Lisbon in Portugal is a city steeped in history and culture. It is easily accessible from anywhere in Europe and only 2 hours flight from Dublin and London. As a whole Portugal represents one of the best value for money locations in the EU and the Portuguese just love children making this city a haven for family breaks.
A family re-treat
Fancy a city break with your toddler and baby in tow without the hassle?
Step up Martinhal Chiado in the heart of Lisbon where children are the VIPs.
The resort have thought of everything to make travelling with young childrena joy and not a headache.
Brainchild of Singaporean/Indian/Swiss couple Chitra and Roman Stern, the pair realised that when kids come along travelling to cities does not have to be a thing of the past.
Our driver welcomed us at Lisbon airport armed with refreshments and a Peppa Pig colouring book.
Greeted at the plush reception with a nifty kids goody bag, packed with suncream, sun hats and teddies all helped with our smooth check in.
The hotel is designed with kids in mind and our apartment had soft furnishings, a toddler bed, a fully stocked fridge, the bathroom even had a potty and a toddler step.
The kids club is available all day and we couldn’t get our toddler Erin to leave, the staff are fully trained childcare experts, specialising in activities and games for children from 2 upwards.
From ball pits to colouring stations and toys galore, a toddler paradise awaits.
You can’t go to Lisbon without sampling the delectable pastel de nata, the custard tarts are famous and we ventured to the home of the humble pie, Pasteis De Belem, a short metro stop from our hotel.
In 1837 the famous bakery began serving up these custard cakes and the mouthwatering treats are recreated every day by hand.
Getting around is easy on the metro but take the tram and you step back in time.
The delightful Remodelado trams date from the 1930’s, the historic trams are still in use and a ride along the 28 Tram provides one of the best tours of the city.
A trip to the 11thcentury Castelo De S Jorge is a must with stunning vistas of the entire city and the tram takes you right there, we took a tuk tuk on the way back for the pure thrill.
Next up we chose to take a cruise down the Tagus River with Palmayachts.
Luis and Ze were super friendly hosts and there was no issue with having a baby on board and they were even happy to allow Erin to take the helm.
Admiring landmark monuments from the water, we were taken by the mesmerising 25 de Abril Bridge and White Dome of the Basilica da Estrela.
The Sunset Cruise culminated with the most romantic sunset showcasing Lisbon at it’s best.
Where to eat
The Portuguese adore children and dining out is never a problem, the family friendly restaurante Bacalhau, as the name suggests specialised in salted cod.
Situated in the busy Parque das Nacoes Chef Juliu welcomed us with open arms doting over our girls.
We chowed down on the world famous petisoos and bacalhau inspired dishes, fresh cod with egg yolk and cod roe acorda (stew) and codfish with turnip greens and chorizo.
Being serenaded as you dine is not uncommon in Lisbon and traditional Fado music was truly a wonder to behold, a regular occurrence in Juliu’s restaurant.
Another day we sought out Lisbons most famous chef, Jose Avillez.
Eight years ago the food genius took over the kitchen of a faded temple of gastronomy earning him a Michelin star in under a year, he now presides over the two Michelin star Belcanto and the Mini Bar Porto which is constantly booked out.
We ventured to his family friendly restaurant Cantina Ze Avillez, in Campos Das Cebolas with stunning views of the Tagus River.
The contemporary cantine is bright and not too fussy, seafood is a must and kids are treated like royalty.
Avillez focuses on promoting traditional Portuguese food with a twist, the grilled meagre with Bairro style sauce and his version of codfish cakes with tomato rice left us salivating.
All the animals
The Oceanarium is a must see family attraction, with over 500 species and 8000 animals and plants, I can’t count the amount of times Erin chimed, “Is that Nemo or Dory”.
Don’t miss the Forests Underwater by world renowned aquascaper Takashi Amamo”.
For the daredevils, there’s a sleeping with sharks evening experience where you’ll become familiar with their rough skin, huge teeth and astonishing speed.
Lisbon Zoo (Jardim Zoologico) is easily accessible by metro.
Conservation is key here and we saw species that are on the brink of extinction, from gorillas and chimpanzees in the Africa section to pelicans feeding, to the tiger exhibit where these enormous cats walk right up to the glass, it’s truly worth the visit.
The children’s farm suited our little ones, where there was a talk on domestic animals and a reptile house where we got up close and personal with iguanas, snakes and alligators.
Perhaps the most exciting part was the 40 minute dolphin show, happening daily at 11am, 3pm and 5pm.
The Secret Food Tour
Portuguese cuisine is gaining momentum across the globe and the Culinary Backstreets food tour does not disappoint.
We met at a central Lisbon spot and then headed on foot to uncover the best kept foodie secrets the city has to offer.
With delicious food and drink around every corner, Lisbon’s a hot destination for foodies, and this tour ensures you find authentic versions of famous Lisbon food.
We sipped on local Port, beer, brandy, and wine, and tasted our way around the city with our guide Martha’s local knowledge surprising us at every turn.
We experienced each flavor in context and discovered places we may otherwise may have missed.
From the best bifana sandwich prepared with marinated pork cutlets we were treated to scrumptious squid, sardines and a round of petiscos (Portugues tapas).
We were in foodie heaven catching glimpses of Lisbon’s famous street art on the tour.
Cramming it all in on a city break is tough but that’s the beauty of the Martinhal experience, with round the clock babysitters stressed out parents can claim back me time.