We don’t often visit big cities when we travel with kids. Our recent 10-day trip to Portugal was different, however. We wanted to see the highlights of the country, and so there was no way we would skip Lisbon. At the same time, we knew in advance that we would only want to spend one day in Lisbon with kids. But how to see the best of such a big and interesting city in just one day and with three young kids in tow?
In this post I am sharing our one day itinerary in Lisbon. Despite the fact that we were traveling with three young children and only had one day, we wanted to get the most out of our short stay in the city and see the highlights of Lisbon.
We managed to see a lot of main tourist sights of Lisbon, but we also took the time to discover more local areas, find some hidden gems, and taste some delicious local food. We ended our day in Lisbon in style by taking a sailing cruise on the Tagus river. Undoubtedly the highlight of Lisbon for the children, and a great relaxing way to end the perfect day in Lisbon for the whole family.
Read also: Different Things To Do in Portugal with Kids
Our suggested itinerary for one day in Lisbon, also with kids
Lisbon in one day – our itinerary and walking map
To make the process of planning your day in Lisbon easier, I created this Lisbon walking map that illustrates the walk described in this post. My phone shows that we walked a total of 10km in Lisbon. This includes a 2km walk from the sailing boat to the Time Out Market, which wasn’t such a good idea after all. If I were to do it again, I would definitely take a taxi here as well.
1. Admire the best viewpoints of Lisbon – Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and Miradouro da Graça
We started our day with a taxi drive to one of the most beautiful viewpoints of Lisbon – Miraduro do Senhora do Monte. It was the highest point of our Lisbon day itinerary and we were very glad we chose to go there by taxi rather than walking. It saved us a lot of climbing and ensured that the kids weren’t exhausted in the morning already.
After admiring the view over the city we walked towards the nearby St. George Castle. On the way there we passed the Graça church and monastery where we stopped at another viewpoint – Miradouro da Graça. This walk was also our first introduction to Portuguese azulejos – traditional tiles that are an essential part of Portuguese architecture.
2. Visit the Castle of Saint George – Castelo de São Jorge
Our first stop at Alfama was the Castle of Saint George. We had read that the castle itself is not very interesting, but the views over the city are beautiful. The queue at the castle was huge, however, and since we already visited two viewpoints (with more on the itinerary later on), we decided to skip it and spend more time wandering the narrow streets of Alfama. It was a very good choice! Read on…
3. Explore historic Alfama district
The old historic district of Alfama is such a beautiful area to wander around. It’s probably the most authentic district in Lisbon, and one you should take the time to explore more. You can either do it on your own, or by joining an authentic walking tour with a local.
From the castle, we headed to Miradouro de Santa Luzia – another incredible view point over the rooftops of Lisbon. Adjacent to it is Largo das Portas do Sol – a small charming town square with another great view point.
Despite the fact that we had a book with an Alfama walking itinerary and map, we quickly got lost in the maze of little streets and narrow passageways. We didn’t mind! We stopped looking at the map and just wandered around the streets that lead to some amazing discoveries: several incredible viewpoints over the rooftops of the old Lisbon, interesting street art, local restaurants, cafés, little shops…
We passed several churches and old buildings with uncountable different patterns of Portuguese azulejos… Local women were hanging laundry to dry while men were sitting on a bench in front of their houses watching an occasional tourist with just as much interest as we were watching them…
We walked towards the Cathedral of Lisbon (Sé de Lisboa) and watched the famous Lisbon tram 28 make its way through the steep narrow streets and the busy traffic… And as we sat at a local cafe enjoying ice cream and some drinks, we were talking about how Lisbon had such a great atmosphere and how we would love to return for a longer stay in the future.
It was in these little streets of Alfama that I fell in love with Lisbon. I wished we had more time to explore the city! Unfortunately, we only had one day to see the best of Lisbon with kids during this 10-day Portugal trip, and so in the afternoon we left Alfama and headed to the busy city centre, also known as Baixa (the low part).
4. Visit Baixa and the must sees of Lisbon
The Commerce Square – Praça do Comércio
We left the narrow streets of Alfama and headed to the Commerce Square (Praça do Comércio). The Commerce Square is a huge town square, once home to a royal palace that was destroyed during he earthquake of 1755. Now it’s home to several government buildings and the statue of King José I right in the middle of it. The Commerce Square with big open spaces lined by classical buildings with yellow facades and galleries with arcades could not be more different from the old district of Alfama. While life seems to have stood still in Alfama, the city centre was bustling with life.
Cais das Colunas
The Commerce Square meets the Tagus river at Cais das Colunas – a marble flight of steps that is flanked by two impressive columns.
Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta
We spent some time by the Tagus river and then headed Northwards towards the Rua Augusta Arch (Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta). The impressive arch was built to commemorate the reconstruction of Lisbon after the big earthquake. You can visit the viewing platform at the top for 2,5 EUR/pp.
Rua Augusta itself is a pedestrian street with a variety of shops and restaurants. There are street artists and performers and many vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and memorabilia. This is probably the most touristy and the busiest area of Lisbon.
5. Ride the historic Santa Justa Lift
Our next stop was Elevador de Santa Justa. Santa Justa Lift is a 1901 industrial-age masterpiece that brings you from the Baixa district all the way up the Carmo Hill in Chiado district.
There was a long queue at the elevator, but since Elevador de Santa Justa is one of Lisbon’s must-see tourist attractions, we decided to wait. We soon understood why it’s taking so long – the old elevator is incredibly slow. On top of that, everyone has to buy a ticket inside the elevator itself, which seems to take forever. We couldn’t understand why they don’t just open a separate ticket desk; the whole experience would be so much more relaxing for everyone involved.
