In late March, my family and my parents and I took a short, 3-night trip to Lisbon. We really love the multi-generational travel experience, and we always find something for everyone when we visit a new place. Portugal is easy to get to from EWR, and with a flight time that’s roughly comparable to heading to California, it was a smooth nonstop trip over to Lisbon.
My Dad visited Lisbon a few months before us for the first time to give us feedback about how “kid-friendly” the city is, and he was correct when he said it was very hilly and similar to San Francisco. Cobblestone walkways and roads aren’t the ideal surfaces for a double stroller, but luckily we discovered that the city is very walkable, Uber rides are cheap, and that the kids absolutely love riding the historic trams.
Back when I was visiting the New York Times Travel Show in January, I checked out the small “family travel” section, and discovered the Martinhal brand. I was immediately intrigued by the concept, and even more so when I saw that they had just opened a brand-new city center Lisbon location. Since I knew a trip to Lisbon was on the horizon, I wanted to reach out and see if it would be possible to experience the property with my own family and share it here with my readers.
What Makes Martinhal so Unique for Families
The Martinhal brand was first introduced in 2010, and there are currently 4 family hotels in Portugal within the chain. All of the Martinhal family hotels and resorts in Portugal are designed with families in mind, and offer a luxury experience with high-class, family-friendly accommodation, restaurants and bars, kids clubs, and much more.
The Martinhal Chiado opened in 2016 as “The World’s First City-Center Elegant Family Hotel”. With a total of 37 beautiful 5-star apartment designed to suit families. Each of the apartments are unique, but maintain a consistent design element, which encompasses an authentic Portuguese feel. Kids are the center of the Martinhal philosophy, and they’ve proven it. We were absolutely blown away with the idea that families can truly “have it all” when traveling with kids.
Families can sight-see around Lisbon together (perhaps by following one of the suggested itineraries, put together by the concierge team), and also enjoy alone time as parents while children are cared for in the kids club.
Since there were a total of six of us traveling, we ended up going with a two-bedroom apartment, and it truly felt like a home away from home. Not only was it HUGE and perfect for multigenerational traveling families like ours, the best part of it all was that it was two stories and large enough for everyone to have their own space, which I found to be really important when I travel with both of my kids and also my parents.
Our 2-story apartment on the 5th floor was perfect, and can easily sleep a family of 6-8 comfortably. Not only were there two separate and private bedrooms (the master bedroom being on the top floor, with a private bathroom and shower as well), the ground floor had a huge sectional couch, a massive kitchen, and two luxury pull-down bunk beds, which is fun for kids if they’re old enough.
As mentioned above, there’s also a full kitchen (including a washing machine and dishwasher!), allowing families to snack and prepare meals for the kids at any time of the day, which is especially useful if the children are still adjusting to jet lag and their internal clocks are off (aka waking up at strange hours asking to eat).
As nice as it is to have everyone together in one place, at the end of the day, it’s normal for grandparents wanting to relax on their own and have a break from being around energetic young kids. Being able to do so while still staying together makes the traveling experience so much better for all.
Upstairs was the master bedroom, which was spacious enough to sleep 2 adults and 2 children. There was also a cozy sitting area and smaller bathroom. The stairs leading up to the 2nd floor had built-in baby gates at both the top and bottom.
Focus on Children
I love when resorts really go out of their way to recognize children as guests too, and prior to visiting the Martinhal, there was only one other resort that I fell in love with that really nailed it with acknowledging little ones. Sometimes the tiniest little details that are catered to children really go a long way. At check in, both of my kids got a “welcome amenity”, which included high-quality hats for each of them and a bag full of toys, games, and activities, which won the kids over right from the start.
Then, when we checked into the apartment, we were thrilled that the room was stocked with some baby/toddler necessities such as high chair and child-friendly toilet seat, which was perfect for my potty-training three-year old. Additionally, there were two pairs of flip flops on the beds for the children, just like the slippers that adult guests receive.
There’s even an on-site family-friendly cafe, the M Bar, that serves made-to-order breakfasts and light fare.
The Kids Club and Baby Concierge
The on-site kids club was a step above any other family resort we’ve visited. In my experience, most resort kids clubs are available for children ages 4 and up; however, the kids club at the Martinhal Chiado in Lisbon is available for babies 6 months or older. There’s also an option for in-room babysitting whenever you need it for an additional fee.
Not only is the kids club one of the more impressive ones I’ve ever encountered at any hotel or resort property, there were two things that really stood out – the ability to choose healthy, home-cooked snacks/meals for a nominal fee (which by the way, were large in portion and definitely “gourmet”), and 2. the “baby concierge” program, which lets families borrow baby items to use during the stay, such as high chairs, cribs, potties, pack and plays, etc.
The baby concierge benefit is great for families who are intimidated by the idea of traveling with a baby because of the fear and inconvenience of having to travel with so much “stuff”. Having the ability to have access to whatever you might need for a more comfortable stay with your babies and younger children really is a game-changer and creates a hassle-free vacation
The kids club was great, and the staff was attentive and phenomenal. We utilized the kids club in the morning on our first day for a few hours while the kids were feeling tired and wanted to kick back in a comfortable “play room” while they adjusted to jet lag. As adults, it’s easy to hop off a plane and sight-see a bit, so letting the kids enjoy themselves in a fun and relaxed environment worked out perfectly for us.
While we spent most of the trip with the kids, we did let the kids check out the “Pajama Club” for one evening, which runs from 6 to 9:30 pm and costs 15 Euro per child (dinner is included) while we spent a night dining at a nearby, yet crowded restaurant. In Portugal, dinners are long, and it was a more enjoyable experience for all of the adults to enjoy a quiet night out (and wine) without worrying about the kids feeling overtired or stressed out.
If parents need additional time out, the kids club costs 10 Euro per hour between 9:30 and 11:30 (which is very reasonable for a resort, in my opinion), but we never took advantage of those extended hours, since we were always back with the kids and settling in for the night before 9 pm anyway.
The kids club is free to use from 9:30-5:30 during off-peak season in Lisbon. We visited at the end of March, and having the childcare included (in what was almost like a relaxed preschool setting) and available for a few hours here and there when needed was a great value for us during our stay. You can find more information about the kids club here.
What I really loved about the Martinhal Chiado was that it was a boutique luxury hotel in the most desirable neighborhood of Lisbon, entirely built around the needs of families traveling with young children. Room rates start at around 200 Euro a night. While Portugal is one of the cheapest European countries to visit, if you’re traveling with a big (or extended) family, having everyone under the same roof instead of getting multiple hotel rooms or an Airbnb (that doesn’t come with housekeeping or the option of included child care) makes absolute sense.
While you cannot use traditional hotel points to cover your stay, you can definitely use flexible points such as Arrivals miles from The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
I really love that more hotels are starting to understand and perfect the family travel market. Perhaps we can see more in the future.
Have you ever visited a Martinhal property in Portugal? Feel free to share your experiences!