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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Three Days in Lisbon, Portugal (with a toddler)

If you are just checking in, we spent a week in Portugal and split up our time between 3ish days in the Algarve and 3ish days in Lisbon. On Friday morning, we checked out of our AirBnb in the Algarve and made the drive back north to Portugal's capital of Lisbon. We had three(ish) days to explore the city before flying out of Portugal to spend a week in the Azores. After a few days on the southern coast, we were excited to be in the city within walking distance to just about everything. We stayed at an AirBnb north of Alfama and Bairro Alto which was walking distance to a great park and a lot of restaurants and a great bakery.

Here is how we spent our three days exploring the city (and Sintra). 

Sintra, Portugal

Colorful buildings of Portugal

The Triumphal Arch of Praça do Comércio

We had a toddler and a limited amount of time to explore. Just like the previous three days in the Algarve, instead of "doing it all" we focused on a list of important attractions and spent our free time relaxing at the house or wandering the streets of Lisbon. We enjoyed our time in Lisbon and there is something special about being in a city and being able to walk to everything and just sort of wander. We would slowly head out in the morning and stumble into the local pastry shop, drinking espresso and walking back with a box of some of the best carbohydrates money can buy. We would walk through parks during the day and out into the city for ice cream and people-watching at night. You can visit Lisbon with a list of things to do, or simply spend a few days wandering the steep streets and beautiful tile. We did a little bit of both.

Belém Tower

Monument to the Discoveries

Belem and the Monument to the Discoveries

Belem is a 16th century castle-like fortress on the banks of the Tagus River that served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and its known as the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It's a local Unesco World Heritage site, and an easy visit if you find yourself in Lisbon. There were cute little street vendors along the waterfront and we zipped around the area on those electric scooters you rent with an app that are scattered throughout most major cities. We didn't go inside the tower but we enjoyed walking around the area, seeing the tower, and we also stopped to see the Monument to the Discoveries. Portugal played a huge part in exploring and mapping the new world and Belem is a great place to learn about some of Portugal's history. * Worth it - free and toddler friendly activity along the waterfront. Great area to explore and perfectly timed with a trip to the LX Factory on your way back. 

Lantana growing in the parks of Portugal

Pattern tile in Lisbon 

Lisbon Waterfront

The (many) stairs throughout the city to some of the viewpoints

Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

Jardim Da Cerca Da Graca

Miradouro das Portas do Sol

Neighborhood of Alfama

Neighborhoods and Viewpoints

Walk through the famous little neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Alfama and stop at a few viewpoints throughout the city. There are several viewpoints (called miradouros) in Lisbon that offer various sweeping views of the city. Be warned, there are a lot of stairs to get to the various viewpoints and it can be a little tough with a stroller. Here are some of the well known viewpoints in the city:
  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia
  • Miradouro da Graça
  • Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte Graça (highest peak in the city-best sunsets,) 
  • Miradouro das Portas do Sol
  • Miradouro da Rocha Conde de Obido
  • Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara
  • Sao Jorge Castle View 
*Worth it. We didn't go to all the viewpoints but really enjoyed just walking around the city, visiting as many as we could as we wandered through the city. Toddler approved but be warned, there are a lot of stairs so bring an easy to carry travel stroller or a wearable carry device for little ones. 

Time Out Market 

Visit Time Out Market 

Lisbon has a lot of dining options ranging from hole in the wall to high end dining. A visit to Time Out Market let's you try a variety of different foods at what can only be described as a high-end food court. In this indoor courtyard, many of the top Michelin-level restaurants have booths here and you can try their cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Be warned, it's always busy here and finding a seat may take some patience. We enjoyed some pasteis de nata at Manteigaria (my favorite one I had tried in the city) and walked around to view the various food stalls. Everything looked good but we couldn't find a seat in the middle of the day and we weren't waiting in the chaos with a toddler in tow. *Worth it and all the food looked amazing but very busy. Seating is hard to find so bring your patience or try to get there right as they open. 

Pastel de Nata from Manteigaria

Pastel de Nata 

Go on a Pastry/Pastel de Nata Tour

We were most excited about the pastries and most importantly, the pastel de nata that we knew the city was famous for. It's a milk/egg custard in a flaky pastry and it's simple but oh so delicious. They are insanely cheap (usually less than 2 euros) and it's fun to sample a variety through the city. Adam has had his far share of Portugal's famous pastry here in the states, courtesy of the Portuguese bakeries of Fall River, Massachusetts. We were really excited to try one (or three) in as many of the bakeries as we could find. Our favorite was the the one Manteigaria in Time Out Market. Manteigaria and Pastéis de Belém are the most famous in the city.  *Worth it. We didn't target any specific bakeries but just popped into one whenever we saw one. With that being said, definitely try a warm pastel de nata at Manteigaria. 

