Lisbon is Portugal’s capital, and an excellent city itself. Here, travelers can practically step into a fairy tale with its castles, rolling hills, and beautiful coastlines. The following are some of the best spots in Lisbon to take kids, particularly with autism.
The Oceanario Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in all of Europe.
Designed by Peter Chernayeff, the aquarium is known for its distinctive building that resembles an aircraft carrier is built into the pier. The venue holds a vast collection of marine species ranging from penguins to jellyfish as well as many aquatic and terrestrial plants.
The main exhibit; a 1,000-meter tank boasts four large acrylic windows on its sides and smaller focus windows strategically placed to ensure that it is a constant component throughout the exhibit. Visitors can watch sharks and rays swim by or get a good view of unique sunfish and sea dragons.
Next stop would be the Belem Tower also known as the Tower of St. Vincent.
This historic landmark is known as one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of St. Maria de Belem. The tower played a significant role in Portuguese maritime discoveries of the time. Commissioned by King John II, the tower was to be a part of the defense system located in the mouth of the Tagus River and act as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Inside, visitors can see the tower’s gargoyles, dungeons, and cannons as well as the former royal bedrooms. Kids will delight in the story of the rhino’s carved image in one of the ramparts.
Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos
This impressive UNESCO World Heritage site in Belem was built in 1502. The construction was commissioned by King Manuel the first. Families can see Vasco da Gama’s tomb or stop by the museum detailing the building’s history.
The Gulbenkian Museum is mainly oriented towards ancient art, but it does house some modern pieces as well. The permanent exhibition galleries are distributed in chronological and geographical order to create two individual circuits in the overall tour.
The first course highlights Greco-Roman art from classical antiquity and art from ancient eastern lands including Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian, and Armenian.
The second covers European art with particular sections dedicated to sculpture, painting and decorative arts, particularly the eighteenth century and works of Lalique. This circuit holds a vast range of pieces that reflect various European artistic trends from the eleventh century to the twentieth century.
Lisbon is famous for its construction on seven hills. While visitors can enjoy the beautiful views here, travelers can tire while exploring the city on foot. The Electrico 28 tram is the perfect solution for families, looping through many of the city’s famous locations. Kids with autism can enjoy the sights and the ride with its many ups and downs.
What is unique about this tram is that it is a Remodelado tram, originally commissioned in the 1930’s and technically museum worthy. People still ride this tram because the unique design is the only one that can handle the steep inclines of the tracks. Therefore, this tram serves as an integral part of Lisbon public transportation network as well as a tourist gem.
Bairro Alto is considered to be Lisbon’s cultural and bohemian heart and a shopping mecca. Originally Bairro Alto was the place for artists and writers to come and live while working on their craft, but gradually it became culturally diverse and a vibrant place to party for locals and visitors.
Families should visit at least one Fado Houses and listen to the traditional styles of Fado music. Fado music is a genre dating back to the 1820’s and is characterized by its mournful tunes and often sad lyrics.
The neo-gothic Elevado de Santa Justa in downtown Lisbon is one of the most notable landmarks in the Portuguese capital and is famous for looking like the Eiffel Tower. The resemblance lies in the fact that its designer, Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, was Gustave Eiffel ‘s apprentice and was quite influenced by his work.
The elevator was originally designed to connect the Baixa with the Largo do Carmo in Bairro Alto. Today it is more of a tourist spot than anything else where tourist can take the elevator to the top and either cross the bridge into Bairro Alto or climb to the terrace for a fantastic view.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
This castle sits atop a hill near Alfama overlooking the Portuguese Capital. One can visit the battlements and also the museum. However, what this castle is known for is the observation terrace. Up here, visitors get a panorama view of the entire city. Kids can run through the ramparts or sit on a giant cannon in a picture-perfect, fairytale castle. Visitors can also see the ruins of the former royal Alcáçova palace here.
Those looking for lovely day trips near Lisbon should visit Sintra and the beach towns of Cascais and Estoril.
This quaint UNESCO World Heritage town is only half an hour from Lisbon by train. Here, travelers can visit palaces and castles at the foot of the Sintra mountains. This prime location housed Roman, Portuguese, and Moorish royalty in the past. Families can enjoy the town’s many ice cream shops and restaurants. One can also see the city’s two palaces, Palacio de Pena and Palacio Nacional, both steeped in history and open to the public.
Cascais and Estoril
These resort towns are also just a short train ride from Lisbon. Estoril features a famous casino said to have inspired the James Bond novels. Cascais is a lovely town with plenty of natural coves and fascinating medieval inspired architecture. Both places have plenty of restaurants and fishing shops for travelers to enjoy.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Drinks and snacks inside and around the Castelo de Sao Jorge are rather pricey.
- Parents visiting the Castelo de Sao Jorge should take the family to the Tower of Ulysses to see a 360-degree view of the city.
- The Tram 28 a favorite place for pickpocketing. Parents should keep their belongings in safe places where they can see them.
- Near the Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos is the Pastéis de Belém pastry shop, where families can enjoy pasteis de nata, or custard tarts.
- The Belem Tower has lots of narrow, steep steps. This fact can prove challenging for some kids.
- The lines at the Oceanario Oceanarium can be long during successful seasons. Parents should save time by booking online.
- Families can book sleepovers among the sharks at the aquarium.