In years gone by, luxury and family were words rarely associated with one another. Over time, however, this has changed. No longer are parents just content with a basic holiday package and run-of-the-mill accommodation. Hard working families want a little luxury to their sought after time away together, which means that every member of the family, young and old, need to be catered for.
There are now an abundance of travel companies that bring a whole new meaning to the concept of luxury family travel, and one of them, Portuguese brand, Martinhal, is trying hard to make sure that all their guests leave their properties feeling refreshed. With three resorts by the coast in Sagres and Quinta in the Algarve, and Cascais just outside of Lisbon, Martinhal is trailblazing its way through Europe as one of the best examples of luxurious family resorts.
Adding to their portfolio, Martinhal has recently opened its doors to their first city-centre family hotel in Chiado, Lisbon. And since last September, the staff here have been busy gauging the nuances of the families who stay. Measuring what works, and what doesn’t and how they can improve as the weeks go on. So was the impression I got after our three night stay in Martinhal’s newest property.
As our cab pulled up outside Martinhal Chiado, which is situated on the corner of a quiet cobbled street, we were greeted by Paulo, who welcomed us with a huge smile and immediately helped us inside to the reception area with our bags. Check-in was a doddle, and Paulo gave us a city map to show us our location, and where we could find key sights and transportation, before showing us up to our accommodation on the first floor. We were all pretty exhausted by the early morning start, so really appreciated the fact that we could get settled straight away, rather than wait for the room to become available.
From the outside, Martinhal Chiado Family Suites looks like an unassuming building. In fact with its blue awning and glass frontage, it could be mistaken for a high-end fashion store. The communal and reception areas are small – but there is a simple reason for this fact. Why waste square footage when each of the 37 apartments has ample space for guests to relax in?
As you enter, the interiors exude a warm and inviting elegance – comfortable and stylish, but not so much that tiny little hands can’t touch. And with the reception area, as well as the kids clubs being at the forefront of the property, it means there is constant interaction from the friendly staff who are on duty. Which isn’t at all intrusive or unwelcome.
We loved the location of Martinhal which is situated in Chiado, an area in the middle of two popular neighbourhoods of Pombaline Baixa and Bairro Alto. Right in the heart of Lisbon, the Pombaline downtown faces the Tagus River and comprises a grid of streets that sees the historic Old Town fuse with new trendy businesses. It’s a buzzing, eclectic mix of tourists and locals, traffic noise and trams. We definitely felt like we were in the beating heart of the city.
From the hotel, it’s easy to find restaurants, bars, cafés, shops and public transportation. The tram stops and metro are only a short distance away. As are certain attractions and Lisbon hotspots including the The Elevador de Santa Justa and The Praça do Comércio.
Martinhal Chiado has a mix of different accommodation options from studios to two bedroomed apartments. Each one with the same contemporary, bright interiors and furnishings, complete with a kitchenette that not only has a fridge/freezer, washer/dryer but dishwasher, cooking utensils, microwave, kettle, dinnerware and coffee machine. I was most impressed with the kit, particularly the child-friendly items such as the potty, and step in the bathroom, as well as the welcome pack which even had biscuits and chocolate milk for Monkey.
What struck me first and foremost with our studio apartment was the size. Considering we didn’t have a separate bedroom, it still felt spacious, light and airy. Little touches like the shutters – great for when trying to put baby asleep, to the large comfy sofa; bath robes and complimentary flip-flops and toiletries, plus the daily housekeeping meant even though it was an apartment, it still felt very much like we were staying in a hotel. I only had one small niggle. Once the children were asleep, it would have been nice to have had the option of relaxing on the sofa without disturbing them via some sort of division between the bedroom area and the living room. But I am really being picky…
Our unboxing video below will give you a much more detailed look at our Superior Deluxe Studio.
Guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants nearby, so we didn’t really need to go to the M Bar all that much. However, it’s a convenient option for guests to be able to grab something without having to venture far. The M Bar is a family café which is open daily serving breakfasts, snacks and lighter meals. On our arrival, we enjoyed a coffee, while Monkey couldn’t bear to tear himself away from the VW Isetta. He loved pretending to drive it.
Because we had such an early start before arriving in Lisbon, and had a late lunch grazing until early evening, it meant we went to bed without dinner on our first night. We were all starving the following morning, so it was an easy option to go downstairs to grab a bite to eat before we headed off on our day’s adventure. While the food was average – we ordered scrambled eggs and toast – the service was somewhat lack lustre, and we had to wait over 20 minutes to even get our order taken – other guests also suffered a similar fate. It seemed they had staffing issues that morning. While I appreciated our waitress’ apologies, Claudia at the front desk promised to investigate after I raised my concerns.
This is where Martinhal excels. As soon as Monkey and I walked in through the secured door of the kids club – which can only be unlocked by a member of staff – he was off examining the climbing wall. While I admired the cleanliness, the uniformed staff and how well the other children were behaving, Monkey bounced around the playroom and was extremely excited to see the assortments of toys, colouring and craft items, and the Playstation.
As much as I didn’t want to put Monkey into childcare for the whole duration of our trip, he was the one who kept insisting on going. So the proof was in the pudding – he was just having far too much fun! So while he spent the whole morning with us, he would happily trundle off to play without a backward glance in the afternoons. On our last night he even stayed for the Pyjama Club, having his dinner there, and playing in the sleep tent until we picked him later on in the evening.
As for the hotel’s baby concierge – we found this to be superb. Before our arrival, I went through their list of baby items which they can provide to guests including monitors, changing mats, bottle sterilisers and even pushchairs, and emailed ahead to make sure they would be in our room.
Meanwhile, while Monkey was in Pyjama Club, we took advantage of the babysitting service and were pleased to have Bruna – who Monkey also adored – come and stay with the baby, while my husband and I had a night out. She was brilliant and totally understanding about my concerns. So much so that she gave me her direct number so I could text for updates.
When you think of family-friendly resorts, a city hotel doesn’t necessarily spring to mind. After all, city breaks involve a lot of exploring and wandering, plus let’s be honest, they’re not the conventionally ‘relaxing’ trip of a week by the pool. While Monkey was younger, he would be buckled into the pram, and off we’d go. But now that he speaks his own mind, his idea of fun isn’t the same as ours. So we were thankful that he was able to enjoy himself in a safe environment, while we pottered around Lisbon doing our own thing.
Martinhal Chiado certainly lives up to its reputation as luxurious and family friendly. It’s still so shiny and new, you can’t help but be wowed. What impressed me most, however, were the staff. Helpful, informative and friendly, we really couldn’t fault them. Special mention goes to Paulo, Bruna and Claudia, who gave us some brilliant foodie recommendations as well as making reservations for us. Nothing was ever too difficult for them and you felt they were always happy to help. They also listened to our feedback, and were genuinely interested in what we had to say in order for them to make improvements.
We had a very comfortable and pleasant stay, and now that we’ve had a taste of the Martinhal magic, we are certainly looking to experience it again in their other properties. Plus, Martinhal went a long way in ensuring that our first trip abroad with a baby and an infant was a success…
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* We were invited to stay at Martinhal Chiado courtesy of Visit Lisboa. As always my opinions are my own.