Traveling with teens can be a challenge because… well, because teens can be a challenge! But there’s no reason why you can’t have fun in Lisbon with teenagers.
I was 17 when I first visited Lisbon, for a week, with my parents and 4-year-old brother (joy of joys). But I ended up having a great time. I love history, and my parent made sure to hit all the important historical sights: St Jorge’s Castle (which houses an active archeological dig) and the Alfama, Belém (where Vasco de Gama launched his ships), and the Moorish castle in Sintra.
But despite my parent’s efforts to plan a trip everyone would enjoy, my very favorite days were:
• The day I planned myself: Sometimes it’s not what you do, so much as how you do it. My parents took advantage of the fact that I was longing to be grown-up by having me plan the activities for a whole day: what to do, where to eat and how to get there. To do the same, have your teen search for things that interest them in Lisbon, whether that’s beaches or science or Lusitanian horses or history. Of course, you may want to supervise just a little, to make sure they don’t plan something totally crazy! (My little brother planned a day, as well. We went to see the dinosaur tracks in the Serra de Aire. And I have to admit, that was actually pretty cool, too.)
• The day I spent by myself: Sure, we go on family vacations to be together. But being together can be more fun if you have some time apart, too. My parents let me spend a whole day by myself at the Park of the Nations while they took my little brother to the zoo. I bought my own ticket to the Oceanário, ordered my own lunch at the shopping center, and generally felt super -grown-up for being on my own in a foreign city. Obviously that kind of freedom may not be appropriate for some (younger!) teens, but even a shopping trip becomes much more exciting if you stay at the door and let your teen browse and even buy their own. Think about what your teen is allowed to do at home and consider giving them similar freedoms in Lisbon, at least for a day. Make sure they have a cell phone for emergencies, of course!
Here are more ideas for activities in Lisbon that may appeal to teensagers, for time on their own or together as a family:
- Go to the beach (and schedule a surf lesson!): If your teen is wondering why their friends get to go on “cool” vacations, while they’re stuck with some old city, take them to the beach, and show them that old can still be hip. As a plus, younger siblings will probably love it, too.
- Hang out at the skate park at the Park of the Nations (link to site in Portuguese, but with a map): Or, better yet, take your younger kids to play in the park nearby, while your teen hangs at the skate park. (The whole riverfront on that side of Lisbon is one long park.) We’ll be happy to find a loaner skateboard for you, if you let us know ahead of time.
- Bike rentals at the Park of the Nations: If your teen likes sports, but skating isn’t their thing, rent bikes at the kiosk between the Vasco de Gama shopping center and the river. You can bike all along the Tejo there, enjoying the view and the lovely parks. Take a picnic lunch!
- Go shopping in the Baixa Lisboeta: Tell your teen to think of the Baixa as a big outdoor shopping mall. While they’re in Berska, H&M or whatever little store strikes their fancy, you can admire the more historical sights, have coffee at one of the many outdoor cafes on the Rua Augusta or duck into the MUDE (it’s free, so don’t worry if you don’t have time to see everything).
Whatever your teen’s interests, they’ll almost certainly find something they’d like to visit. Turn their tech-savy to your advantage and have them search online for activities that sound cool to them. Nothing worth having comes easy, and visiting Lisbon with teenagers can be great fun, too!
What is/was your best idea for things to do with teens in Lisbon?