would go crazy in the Science Museum. #fearlessfamtrav

  27. Lisbon has been on my vacation radar for a while now. I can’t wait to visit one day. Thanks for the tips!

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