There has been somewhat of a tourist explosion in Lisbon. The Portuguese capital city has been described as the ‘Hottest Destination for 2017’; the ‘Coolest European City Ever’; ‘The New Barcelona But Better’. You catch my drift…
The actual reason I booked flights to Lisbon wasn’t down to its newfound popularity, more the air miles I had accrued and where we could go for guaranteed good weather. However, I do think Lisbon stealthily crept into my psyche, having read so much about it over the last year.
So while I would agree with many of the plaudits that Lisbon is a cool city with stretches of gorgeous beaches, relatively cheap in comparison to its neighbours, historic and cultural, and bursting with amazing restaurants and bars – is it baby friendly? Well, the streets certainly make it tough!
Lisbon’s seven hills overlooking the Rio Tejo and the Atlantic, gives the city its distinct charm – the cobbled streets, ornate buildings and the rumbling of trams and funiculars are present at every turn.
Those hills, though, are steep. And very uneven. So pushing a pram up and down them was rather exhausting. Particularly in 28°c heat, and with a five-year old who was also complaining his legs were tired.
Fortunately, the cabs in Lisbon are dirt cheap, and we found them to be a good alternative to schlepping about the streets when we had to go some distance. One morning, we wanted to take the No.15 tram to Belém, but the crowds waiting to cram on were so overwhelming, we found a taxi rank close by and paid less in fares than it would have been for two tickets on public transport. Plus it was much more comfortable.
We were also staying in family-friendly apartments at Martinhal Chiado which gave us the great option of putting Monkey into their kids club. He wanted to go, which meant that my husband and I, alongside the baby, got to just wander without worrying about entertaining our eldest.
The city may be compact, as many neighbourhoods are within walking distance of one another, but it still packs a punch in terms of activities and attractions to visit. And most of them are kid-friendly. We wanted to do a lot in our three – well, more like two and a half – days, but we also wanted to do nothing. And I feel in our short time in the city, we managed to strike the right balance.
Wandering the trendy districts of Bairro Alto and Baixa, heading out to the Caparica coastline to spend several hours on Sao Joao beach; and stuffing our faces with as many Pasteis de Natas (custard tarts) we could get our hands on. Riding a few clickety trams, and exploring Balém, as well as riding the Elevador de Santa Justa, meant we put on our tourist hats on several occasions.
And it was a good break. We did a little bit of sightseeing, some walking, and plenty of sitting – to admire views, to eat and drink. So, while I can’t profess to having seen even a smidge of what Lisbon has to offer in terms of historic and famous landmarks such as Castelo de S. Jorge and the cobbled streets of neighbouring district of Alfama – a traditional and less touristy part of the capital; or the UNESCO site Sintra, on the foothills of the mountains; I can whole-heartedly say we got a feel for Lisbon by just hanging around…
Lisbon may not be the most baby-friendly city in terms of terra firma, but if you’re prepared to work your leg muscles and navigate a pushchair on uneven pavements, then go for it. Because otherwise, Lisboetas love babies and children. The amount of coos and smiles Peanut roused from his pram was phenomenal.
Lisbon does live up to its reputation. And there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a bright young thing looking to party and shop, or a family keen on exploration, or a history lover looking for a bite of the past, all these mix in the melting pot of this Sunshine Capital. And, while we did complain about those pesky hills, we really do want to go back.
But perhaps without the kids next time…
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