A recent trip to the Lisbon Coast proves you don’t have to compromise on style or relaxation when it comes to choosing a kid-friendly hotel
Before we became parents, holiday ‘must-haves’ for my husband and me were simple. Firstly, we wanted boutique accommodation with ‘nicer than our house’ interiors. Secondly, lots of nearby eateries to while away the hours scoffing delicious local cuisine, plus the odd cultural sight to explore. And finally, big comfy loungers for tucking into a good book while sipping an Aperol Spritz (or three).
Then we became parents.
Turns out five-year-olds aren’t big fans of long lunches. Or parents reading novels. They crave their own entertainment. This left us with a sinking feeling that our dreamy little hideaways would have to be replaced with big, unsightly, child-congested resorts.
Thankfully, our recent trip to Lisbon’s coast proved there’s no need to compromise on style or relaxation where kid-friendly accommodation is concerned. We split our 10-day holiday into two parts – coast and city.
Day 1-7 Cascais
Following a quick two-hour flight from Bristol to Lisbon airport, we took a breezy 45-minute taxi ride out to the charming coastal town of Cascais (pronounced kush-kaish) and checked into the stylish, family-friendly Martinhal Cascais, just 10 minutes from town.
With 72 rooms and 12 self-catering villas, you could hardly call this a boutique hotel. But the excellent reception staff, pampering spa, and sleek, contemporary interiors more than made up for this. Think white leather chairs, polished floors (excellent for knee-sliding) and big bold art prints set over two storeys.
As soon we entered our Deluxe Superior Room, our two girls (aged 5 and 7) launched themselves onto the bunk beds. A treat awaited them both in the form of flip-flops and water bottles in a handy drawstring bag. Happy bunnies.
For the grown-ups, we had a huge bed, an impressive bathroom with a lovely big bath and rain shower, and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that lead out to a balcony overlooking the garden. It was perfect for watching sunrises, or flopping with a cocktail after the kids had gone to bed.
There’s no shortage of pools at Martinhal Cascais. The covered heated pool is ideal for toddlers, while the main lagoon-style ‘free form’ pool (unheated) is great for splashing about and getting a tan. There’s also an indoor and outdoor pool at the spa where, surprisingly, children are allowed at all times.
Equally impressive is the epic playground. Epic not just for the trampolines and zip wires, but for the elevated open-air bar (M Bar) overlooking it. This is a godsend for thirsty parents who, let’s not forget, are on holiday too. Win-win.
Parents might want to take advantage of the hotel’s top-notch Raposinhos Kids Club in the Clubhouse. It offers a weekly programme of activities for both younger kids (aged 3-5) and older kids (aged 6-9). There are also gaming consoles, table tennis, basketball and even surf classes for tweens and teens.
Foodwise, the main restaurant, O Terraço, serves a decent buffet breakfast with lots of hot and cold choices for the whole family. Our daughters were big fans of the freshly made pancakes. An eco-conscious a la carte menu is offered in the evenings, which we devoured while our daughters watched a movie with other kids in the nearby cinema room. We scoffed sea bass with leek and fig jus and beetroot risotto
Martinhal Cascais is perfectly located for exploring the town and its nearby beaches. There’s no need for a car (a major plus point when you have kids) as the hotel provides a cheap, regular hotel shuttle service to the nearby sites, or you can just take an Uber (EUR 5-10). Much cheaper than hiring a car.
We visited Guincho beach and watched the surfers riding humongous waves. Other nearby beaches worth exploring are Ponta da Galé (next to Guincho, and great for sunsets), Praia das Avencas (small, but a winner for rockpool fans) and Tamariz (close to the shops and cafes).
Cascais itself is famed for its huge municipal market, where you can buy organic vegetables, fresh fish and other delicious local produce. After filling your shopping bags, head to one of the neighbouring cafes for coffee and ice cream. Or take a stroll around Cidadela Art District and discover independent galleries and interesting street installations.
Day 7-10 Lisbon
From Cascais, Portugal’s capital city is an easy cab or train ride away. Lisbon has plenty of stylish boutique hotels, but we stuck with the Martinhal family and plumped for the centrally located Martinhal Lisbon Chiado. It’s a bright and stylish apart-hotel with excellent family facilities and a complimentary kids club.
We chose the Superior Deluxe Apartment, with a well-equipped kitchen/living room, a decent-sized master bedroom and another bedroom with bunk beds. You can get breakfast at M Bar Family Cafe, the informal restaurant downstairs. Alternatively, you can have food delivered to your apartment.
The hotel’s location in the heart of Chiado allows parents to explore the historic centre of Lisbon for a few hours, sans kiddies. We ventured to the excellent Time Out Market, just a five-minute walk away. It’s a huge indoor food hall with more than 40 kiosks serving some of Lisbon’s tastiest cuisine. The atmosphere is lively and the food is fantastic. There are plenty of options for little ones, too. Genius.
Of course, no trip to Lisbon is complete without hopping on a yellow Remodelado tram to catch the city sights. Be warned, these rickety trams can get pretty chokka, so it’s best to get in early to avoid the crowds.
Lisbon was a big success and a real eye-opener for us as parents. Turns out it is possible to tick all of our pre-kids ‘holiday-must-haves’ without compromising on the kids’ fun. Who knew?