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Five years ago, I was a Lisbon newbie. My family stumbled into the city of 2 million people at the tail end of a yearlong, around-the-world trip with our kids. The plan was to use the destination as a transfer hub and be in and out in two days. We ended up staying for two weeks, and when it was time to leave, there were tears.
Turns out, Lisbon is our family’s soul city.
We took gelato-laced walks on mosaic cobblestone streets, found friendly locals happy to teach us a few words in Portuguese and met waiters who were not opposed to joining our table to explain a dish. The result? Happy parents, happy kids and a vacation worth repeating. This spring, we returned and found that in the intervening years, the city’s allure has only grown stronger.
The new Lisbon is as invigorating as it is relaxing.
And it’s also more popular: It’s now associated with buzzwords such as “affordable” and “safe,” making it even more attractive to families with young children.
Whether clients are looking for a visit that lasts a few days or a few weeks, offer them these key tips to ensure they rely on you for every return trip.
Book a Central Stay Perfect for afternoon naps or recharging breaks while exploring the city, the brand-new Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites put us near everything we wanted to access, but on a quiet street away from busy foot traffic. Billed as the world’s first city-center family hotel, the all-apartment property is a short walk from Camoes Square — where travelers can pick up the popular No. 28 tram — and Praca do Comercio, chockablock with shops and waterfront cafes.
The property’s “family luxury” approach means that rooms are big, bright and well-appointed. Bunk beds make it a great option for larger groups, and concierges point with confidence to family-approved restaurants and activities. Founder Chitra Stern’s mantra that parents should be able to “drink their cappuccino with the foam still on it” is lived out in the hotel’s “stress less” philosophy. Along with a well-supervised kids’ club, the property also offers a late-night “PJ Club,” a heavily pillowed space with draping fabrics overhead that is open until 11:30 p.m. for kids ages 6 months to 12 years.
Talk Clients Out of a Car Rental (and a Stroller)One-way streets, Google maps that spin with confusion and pedestrians who view crossing signals as optional can all make for a harrowing driving experience in Lisbon. Ditch the wheels and opt to make use of the safe, affordable public transportation system instead. Kids will love the city’s bright yellow trams and the easy-to-use train system. Strollers are doable, but the cobblestone streets may make navigating tricky; a sling will keep your hands free and reduce the hassle factor.
Advise clients to watch for pickpockets, particularly on the No. 28 tram, which is frequented by tourists. They can avoid a mishap by traveling light and keeping valuables to a minimum and close at hand. Picking up a “Lisbon card” to use for transportation (and local discounts) will also mean they aren’t fiddling for change when they board.
Offer Rainy-Day OptionsA quick ride to the Oriente metro station will put families near Parque das Nacoes (Park of the Nations). Here, they could easily spend a day exploring the stunning Oceanario de Lisboa aquarium and the STEM-focused, interactive Pavilion of Knowledge.
For animal lovers, the Lisbon Zoo — located about 20 minutes from the city center — operates on a mission of wildlife conservation, with a goal of reintroducing animals to their native habitats whenever possible.
Build in the BreaksLisbon is built on seven hills and known for its year-round sunshine; however, that’s a combination that can prove taxing for young families. Build itineraries that include downtime when the sun is at its peak, or mix indoor and outdoor activities to allow for cooler afternoons. City parks, such as the beautiful Estrela Gardens, offer plenty of space for kids to run free amidst shady trees. An after-dinner walk in a popular neighborhood like Alfama or along a mostly pedestrian thoroughfare such as the elegant Rua Garrett — with a stop at Santini for a gelato — will feel adventurous for little ones.