We’ve been in Porto for nearly 6 months now and after all of our traveling last year...we were ready to get out of town for a bit. Not having been to Lisbon since this time last year, we decided to head back and check out some of the sites we missed on our first visit. It was a lovely weekend, so I thought I’d share what the kids (and adults) enjoyed.
We decided on taking an early morning bus into Lisbon, and arrived at the Oriente station. From the station, it’s very easy to hop on the metro and ride into downtown Lisbon, but given that it was raining, we decided to see some of the sights in the area. After an easy walk from the station, you’ll find both the world-class Oceanarium, and the Pavilhão de Conhecimento, a children’s science museum.
We visited the Oceanarium last time, so we decided to spend the afternoon in the science museum. We were not disappointed - there are tons of hands-on exhibits, as well as activities for younger and older kids. The exhibits provide children with the opportunity to think hard and play hard. While we were there, we saw the current exhibit on the digestive system, which was interesting for young and old alike. You can easily spend 3 hours or more in this museum, making it a perfect option for a rainy day.
After grabbing some snacks, we headed to our hotel. When I travel, I try to use points and miles as much as possible to decrease the overall expense. We still had some IHG points available, so we booked two night at the Holiday Inn Express - Oeiras (for free!). While Holiday Inn Express isn’t a luxury destination, it is one of the few hotel chains in Europe that will accommodate a family of four in one room. It also includes a free breakfast buffet, which may have been the kid’s favorite part of our weekend away. Honestly, even for us parents, being able to march the kids downstairs at 7 am and have breakfast already prepared is priceless. I like to involve the kids in planning our days, and when I gave them some options of things to see, they chose the Museo do Dinheiro, or Money Museum, in central Lisbon. The museum includes exhibits on the history of money, metal coins throughout the ages, and examples of bank notes from dozens of different countries. One of the exhibits focused on identifying counterfeit Euros was especially interesting, though overall our 8-year-old was more interested in the exhibits than our 4-year-old. Even if you only drop in for a bit, it’s worth it, as the museum is free to the public.
After a lunch break, we headed up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. You can hike up the hill to get there, but I knew our little guy wouldn’t tolerate a long uphill hike, so we decided on taking an Uber from the city center instead. That was the best 2.50 Euro we spent! The castle itself is definitely worth a visit - you can walk along the walls, check out an archeological site, and enjoy amazing views of Lisbon and the river from all sides.
We were heading back to Porto the next day, but since we had the entire morning free before our bus left, we decided to visit Belém. I’ve been wanting to see the Jeronimos Monastery since our last stint in Lisbon, when we unfortunately had to skip it. We arrived at the riverfront around 9 am, and had time to check out the Tower of Belém and the Monument to the Discoveries, which are about a 10-minute walk apart. Both of these sites provide ample opportunity to discuss Portuguese history, and at the base of the Monument to the Discoveries, you’ll find a huge map of the world, including the dates on which the Portuguese arrived at various sites around the globe.
The map is just across the street from the Jeronimos Monastery and the adjacent cathedral. In the cathedral, you’ll find Vasco da Gama’s tomb, among a few others. The monastery itself is breathtakingly beautiful, with every column and spire intricately carved. All of these sites are absolutely worth seeing and provided us with lots of topics for discussion.
After a morning of sightseeing, make sure to stop by Pasteis de Belém bakery for some pasteis de nata. Apparently, this is where the pastel de nata, Portugal’s signature pastry, was born. They are delicious - and if you don’t want a pastel de nata, there are plenty of other snacks and drinks to choose from! You can choose to take your pastries to go, or have a seat and take a break with coffee in hand, as we did.