Becoming a parent often means leaving the world of chic, boutique hotels behind. With Martinhal, times have changed. Leave 'mumsy' behind and embrace sophisticated family travel.
Family Hotels in Portugal – Arriving at Lisbon airport we were ready for family travel with a difference, because this time we were travelling with luxury hotel brand Martinhal. The experience begins when you opt for a personal transfer from the airport to the hotel. No packed transfer bus, stopping at every hotel in sight, with people singing at the back. Instead, a sleek, black vehicle, complete with booster seats or car seats as required, whisks guests to their hotel. The driver provides tourist information and dishes out bottles of water as he navigates directly to your accommodation.
Our first stop was Martinhal’s Lisbon hotel in the Chiado area of the city. Then, a few days later, we headed to the Portuguese riviera, about 45 minutes away, in Cascais. This mix of city break, then sea and sun is a good balance.
Check In – Family Hotels in Portugal
At Martinhal Chiado Mr Tot was led by the receptionist to the play area, the kids’ club, and the restaurant. Note, that he was shown these facilities, and I tagged along. A hotel where the kids are the VIPs, it’s a nice touch.
At Martinhal Cascais our check in was more traditional, but swift and friendly. I was overwhelmed by the stylish lobby, all in clean white tones complete with white furniture. A family hotel in white!? A brave but stylish choice! It set the tone for the standards of the brand.
Accommodation – Family Hotels in Portugal
In Chiado, Lisbon we had a spacious studio apartment, very slick and comfortable. It had a fully furnished kitchen, which is really useful when travelling with kids, and complimentary orange juice, water, sparkling water and milk in generous one litre sizes. The Nespresso machine was also a hit. The family apartments in Chiado are vast, accommodating families of six with ease. So contemporary as well.
In Cascais our hotel room was a thing of beauty. The bedroom was modern and sleek, and complimentary flip flops and a tiny robe had been left on the bed for Mr Tot. The room had a glass partition through to the bathroom. And the bathroom was stunning: so spacious, so modern, and it had a ‘magic button’ that we were told could be operated to lower the blind for privacy at bath time, thus covering the glass partition. Mr Tot took the receptionist extremely seriously, and lowered and raised the blind every time I ducked into the shower! Every room also has a terrace or balcony, and came with complimentary water, and a Nespresso machine. But the finish on the room, the styling and detail, is what made it feel so indulgent.
In terms of facilities children are a bit spoiled. In Chiado there is a baby’s play area, and a toddler’s play room with a ball pit, and soft play toys. At four years old, Mr Tot was a little old for the toys but, after a day of sightseeing, he really appreciated going to a zone that was just for kids and decompressing a bit. The climbing wall also intrigued him.
Meanwhile he was delighted by the kids’ offering at Cascais. Here Martinhal have so much space to play with. The playground is huge, with massive Fatboy beanbags dotted around for parents to lounge about on. The climbing frame, pillow trampoline, and flying fox were highlights for Mr Tot.
Martinhal Cascais has a lot of pools. The indoor swimming pool, with lots of flotation noodles (free to borrow) was a hit. The outdoor pool and gardens had a zen like quality to them. The heated pool wasn’t quite cosy enough for Mr Tot, so whilst we played on the steps, splashed and dabbled, we didn’t fully take the plunge. There are further outdoor pools, which weren’t open for the season when we visited in early May. The indoor spa pool is another offering, so we were spoiled for choice.
At Cascais a range of bikes, in different sizes, some with stabilisers, others with bike trailers, are available free of charge to explore the area.
At both Chiado and Cascais Kids’ Clubs are available. Complimentary sessions are provided allowing parents to have a meal, relax or explore child free. The Chiado club is open to 10pm to allow parents to get a sense of the city’s famous, vibrant night life. For €12 kids can receive a three course meal and drink.
Mr Tot resolutely refused to go into kids’ club – we don’t tend to use them, and he insisted that without his little brother it was utterly non-negotiable. But the service is there for more independent tots.
The Cascais spa was another total hit. The indoor pool welcomed children but, unlike most spas, children were also permitted in the jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. It was so nice to have Mr Tot with me as I dipped from room to room. As a parent travelling alone I usually miss out on such things but at Martinhal kids are really included. This even rang true during my spa treatment.
I had a massage booked, but as I’ve mentioned my kid, like a horse rearing at a jump, refused kids’ club. During my 25 minute massage the therapist allowed Mr Tot to attempt to sit in the corner quietly. And that’s exactly what he did. I’ve seen adults make more nuisance of themselves, but all credit to Martinhal for allowing him to attend. We hit the playground afterwards to reward him.
Food & Drink – Family Hotels in Portugal
When we arrived at Chiado we were given a complimentary welcome drink voucher for their café. After an afternoon of exploring it hit the spot to chill out with a beer and a glass of cold milk. The café/restaurant is very cool, with the front of a VW van for kids to play in. There’s also a play area, in line of sight, for any parent dining there – great for kids to keep entertained whilst waiting for food to arrive.
In Cascais there are two dining options. A stylish restaurant (with a play area), and a more chilled M Bar with both indoor, and outdoor balcony seating.
The menus stood out. They were informal and varied in the cafés, and more substantial in the restaurant, with vegetarian and gluten free options too. But the kids’ options in Cascais were strong. Firstly the menu of M Bar was my favourite, as all meals were available in child or adult sizes, so children could eat as well as grown-ups do. There was also a Baby Food menu – I have never seen one of these before. Such a good idea, ranging from early weaning, 7-9 months, then 10-12 months. If you’re having a luxury experience, carting jars of purée shouldn’t be compulsory. For €3.50 a baby main course is dished up.
The breakfasts are also worth mentioning. As well as being particularly good, with lots of fresh fruit and healthy options for all ages, all the crockery was available in both adult and child options. Mini stroke of genius.
The Chiado location is fantastic. In the heart of Portugal’s capital it’s so close to great sights, great transport links, cool places to eat and drink. Here’s a fab round up of things to get up to in Lisbon with little ones in tow.
In Cascais, the towns of Cascais, Estoril and Sintra are certainly worth visiting. The castles at Sintra are straight out of a fairytale so take a peak here.
To conclude, Martinhal offers stylish family travel. We’re not afraid to take our children to fancy establishments, but the words ‘we’re not afraid’ reveal so much. At some level I always worry I’m spoiling other people’s luxury experience. In most high end establishments I’m usually the only one with kids, in Martinhal the shoe’s on the other foot, and it feels good.
We drove to Edinburgh airport and flew with Easyjet to Lisbon, staying at Martinhal Chiado Lisbon, then Martinhal Cascais. Getting between the two hotels independently is relatively easy, walk two minutes downhill from Martinhal Chiado to catch a very regular train between Cais do Sodre and Cascais. You will require a taxi from Cascais station to the Martinahl Cascais. Or book another private transfer.