The main street through the LX Factory

Visit LX Factory

LX Factory is an old, abandoned industrial site that has been converted into a trendy spot with various shops, art studios and restaurants. We wandered through the busy street and stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants. The food was great but it was pretty busy and not something you need to devote more than an hour to.  *Cute little spot to grab a bit and wander through the shops. It's really busy and I found it annoying that the insanely busy and tight little street through the LX Factory is open to vehicle traffic. I didn't find it a "must see" but worth spending an hour if you have the time on your way back from Belem. 

The crowded bus that takes you from the entrance up to the actual palace

Pena Palace

Pena Palace

The castle walk at Pena Palace

Pena Palace

Inside/Courtyard of Pena Palace

Pena Palace


Sinta is the famous town up in the clouds outside the city of Lisbon. It's about a 40 minute drive and this fairy tale town is home to several attractions. Pena Palace is the major attraction but Monserrate Palace makes the lists as well. We only had time to do one (with a toddler) and chose to visit Pena Palace. It's a popular spot so don't expect to find solitude here at Pena. I highly recommend you buy tickets in advance online and try to get there early in the day or just before closing. Once inside the gates, the uphill walk to the palace takes about 10 minutes. It isn't far, but it's insanely steep so be prepared to hoof it or buy tickers for the bus. The bus line can get long and is an added cost so many recommend walking if you can. We had Adam's parents and we were carrying Whitney so we opted to take the bus. The outside of the palace was gorgeous and we loved the walk around the edge and to the various lookout points around the perimeter. We did end up going inside and while it was pretty, we regretted it pretty quickly. You can only enter by time slots purchased on your ticket and even so, the line to get in is often long. Once in, we found ourselves stuck in a never-ending line that very slowly made its way through the palace. Once you are in, you have to stick it out until the end and we were a bit underwhelmed (i.e. skip visiting the interior with a toddler in tow). Get tickets online here
*Worth it (the outside at least). The outside is gorgeous and the views are great. Don't waste your time going inside, especially if you have a little one. 

Trolleys of Lisbon

Need To Know

  • Eating out in Lisbon was a bit tricky. We had a party of 7 and again, ran into the problem of "you need a reservation". A lot of the restaurants only have a few tables and when people go out to dinner in Europe, they linger. A table is often reserved for most of the night and finding an option on the weekend can be tricky. We weren't overly impressed with the food in Lisbon and if I'm being honest, the best meal we ate was at an Italian restaurant in the park by our AirBnb. 
  •  If you are planning on renting an AirBnb and have a rental car (as we did) don't forget to consider a place with parking. 
  • The culture here is a bit different when it comes to going out and having dinner. Europeans eat dinner much later and tend to stay out a bit later. This can be tricky with a toddler as many of the restaurants don't even open until 6:30 or after. If you stick to the touristy areas, you can get dinner at pretty much any hour. 
  • The streets are STEEP and there are a lot of stairs. We were thankful to have our super light travel stroller which we could fold up to carry up stairs or simply carry down stairs with him in it. Bring a wearable carrier or a super light/smaller travel stroller to help you navigate the steep cobblestones and all the stairs.
  • A lot of the restaurants only had one or two high chairs available. We had to do some lap and stroller meals in a few places. If this won't work for you, bring a portable high chair. 
  • Just to be frank, when walking around at night, a lot of people will try to sell you drugs. We were walking around after dinner and were asked MANY times if we wanted to buy drugs. We declined. 
  • There are scooters you can rent throughout the city. It's the kind you typically find in major cities, you download an app and can pick up and drop off a scooter wherever. These are popular for getting around but again, be cautious on the steep cobblestone streets. 

Next Time

Here are a few things on my list we didn't get to, but I would definitely check out my next time in Portugal. 
  • Ponto Finale, a typical restaurant with tables literally RIGHT on the water (make reservations) 
  • Monserrate Palace and Moors Castle in Sintra 
  • Tile Museum (The Museu Nacional do Azulejo)
  • Jardim Botânico Tropical  

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