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July 3, 2013

5 things to do in Lisbon when it’s HOT

Average summer temperatures in Lisbon are only about 28C/85F, even in August. But an average is just an average, and there are always a few days, or even a week or two, when the city broils in 30+C heat (mid-to-high 90’sF). So what is there to do in Lisbon when it’s hot?

  • Take a siesta: Because of the sea breezes and proximity to the water, mornings and evenings in Lisbon are often cool and comfortable, even when it’s sweltering at mid-day. If you know it’s going to be hot out, take a leaf from the Spanish: get up early and do your sightseeing in the morning, then rest after lunch, when it’s hottest. If you’re close enough, come home and take a nap (all our houses have air conditioning). If you’re farther afield, plan an indoor activity. After things have cooled down again (often around 5 pm) head outside for a drink at one of Lisbon’s outdoor cafe kiosks or any esplanada. The city comes alive on summer nights, with whole families out past midnight, so stay up and join the fun. Who needs a bedtime when you’re on vacation?


  • Spend the day at the Expo: This area on the east side of Lisbon was built for the
    Visit the Expo'98 when it's hot in Lisbon

    Visit the Expo’98 when it’s hot in Lisbon (photo: Filipe Rocha)

    1998 World’s Fair (Expo’98), and is the perfect place to practice your mid-day-rest planning. The large park, with bike rentals, a riverside promenade and a “sound garden” for the little ones, is perfect before the temperature starts to soar. Then after lunch, while it’s really hot, hide indoors at the Oceanario, Pavilion of Knowledge Science Center, or even the Vasco de Gama Shopping Mall. End your day enjoying the beautiful views of the river Tejo from one of the many cafes and bars that stretch along the bank.


  • Escape to Sintra: Sintra’s microclimate means it almost never gets too hot. It also means that
    Visit Sintra National Palace when it's hot in Lisbon (photo: fulviusbsas)

    the whole area is lush, green and shady, even on the warmest days. Forcenturies Lisbon’s royalty   escaped the heat of the capital by spending their summers in Sintra. Testament to this are the many palaces there (including Pena Palace, Sintra National Palace, the Moorish ruins and the Quinta da Regaleira). Many of these palaces are (at least partially) air-conditioned as well. Do expect crowds on hot days, as the natives flee the heat with you!


  • Go to a museum: All that artwork has to be tempurature-controlled, which means that museums are kept at a comfortable temperature all year ’round. Take advantage of the days when it’s so hot you don’t want to be outside to see some of the many, many museums Lisbon has to offer. From art to fashion to electricity to science, Lisbon has something to help everyone beat the heat!


  • Go shopping: If you’d like to do some shopping while you’re in Lisbon (shoes, for example, are often a good deal), take advantage of a day that’s too hot to handle, since you’ll be indoors most of the time. The Colombo centro commercial (shopping mall) is impressive in its size and variety, with small local stores mixed right in with the global brands.  Along with the stores, the mall has several small indoor play structures for children, a food court and a movie theatre. Colombo is situated right over the the Colegio Militar/Luz metro station, making it very easy to get to. (Amoreiras mall is a more upscale option, but you’ll need to take a cab to get there.)


What’s your favorite thing to do in Lisbon when it’s hot?

March 13, 2013

Lisbon with kids: Olivais Educational Farm (Quinta Pedagógica dos Olivais)

Wondering what to do with antsy preschoolers in Lisbon? Looking for a break from seeing Lisbon with kids? Here, you’ll be the only tourists in sight!

Little kids love farm animals. It’s just one of those things that are almost universal. And so Lisbon’s municipal government has created the Olivais Educational Farm (Quinta Pedagógica dos Olivais).

Lisbon with kids

Urban chickens, since before they were hip 🙂

This swath of farmland right in the middle of the city is not a tourist attraction. It’s a place where Lisboetas take their kids as a treat. And it’s a simple affair: pastures, barns, a vegetable garden/orchard, a grassy place to play and an outdoor eating area.

But if you are in Lisbon with kids who are tired of sightseeing, and you’re looking for a place where they can play and you can relax, this is just about perfect. Oh, and entrance is free, which is always a plus!

Lisbon with kids

Have a snack with Heidi the horse

As you come through the gates, the picnic area, with tables and chairs, will be on your right, overlooking a pasture. Try to guess which animal will be there: the caretakers move the animals from one enclosure to another, depending on the time and day. Up ahead on your left will be several buildings that serve as offices, workshops and house activities for school trips.

Across from these buildings is the grassy park area, with a couple of simple play structures. The highlight is the “treehouse”, actually a little house on stilts, just high enough that the branches wrap around it.

Lisbon with kids

The Pacifier Tree (Árvore das Chuchas)

Don’t miss the “Pacifier Tree”, for a laugh. This perfectly normal olive tree is always decorated with pacifiers (chuchas in Portuguese). When kids are old enough to give up their pacifier, parents come from around Lisbon to have them hang it on the Árvore das Chuchas (Pacifier Tree). Kids love it, the pacifier is gone, and everyone wins. Clever, huh? My own daughter hung up her chuchas there a few years back. (They’re not there anymore; the caretakers remove the old pacifiers to make room for new ones, but she doesn’t know that!)

Towards the back of the Quinta are the barns and the pigpen.

As you turn back towards the entrance, you’ll pass the rest of the pastures, and a garden/orchard set back from the more lively animal area. This will bring you full circle to where you started, and that’s really all there is.

But my kids love it, and have for years. Less than 30 minutes from the city center, the Quinta is a great break from sightseeing in Lisbon with kids. It’s peaceful, fun, and a great chance for the little ones to run, play, and see farm animals up close. Sometimes very close. The chickens and the peacocks run free during the day, and are very personable… or actually just want to know if we’ll give them something to eat.

