Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lisbon With Kids- Exploring the Alfama, Graca, Chiado and Barrio Alto Neighborhoods

So my biggest fear about a city destination with the kids was having to listen to lots of whining about walking places. Our kiddos showed me I was wrong today! They walked (and ran, and jumped, and twirled!...) for hours!  As I sit down to write this post, I can't believe we did all of this in one day (easily! with excitement!)...

After surviving our first jet-lagged day (see post here!), everyone in the family was happy to sleep for 12+ hours, and I was happy to get up and enjoy our adorable apartment with a cup of Nescafe, faint sounds of the city waking up outside, while the rest of the family slept for their 13th hour.

Once everyone was up and ready to go, we kicked off our day with an Eco Tuk Tuk tour by Boost Portugal.  I'd initially booked the tour a month in advance for the previous morning, thinking that it would be a good way to get oriented in the City on our first day when everyone would be tired and maybe not up for walking, but the heavy rain yesterday had squashed that plan, and I was able to reschedule for the following day.  Our cheerful guide Oriana picked us up at our front door- the kids were SUPER excited to see this new mode of transport!

We asked Oriana to show us around the hilly Alfama and Graca districts, thinking that it might be tough to explore the steep streets on foot with the kids.  She zoomed up tiny little cobblestone roads barely wide enough for a single car, while our son giggled and yelled "go faster! go faster!".  We stopped to explore the Se Cathedral, first constructed in 1147, where the kids managed to be quiet on the condition that they could still run through the church.

We also stopped at the Miradoura (Viewpoint) da Graca, where we enjoyed fantastic views over the city toward the Tagus River, Castelo de Sao Jorge and the 25th April Bridge.  Oriana had a wonderful sense of humor with our kids, and she narrated our ride with some great local insight while keeping
the kids laughing too.

After about 90 minutes of exploration by tuk tuk, Oriana dropped us off just below the Castelo de Sao Jorge.  We bought a carton of fresh strawberries from a street vendor, which I sat and ate with the kids while Mohit waited in line for tickets.  Once inside the castle walls, the kids bolted to explore the cannons, a hollow tree, to run up and down the grassy walls of the moat, and to balance along the tops of the walls.  I gritted my teeth, grabbed their hands (to the extent they would let me) and prayed no one would fall over the edge of the walls (no one did!).

We enjoyed lunch in a sunny little plaza just below the castle walls at Petisqueira Conqvistador (Travessa de Sao Bartolomeu 4) where the kids enjoyed their activity books and Mohit and I enjoyed our best meal during our Lisbon stay: an assortment of olives, crusty bread, pickled carrots, fried green beans with a spicy pepper sauce, sardines, octopus salad, garlicky shrimp, codfish cakes, scrambled eggs for the picky three year old, plus beer and a glass of rose.  Yum!

 After lunch we wandered downhill, not really using a map, stopping off to enjoy another miradour
(viewpoint), popping into a pastry cafe for chocolate cake and coffee, letting our six year old select a trolley photo from a sidewalk vendor to bring home to hang in his room.  We walked all the way back
to our apartment, where we let the kids chill out watching Portuguese cartoons to recharge a bit. 

Once everyone's batteries were recharged, we headed back out to explore the Barrio Alto and Chiado neighborhoods.  It was a short walk from our apartment, across Avenue Liberdade to the Ascensor da Gloria, a trolley that climbs the steep hill into Barrio Alto (which the kids loved riding!).

Once at the top, we stopped off at the scenic Sao Pedro de Alcantara Park, where crafts vendors were set up under white tents, people were enjoying afternoon beer at long tables outside a kiosk, and there were sweeping views over the city below.  Our son was intrigued by some men carrying exotic birds around for pictures with tourists, and he jumped at the chance to put on a heavy leather glove and have an owl with big orange eyes perch on his arm.

Afterwards we wandered through the quaint streets with our six-year-old as the leader, letting him decide where to turn and which lanes to run down.  The kids had more energy than I ever would have expected after such a busy morning and were skipping around, twirling around signposts.  We emerged into a cute plaza with a kiosk selling pastries and wine (Largo Trindade Coelho Bairro Alto), and made our way down a pedestrian way of wide steps (Calcada do Duque) that were several blocks long, ending downhill at the Rossio train station.

The kids loved taking the trolley up and the stairs back down so much that we did the whole route again, stopping for dinner in a cute Portuguese taverna, where the kids had meatballs and rice and Mohit and I enjoyed sardines, grilled pork and vegetable lasagna.  Back at home once again after a busy day of exploring, everyone slept very well!  Tomorrow: more adventure exploring the Belem neighborhood (post here!)


  1. What an incredible day! We are headed to Lisbon in a few weeks with our 10, 8 and 6 year olds. I was interested in the Tuk Tuk, but the website says minimum age is 7. Did you run into any trouble with that? Thanks so much.

  2. Hi Michelle- we had to sign a waiver for our kids, since they were under 7. The company provided booster seats and seatbelts for them.