Lisbon is a city that wasn’t long getting under our skin. When the twins were babies we had an Au Pair from just outside Lisbon. She could never really get her head around why we holidayed in The Algarve but had never ventured to the West Coast or Lisbon, and so it happened in 2017 Mr C signed up for Challenge Lisboa (a half Ironman distance race ) and a love affair with this hip, buzzing, arty, foodie, warm and friendly city began.
Needless to say we also then had a very happy former AuPair who was more than delighted to show us around. It’s wonderful that 10 years later her and her family are still in our lives but this is also the thing about Lisbon, the people are warm, friendly and not a million miles away from us Irish. I observed her and her boyfriend ordering in restaurants etc and they treat each other in a friendly manner, not typical of other big cities and this leads to the over all laid back feel of Lisbon where you will catch music wafting through the air and you’ll see the No 28 Tram whizz by with everyone squeezed in like sardines in a can. It’s got an air and a vibe like no other.
This year we returned to Lisbon to do Challenge Lisboa again in May, we were staying for 5 nights kid free. Our first two nights were in Martinhal Chiado as guests of the hotel. We arrived late to a wonderful welcome. Matinhal Chiado is situated on a very quiet street in the area known as ‘Pombaline Baixa’ where the historical old town meets the trendy new business quarter.
Martinhal Chiado is an ‘Apart-hotel’ for families which is an absolutely wonderful concept for a city like Lisbon with so much to eat, see and do all around and with a seaside feel that makes it a great destination with kids. We’ve not taken our boys yet but it’s on the cards for very soon.
We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw our apartment. The space was beautifully decorated with a fully equipped kitchen, gorgeous floor to ceiling windows (with those romantic timber shutters) which let the light flood in and the most comfortable bed we have ever slept in.
Martinhal have left no stone uncovered and there is nothing they’ve not thought of when it comes to their Chiado premises. It’s city centre and the focus is entirely on making a place that works for families, this was evident on the first morning when I was given a tour of the building by Marta – also I had spotted a little green potty underneath the sink unit in our bathroom on our arrival and although our boys are long gone from this stage it did make me pang that they weren’t there.
Martha showed me the various Apartments they had, all beautifully decorated and laid out. The attention to detail in the bedding for the kids, the little tables and chairs with lovely lights in the kids rooms and the fact that you can literally arrive with your clothes and they sort everything else impressed me. They have bottles, sterilisers, potties, nappies and buggies (single and twin). You literally just arrive with the kids. The building still has many of it’s 19th Century features and it’s over all size is small so you instantly get the feeling you’re being looked after.
They have 4 different kids clubs on site-again all set in a beautifully decorated zone for kids. The one that impressed me most was The Pyjama Club, it runs from 6pm-10pm and Mom and Dad are free to leave the building and wander the gorgeous side streets to have dinner and a glass of wine while they look after the kids. The icing on the cake (and this is what COMPLETELY bowled me over) is that they also have a babysitting service so you can stay out longer than 10pm. To make it entirely seamless it’s the people at the Kids Club that do the baby sitting too, again another well thought thing by Martinhal, they feel the kids will have connected with the people in kids club so it makes for happier kids and happier parents all around.
The location in Lisbon is superb! It’s a 5 minute walk down hill to the River and Mercado Ribera or Time Out Market as it’s otherwise known https://www.timeoutmarket.com/lisboa/en/academy/ (I recommend going mid week as the weekends are crazy busy, the experience totally changes when it’s less crammed) and 5 minutes uphill to the large bustling square at Chiado. Chiado is amazing for shopping (in fact all of Lisbon is), there’s a mix of old and new shops and a wonderful theatre scene in Chiado.
Downhill will take you to the River. This is what I feel sets Lisbon apart from any other city the boat trips up and down the river, the bars and restaurants over looking the water and the Ferry across to Almeda (the residential side of Lisbon) where we ate with Ana and her family in a Portuguese fish restaurant near where the boat docked one evening absolutely jammed to the rafters with locals all enjoying fish and Portugal playing soccer on numerous small screens around the room. The place was full of families all enjoying the most wonderful fresh fish and their favourite sport soccer and the room erupted when Portugal scored.
One of our favourite little places to eat was By The Wine http://jmf.pt/index.php?id=375 across the road from the Hotel which is a Wine Store by wine maker Jose Maria de Fonseca but also doubles up as trendy and hip Wine Bar with great food! We ate there on the second night and loved it. We got a gorgeous bottle of slightly sparkling Rosé to take back to our apartment and paid around €5 for it which was amazing value.
Right beside Martinhal hidden in a beautiful old building was Landeau Chiado http://www.landeau.pt/ the home of the most beautiful chocolates, we had a chocolate tart there that I would quiet happily sell my soul for.
Around the corner for lunch I fell in love with a Glass of delicious Sangria, the most sensational Patatas Bravas and Gambas….I’ll just let that rest with you to savour it…
There’s so much more to tell you about Lisbon. It’s a city that’s undergoing a huge transformation kind of like Dublin did but they’re preserving the history and the buildings. It’s remarkably clean, even our Portuguese friends see this transformation. It’s full of tourists now that they didn’t have 10 years ago. It’s got the most amazing food scene, there’s so much more to it than Custard Tarts (which I love).
There’s music everywhere even on Avenida Liberdade which is the main tree lined shopping street you can have music playing outside the Banana Cafe Kiosks with people chilling and sipping a wine or beer all the while over looked by Hermes, Calvin Klein, Armani and a hoard of other high end shops. This is the exclusive shopping street that hides exactly what it is behind a laid back feel, it took me a while to realise the kind of shops on the street as you slowly glimpse the names through the trees.
We love Lisbon, it’s got soul, it’s got character, history, great food and friendly people plus the shopping is amazing!
Thank you to Matrinhal Chiado //www.martinhal.com/chiado/en/listing/lisbon/lisbon-city/?gclid=CjwKCAjwp7baBRBIEiwAPtjwxJz4MzGSw75IyzUXOnWNaJiX4TruSze-GxvQ83yT05Ji2qX1t8aYHxoCmd4QAvD_BwE for inviting us to stay with them, the Apartment was beyond a dream, the welcome pack was fabulous and the attention to detail and friendly staff were something every Hotel should be. If you want to see my full Lisbon experience you can watch it on the highlight of my Instastories to see inside the Apart Hotel and all there is to do in Lisboa https://www.instagram.com/kenmare_foodie/?hl=en