Anyway, a long wait and an expensive short ride to the top turned out to be well worth the wait. Once on top, you can climb to the viewing platform for the best 360° views over Lisbon.
Santa Justa Lift practical information
- The lift is open daily from 7Am till 11PM.
- The Santa Justa Lift ticket price is 5,50 EUR. This includes a trip up, the viewing platform, and the trip back down. Kids travel free. The lift is part of public transport network in Lisbon so you can travel free with a 24hrs public transport ticket (cost 6 EUR). In this case, you’ll probably have to pay separately to access the viewing platform (1,5-2 EUR if I remember well). It’s also included with the Lisboa Card. So it might be worth exploring some of these options, as a single ride is really priced for tourists unaware of alternatives.
Praça Dom Pedro IV (also known as Rossio Square or Pedro IV Square)
Rossio Square (Praça Dom Pedro IV) is one of the most popular Lisbon town squares, among the locals and tourists alike. Rossio Square dates from the 18th century; there is even a cafe – Café Nicola – that dates from that period. There are also more traditional shops where you can buy and/or taste typical Portuguese food or drinks.
I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful patterns on the pavements. While the kids loved a small shop that is specialised in sardines. You could buy a tin of sardines with your birth year on it. Each tin contained a historic fact from that year. I assume the sardines themselves were more recent…
Don’t miss the incredibly beautiful Rossio railway station as well! The building exterior is worthy of a castle!
We ended our Lisbon city walk at Restauradores Square at the southeast end of Avenida da Liberdade. From here we took a taxi to the Alcantara Docks where we boarded a sailing boat for a different view on Lisbon.
6. Take your family on a sailing cruise in Lisbon
We had ten days in Portugal, yet we only spent one day in Lisbon. We were not sure how much city the kids could handle, as there is so much walking involved. Usually they are exhausted after a whole day of sightseeing. So in anticipation that this would happen, we booked a sailing cruise on the Tagus river. It would allow us to see more of Lisbon without having to walk, and it would be a fun experience for the whole family!
After lots of research we chose a very highly rated Lisbon sailing cruise with Marlin Tours. They have many different options for boat tours on Tagus river, so you can always find an experience that best fits your wishes and Lisbon trip itinerary. With prices starting at just 20-25 EUR per person (depending on the trip and the duration of the tour) this is a very affordable luxury and an experience I highly recommend. If you are traveling with a big family, consider a private sailing tour – for about the same price you can have the whole boat to yourselves! Now that’s exploring Lisbon in style!
The staff at Marlin Tours was very friendly and efficient. Everything was very well organised: from providing information and booking the tour, to following up with the detailed instructions on how to get there and finally making sure that we had an unforgettable experience onboard.
We booked a private sailing tour. Not only did we have the whole boat to ourselves, we could also choose which part of Lisbon we would sail by. Since we already visited the city centre during the day, we chose to see Belém district from the water side. It was a great choice!
We passed the harbour and Cristo Rei Statue overlooking the city. Under the 25 de Abril Bridge and on to Belém where we could admire some beautiful architecture of old and modern museums standing side by side by the river. We also passed the Monument to the Discoveries, saw Jeronimos Monastery in the distance and sailed all the way to the Tower of Belem.
If you have two days in Lisbon, I suggest you visit the Tower of Belém and the Jeronimos Monastery on the second day. But if you only have one day in Lisbon, as we did, seeing Belém from a boat is a great alternative. I would still love to see the inside of the monastery, but that’s for the next time.
We were guests of Marlin Tours, but all opinions are our own. We truly recommend their sailing cruises as it was such a great and relaxing way to see more of Lisbon without having to walk even more. Our kids give the sailing tour thumbs up as well. Not only were they happy to rest their legs after a long day of exploring Lisbon, they could actually pilot the boat and help with the sails. The sailing tour became an absolute highlight of Lisbon for kids! And us? We got the best views, time to relax, and a glass of wine. What more could one wish for?
7. Have dinner at the Time Out Market
We ended our day in Lisbon with a late dinner at the Time Out market. It’s a bustling place with tens of different food courts serving a huge variety of local and international dishes and drinks. Highly recommended!
If you have 2 to 3 days in Lisbon
If you have two days in Lisbon, make sure to visit Belem district. Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belem are not to be missed.
Sintra, just outside of Lisbon, is the best day trip you can make from Lisbon. It’s a must! Make sure to read our suggestions for Sintra day trip from Lisbon.
Practical information for visiting Lisbon
- Getting around. We found that taking a taxi was the best way to get around Lisbon for a family. Taxis are cheap (3-5 EUR for most of the trips we took in the city centre), fast and easy. With five of us, it was probably one of the cheapest options as well.
Alternatively, you can opt for the Lisbon city card, a 24hr city public transport pass. Taking a hop-on hop-off bus and/or tram is also a very good way to see Lisbon with kids, as the city centre is big and there is a lot of walking and climbing involved.
- For Lisbon accommodation, I suggest to stay in the city centre, within a walking distance from Baixa and Alfama. We stayed on Av. de Liberdade, close to Rossio square, and the location was perfect for sightseeing, dining, shopping. On top of that it’s easily accessible by public transport.
So, this is our day in Lisbon with kids. Have you been to Lisbon? Feel free to share your experience by leaving a comment below!
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