By Rebecca Hart
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a city webbed with narrow cobblestone streets, opening onto squares of medieval cathedrals and monasteries overlooking the Rio Tejo. With its yellow trams, open parks, 1930s cafés, and ghostly spirit, Lisbon is a city that has plenty to offer every member of the family. If you’re looking to plan your own potential Lisbon short breaks, here are five great family fun activities that will help you explore the city and enjoy its many cultural offerings.
1. Belem Tower
Built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour, the Belem Tower is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery, and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower was built with Venetian style loggias, and a statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming on the waterside, as a symbol of protection for sailors as they begin their voyage. The tower is free to enter, and is located inside the Belem Tower Garden, which is a great outdoor space to play or picnic with the kids.
2. Parque das Nacoes
Contrasting the city’s old town, the Parque das Nacoes was built by architects for the World Expo of 1998, whose theme was, “The Oceans: A Heritage for the Future.” The highlight of the park is the state-of-the-art Oceanarium, which is largely viewed as the world’s most impressive aquarium. The area is also home to a casino, water gardens, a lookout tower, marina, and bars and restaurants. Kids will also enjoy eating here, overlooking one of the world’s longest bridges, and two office buildings designed to look like Vasco da Gama’s ships, the Sao Gabriel and the Sao Rafael.
3. Jeronimos Monastery
This monastery is a symbol of Portugal’s wealth and was built by King Manuel I in 1502 as a commemoration to Vasco Da Gama’s voyage, and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. The beautiful cloisters are filled with intricate carvings—coils of rope, sea monsters, coral—and by the entrance way sits the tomb of Da Gama himself, as well the famous Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes, who wrote the epic tale The Lusiads after Da Gama’s voyage.
The oldest parts of this ancient castle date back to the 6th century, when it was built by the Romans, then subsequently the Visigoths, and the Moors. It was used as a Moorish palace until being captured by Portuguese and European forces for king Afonso Henriques in 1147. The castle, as all castles are, is an exciting and thrilling experience for both adults and kids, combining historic facts with a ghostly mysticism.
5. St. George’s Castle
With breathtaking views overlooking the city, this two level park is a great family spot for a late day stroll or even an outdoor dinner. The park features grassy patches as well as water fountains that many visitors dangle their feet in while they take in the extravagant views of the sun setting over the city.
There is plenty more to explore in the quaint and historic city, and a visit is the best way to discover all the hidden wonders that it has to offer.
Rebecca Hurt is an adventure seeking biology graduate, currently travelling around the globe, and works for visit Portugal. She likes photography and wildlife.