The best outdoor activities in Lisbon for kids
We are not going to insult your children by calling them savages, but they probably think they are Mowgli. If so, put some boots on them and take them to the Adventure Park at the Jamor sports complex in Cruz Quebrada. It has challenging a obstacle course that feature rope bridges strung between trees and end with a 200-metre slide.
At night when the gates of St George’s Castle close, a blanket of silence falls and a new world begins to appear. Bats live here all year round but only come out in the warmer months. A night walk with biologists in search of the animals that provided the inspiration for the superhero Batman is among many activities for kinds in the castle grounds. There are also morning sessions for families with traditional Portuguese games, and medieval ‘combats’ with knights, lancers and squires. And, of course, a whole castle to explore.
Get your legs moving... and the kids, too. After all, Fun Track was designed with them in mind, in a large open space on the Passeio Marítimo de Alcântara, behind the Museu do Oriente. Here you can hire karts, bicycles, tricycles, push scooters and inline or roller skates to make the most of the 7km of cycle path that runs along the river between Belém and Cais do Sodré. If you have never learned how to use any of this equipment, you can hire the services of an instructor, too.
Take the Hippotrip to trundle around the city hearing about amusing stories and legends before plunging into the waters of the Tagus. Yes, this vehicle is also a boat; it makes the transition to the sound of 2001: a Space Odyssey. You can be sure that the young 'uns (and the old 'uns) have never seen Lisbon's sights from this perspective.
There are lots of gardens in Lisbon, but some have more to offer children than others. This one, in the heart of the city, is perfect for a family outing. The kids can enjoy the playground (the condition of the sand is inspected every couple of weeks) and there is plenty of space for picnics or to stretch out and read. There are also two cafés with outdoor seating. Start the day with breakfast at the Gengibre da Estrela kiosk. The kids will love the juices, shakes and giant toasties.
This old man of 132 has drawn generations of children – and adults. Take the kids to Lisbon's zoo to see the lions and elephants, monkeys and koalas, dolphins and flamingoes.You can also take a mini-train or cable-car ride, visit the Reptile House, walk through the Tigers' Valley or visit the Primates' Temple.
The town of Cascais, west of Lisbon, has more to offer than sea and sand. In the middle of the recently created 'Museum Quarter', the Marechal Carmona Park is a great alternative to the beaches that get so packed on hot days. With sweeping lawns, ponds, romantic trails and wooded areas with towering trees, there is lots of space to let the kids run around and burn off their excess energy. There is also a very well equiipped playground with three separate areas for different ages.
Created in the mid 18th century as a recreational place for the king, Tapada de Mafra became a mandatory sighting scene for nature lovers. Nowadays, you can follow all sorts of tracks running or walking, go for an electric car ride, practice BTT or target shooting. But this forest park, in itself, is worthy of a long visit: you'll find deer, foxes, mongooses, weasels or badgers as well as giant mushrooms, toads, salamanders, and tritons.
The Quinta do Areeiro is a good place to practise your shooting. But at this adventure park just north of Lisbon you can also crawl through narrow tunnels, play human table football, simulate a parachute jump, bounce around on an inflatable or cross 14 rope bridges. If you don't have all day, stick to the shooting: there's paintball in the day and at night, in a war-like ambience, and a laser zap zone.
Is your child afraid of heights? Resolve to put paid to the phobia once and for all. Lisbon’s largest climbing centre, down by the river, has a wall with an area of 400 square metres – and the only way is up. It is a paradise for keen climbers and one remedy for acute acrophobia.
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Lisbon's best family-friendly hotels offer the perfect getaway to the city. From all the activities you can do outdoors to all the beaches you have near the city, Lisbon is a magical playground for children. If you’re planning a family break to the city make sure you choose a hotel that knows how to make your stay really special.
With its world-class restaurants, excelling in seafood, its reputation for style and long pedigree in art and culture, Portugal’s first city remains high on every discerning weekend-breaker’s hit-list.