I am almost embarrassed to say that it has been four, yes FOUR months since our trip to Lisbon and I am just now getting around to writing it up!
Over Thanksgiving, we spent a week exploring and getting to know Lisbon…which also happens to be our future home. *Squeal!!!!* I expect lots of visitors starting in 2020! Lisbon has an amazing vibe; it is a bit rough around the edges and combines high European culture with a hip, laid-back feel.
We have a lot of friends who had either lived or traveled to Lisbon, so we were lucky to have lots of tips and recommendations. We had also spent a brief 48 hours in Lisbon as an extended layover to Maputo, so we were already familiar with some of the most well-known sights (Castelo São Jorge, Jerónimos Monastery, Tower of Belém).
Since we were traveling with our toddler, we were looking for kid-friendly activities and restaurants. Also, our visit coincided with the beginning of the holiday season, so we were there to witness the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Praça do Comércio! That was a neat surprise!
So, here are some tips and recommendations, with a heavy focus on kid-friendly spots and food!
- Riding the historic trolleys—especially the 28. This line will take you all the way from the Castelo to Jardim da Estrela, a charming park with a large playground, directly across from the Basilica and close to the Campo de Ourique, which is ideal for a lunch stop.
- Oceanário – Though this is quite a distance from the Baixa, an excursion to the aquarium is worth it. Our little guy was mesmerized by the large tank in the middle of the structure and we had fun hunting for Nemo and Dory in the smaller tanks. Also, the sea otters are adorable!
- Elevador Santa Justa – This is a fun thing to do if the line isn’t too long. You get a great view of the city and you can use your public transportation ticket to ride it.
- Cervejeria Ramiro – Anthony Bourdain made this place famous, but the seafood really is delicious! If you’re traveling with kids, I would recommend going earlier for dinner (like 17.00 or 18.00) to beat the crowds.
- Pizzeria Casanova – This is a pizzeria down by the waterfront that is very kid friendly and has a great view. They have quick service and their pizzas are delicious. Awesome stop on a sunny afternoon for lunch.
- Campo de Ourique – While guidebooks will steer you toward the Time Out Market, I would actually recommend Campo de Ourique instead. It is less busy and crowded, but has a wonderful vibe and delicious food and drinks. It is a perfect place to stop for lunch.
- Pistolas & Corazon – When friends insisted that we try this Mexican restaurant, we were skeptical. Do you really go to Lisbon for Mexican food? It turns out, yes, you do! Our friends had previously been posted in Mexico, so they knew what they were talking about and we weren’t disappointed. This tiny restaurant has a chill, laid-back vibe, serves phenomenal Mexican food and has amazing cocktails. Service is also outstanding. This is definitely worth a visit.
- Bonjardim – Another recommendation by a friend, described as a hole-in-the-wall, unassuming restaurant that is known for their piri-piri chicken. The food was really tasty and it was just around the corner from our hotel.
- Zenith Caffe – We quickly grew tired of the standard breakfast offered at our hotel and ventured out to find other options. Zenith Café was so great that we even came back a second time! Amazing brunch and coffee!
- – Stasha – This is where we went for our Thanksgiving dinner—a fancy, hip restaurant tucked away in a side street of the Bairro Alto. I had the octopus, but I think the duck would have been even better!
- Drink a sweet shot of ginja (cherry liqueur)—or two, or three– in a chocolate cup at a ginjinha, have pasteis de nata, eat ice cream at a Santinis.
- Cortiço & Netos – This is a great tile shop with affordable prices. Some have been made into trivets or magnets, but most are sold “as is”.
- Claus Porto – This is a unique (but pricey) soap store. Great place to get special souvenirs.
- Cork & Co – Want a cork purse, tie or soccer ball? This store sells stylish, high-quality cork items that look distinctively different from the tourist trap stores.
- Ler Devagar – For book-lovers a must-see! Unfortunately, we didn’t make it here, but I am determined to go once we move to Lisbon.
- Lubaria Ulisses –This store is worth seeing for the single reason that it is perhaps the smallest store you will ever step foot in. It specializes in hand-made leather gloves and is a family-run business. They can tell you your glove size simply by glancing at your hands, but will give you a proper fitting to ensure accuracy.
Day Trip to Cascais
If you have the time, take a daytrip to Cascais, an idyllic town by the ocean. It is a charming, albeit somewhat touristy place, that is likely packed in the summer. We were obviously there in the off season, but the view of the ocean was still breath-taking. It has quaint cobblestone streets to wander through and countless restaurant options.
The first time we went, we stayed at Casas da Baixa by Jules and Madeleine, an Air B&B apartment in the Baixa which I can highly recommend. This past time, we stayed at the Rossio Garden Hotel. The location was fantastic, and the hotel was otherwise perfectly fine (though it didn’t have a mini-fridge which is unfortunate when traveling with a toddler!).