But we won’t, of course. We know better than that! And if we didn’t, there are signs everywhere.

Lisbon with kids

The sign at the entrance to the Quinta

How to get there: Take the metro to the Olivais station, and follow the signs to the exit that says “Spacio Shopping”. Walk along the Rua Cidade de Bissau, going northwest past a grassy area with a large iron sculpture of an olive tree (on your right in 3-5 minutes). Take the first right after you pass this area, into what looks like a parking lot. The Quinta will be on your right as you reach the top of the short slope. If you miss your turn, the next real street (Rua Cidade dos Moçâmedes) has signs to the Quinta Pedagógica for those coming in by car. Following these signs, you will go around the block, but you’ll arrive quickly just the same.




When to go:

  • In the winter (Oct – Apr)
    • Tuesday-Friday: 9am – 5:30pm
    • Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 10am – 5:30pm
    • The Quinta is closed on Mondays, Chirstmas, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday
  • In the summer (May – September)
    • Tuesday-Friday: 9am – 7pm
    • Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 10am – 7pm
    • The Quinta is closed on Mondays and on May 1st

Have you been to the Quinta Pedagógica? What’s your favorite thing to do in Lisbon with kids?

March 7, 2013

5 things to do in Lisbon when it rains

Rain, rain, go away / Come again some other day / All the lisboetas want to play…

The Portuguese tend to disappear off the streets when it rains, since—according to popular belief—getting a soaking will make you sick.

But if you don’t live here in Lisboa, you don’t always have the luxury of waiting for a sunny day. So what should you if it rains while you’re in Lisbon? Here are five of our favorite suggestions for rainy days:

Lisbon in the rain: damp, but still lovely

Lisbon in the rain: damp, but still lovely

1. Go out anyway– The weather in Lisbon is changeable, especially in the spring and fall. There are plenty of “rainy” days where you get hours of sunshine in between the moments of actual rain. If it’s not too cold, go out anyway, and explore Lisbon. Just take an umbrella. And if you get caught in a shower? Step into a café for tea or coffee and one of the many delicious Portuguese pastries… you know you wanted one… (well, at least, I always do!).

2. Visit the Oceanário – Lisbon’s Oceanário, located in the Parque das Nações (Oriente metro stop), is one of the largest aquariums in the world. The central “Deep Ocean” tank, where hundreds of species swim together in a space the size of several swimming pools, is fascinating for kids from 9 months to 99 years. My kids love the Oceanário, I love it, and my grandfather always wants to go when he comes to Lisbon. Don’t miss the Oceanário… even if it doesn’t rain!

3. Experience the Lisbon Story Center – The Lisbon Story Center, located in the Terreiro do Paço, is a multimedia experience where you can learn about the history of Lisbon from pre-Roman times to the present. There is a children’s version of the audio tour, which is very well done, but the youngest may find their interest waning towards the middle. Ages 7 and up is probably best.

4. Go to a museum – Lisbon has dozens of museums, everything from art to design to puppets, electricity, coaches or science. Whatever your personal interests, there’s almost certainly something that will interest you. Check out the list at for ideas. (Oh, wait! The museum at the Carmo church ruins is partially outdoors! Don’t pick that one when it’s raining…)

5. Watch a movie – If you prefer recent films, most of the main shopping malls (Vasco de Gama, Colombo, El Corte Inglés) have movie theatres. With kids, look for the letters “VO” (versão original / original version) to avoid a movie dubbed in Portuguese. On the other hand, the Portuguese Cinema Museum (Cinemateca Portuguesa, Museu do Cinema) shows classic movies from many countries, with tickets costing less than 3€. And last, but not least, Lisbon hosts several film festivals a year: IndieLisboa, Monstra, doclisboa, and MOTELx, among others. Check with the tourism office to see if there is a film festival going on during your stay.

Or, of course, if you don’t feel like braving the weather, stay in: read a book about Lisbon, play a game or just relax. You are on vacation, after all. We try to keep a stock of games and books at each of our holiday rentals, but feel free to ask us about additional options from our lending library.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Lisbon when it rains?

October 1, 2008

10 Things to do with Kids in Lisbon

We have lots of extra information ready for our young guests… but here’s a very nice headstart on your planning:

And here’s our extensive list of (free!) child-friendly amenities, some of which are only available with advance notice… so don’t miss out!

October 1, 2008

Travelling with Children – and loving it!

When my wife and I brought our 17-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to travel through Portugal for 80 days during the summer of 2000 the single most important piece of equipment I packed was my “pocket energy-management tool,” a.k.a. a deflated beach ball, neatly folded to slip easily inside backpack or back pocket.

Armed with my PEMT, whenever our son began to fidget, I was ready for him. We’d pull over or disembark, find the nearest open space—because the PEMT doesn’t travel far even very small open spaces will suffice—and inflate. Fifteen minutes of PEMT therapy—including running, kicking, scoring and jubilant fan noises*—was almost always enough for him to blow off enough steam so he could sit still through another museum or tour.

Our favorite PEMT open space was the fountain park at Martim Moniz in the center of Lisbon where the water jets fly up out of the pavement, creating a world-class beachball obstacle course. Ironically, the PEMT is no good at the beach, where it just blows away, but that’s OK, the beach is an energy-management tool.

Combined with frequent visits to Portugal’s ubiquitous ice-cream vendors, the PEMT is a winner if you’ve got little ones on the go!

(Every Visiting Portugal property is equipped with a PEMT for you to use in and around Lisbon.)

* These afforded me valuable opportunities to practice my pronunciation of handy Portuguese words like, “Incrível!” “Espectacular!” and “Inacreditável!”

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