Lisbon, a city with 2 million people and 2500 years of history, sits on the north bank of the Tejo River, where the river meets the Atlantic. It is Portugal’s largest city and its capital, with the added distinction of being the warmest and western-most capital in Europe. Its climate is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream. An earthquake in 1755 leveled a large portion of the city, but those areas were restored and the city retains several of its original medieval neighborhoods. Built on seven hills, some of Lisbon’s streets are too steep for cars, but visitors can and should take in panoramic views of the city by traveling to the top up elevators or funicular.
The Lisbon Region includes coastal resorts, such as Estoril and Cascais, 17 miles from Lisbon. It includes the Serra de Sintra, an expanse of hills, parks and nature reserves that reaches to the coast. The city of Sintra is known for its three national palaces - Palácio da Vila, Palácio da Pena and the nearby Palácio de Queluz.
A lively and upbeat city, Lisbon has a great deal for those visiting with children. Take a short three-day break and make sure the younger family members enjoy it as much as you do.
Lisbon is a perfect city to spend a few days with the children. It is safe and friendly, the climate is favorable and it is easy to get around on foot. And that is all in addition to the countless activities and facilities, both outdoors and indoors, especially put on for children.
If it is good weather, take to the capital’s parks and gardens. Try the city zoo with its dolphin shows and lion feeding or for a better view of the animals, ride the cable car. In Monsanto, the city’s forest, let the kids run off high spirits on the swings, slides and other amusements of the Park of Índios.
And if the day is a little cloudy, there is a full range of museums and libraries holding courses and workshops. The Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium will tell them all they want to know of the stars above. And the Pavilion of Knowledge will reveal the latest in scientific advances in an especially child-friendly manner. However, the favorite is undoubtedly the Lisbon Oceanarium for an evening spent in the unforgettable company of sharks.
The largest Oceanarium in Europe (www.oceanario.pt), the interactive Knowledge Museum (www.pavconhecimento.mct.pt or www.visionarium.pt) or the Zoo (www.zoolisboa.sapo.pt). In Sintra our suggestion goes to visit the original Toy's Museum (www.museu-do-brinquedo.pt), in Lourinhã enjoy a museum where families can learn about dinosaurs (www.museulourinha.org) or pay a visit to the Natural Monument of Dinosaur Footprints in the Serra de Aire Nature Park.
-Relaxing in Lisbon’s Fado Houses to listen to “Fado” - Portugal’s national song
-Pilgrimage to Fátima, site of Virgin Mary’s appearances
-Surfing at Praia Grande or windsurfing at Guincho
-Go through a “keep fit” course in Lisbon’s urban park, Monsanto Natural Park
-Taking in the Metro of Lisbon, where contemporary Portuguese art adorns the walls
-Cruise the Tejo River with views of the Basílica da Estrela and other monuments
-Nature watching at the Tejo Estuary
-Swim with dolphins off the coast of Setúbal
-Shop for pottery in Alcobaça and Caldas da Raínha.
Portugal’s heyday is known as the Age of Discovery, a period during the 15th century when maritime expeditions turned Lisbon into one of the world’s greatest ports and Portugal into an empire. Eventually the city became the center of the empire that reached Brazil to the west and India to the east. Two of the city’s landmarks-- the Tower of Belém and the Monastery of Jeróimos--celebrate this era.
History is preserved in Lisbon’s distinct neighborhoods, yet modern hotels, nightclubs and restaurants are abundant. Alfama and Mouraria, medieval neighborhoods, sit near the ultra modern architecture of the last World Exposition, held in Lisbon in 1998. The Baixa, the city’s downtown area, is home to shops still selling traditional goods. Monsanto Natural Park in Lisbon is one of the largest urban parks in Europe, almost four square miles.
SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK
-Travesseiros, puff pastries stuffed with a sweet eggy mixture
-Grilled sardines with pimentos and boiled potatoes
-Fish stew, grilled robalo, shellfish rice, grilled lobster, stuffed crab and 365 ways to serve cod
-“Nun’s belly” and “angel’s tummies” pastries
-Turbo-charged bica, seriously strong espresso
-Pastéis de Bacalhau, cod cakes