Like most capital cities, Lisbon has no shortage of activities for children. It has all the benefits of being a thriving urban centre with historical and cultural activities galore, with the added bonus of enjoying a lovely year-round climate and being just a short hop from western Portugal’s beautiful golden coastline.
Whenever you visit and whatever the weather during your visit to Lisbon, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding activities for children. Finding things to do with children in Lisbon does not have to expensive either. It is one of Western Europe’s cheapest capital cities and there is even plenty to do that is absolutely free of charge.
Start your exploration of Lisbon in the Belem area, where there is plenty of room for the children to stretch their legs in the grounds of the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery.
From here you can head to the Alfama to explore that delightful, winding narrow streets that lead up to Lisbon’s highest point, which is capped by St George’s Castle. This dates back to the sixth century and was for several hundred years the home of Portugal’s Royal Family.
The Castle offers one of the most attractive viewpoints over the city of Lisbon, down across the rooftops of the Alfama to the waters of the Tagus beyond. Children will love exploring all the nooks and crannies left by the old castle walls and towers, as well as marvelling at the delightful whitewashed houses that line the road to the top. Little legs can be spared by taking a bus or taxi up to the top.
Indeed, Lisbon’s transport system makes it very easy to get around, and at surprisingly low cost. For just a few euros it is possible to buy 24-hour travel tickets that are valid for use on the buses, trams, metro, funiculars and elevator.
The travel system is well interconnected and children will love taking the more unusual forms of transport, such as the trams and funiculars that are a distinctive part of Lisbon’s fabric.
A ride on Tram 28 is one of the best ways to see the city. It is significantly cheaper than taking an open-topped bus ride and stops at most of the major landmarks around the city. Hope off at the Parque das Nacoes, the dockside area that was rejuvenated for the famous Expo 1998 for which Lisbon was the worldwide host. Much of the city underwent major restoration and development for the event, but none more so than the riverside area of the Parque das Nacoes.
The primary landmark here is also one of the biggest draws for children in Lisbon – the Oceanarium. This huge stone-and-glass building boasts a centrepiece of a 1.3 million gallon holding tank, making it the largest aquarium in Portugal and the second largest in the world. The tank is divided into four separate ecosystems that appear to merge seamlessly with each other, underlining the concept of ‘one world, one ocean’.
Visitors to the Oceanario are met with 25.000 fish, seabirds and mammals representing each of the main world ocean habitats. Here the children can get up close and personal with manta rays, sharks of various descriptions, exotic fish, turtles and all manner of marine life.
For a look at the wild world above the water, head for the Jardim Zoologico, Lisbon’s well-maintained zoo. Here all manner of species from all around the world are waiting to be admired by the little ones, such as gorillas, chimpanzees, lions, elephants, pelicans, ostriches, tigers, giraffes, snakes, reptiles and arachnids.
For something closer to home, head to the Portugal section, where the children can learn all about the country’s domestic and farm animals. Don’t miss the zoo train and cable car!
Lisbon is blessed with an excellent climate, but there is of course no guarantee that the sun will shine on every day of your stay. In the unlikely event you need to find some activities for children under cover, head for KidZania, an indoor theme park designed for children between the ages of three and 15.
This ‘kid city’ comes complete with an airport, factories, theatre, shops, racetrack, police station, TV studio, stadium, fire department and much more. The related activities are educational as well as fun and the city even has its own currency – the KidZo.
Children in Lisbon are spoilt for choice, and nowhere more so than at the Colombo shopping centre – the largest mall on the Iberian Peninsula. Here there are plenty of shops and restaurants, plus a cinema complex and a major kids’ fun centre where they can while away a few happy hours – or more!