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Which European country is known for its low prices, breathtaking rocky coastlines, plentiful seafood, mouthwatering cuisine, historic tiled-building architecture, and pleasant year-round temperatures? It’s Portugal! And boy, does it live up to the hype. Here’s a look at three luxury resorts with fabulous family-friendly amenities, to consider when traveling to Portugal.
3 Must-Try Luxury Family Resorts in Portugal
Recently named “2016 Hottest Destination of the Year” by Travel & Leisure, there are so many reasons to take your family to the scenic country Portugal. My recent visit was actually my first time in Europe, and I was surprised to discover the English language was prevalent. Prices seemed extremely reasonable. And although Portugal isn’t traditionally an iconic European destination, I was delighted to find all the components of Old World culture are readily available here.
After getting to stay in some fabulous accommodations that could host my family in comfort, I’m convinced this has the makings of an amazing European vacation. I tried out three different Martinhal Luxury Family Resorts, each at a special location packed with individual charms and more kid-friendly amenities than I have ever seen at a hotel property. Although each resort is unique, the luxurious branding and attention to detail is noticeable throughout.
At each Martinhal Resort they boast “5 star family luxury”. So what does that actually mean? What I witnessed was an alluring combination of impressive child care facilities and kid-friendly amenities, along with fine dining, spa time, and relaxation for mom and dad.
My favorite area of Lisbon, Cascais (pronounced “cash-keye”) stole my heart on the very first day. Any place where you can tour a palace, see the crashing sea waves against a rocky coastline, and wander narrow hilly streets through shops and pastry cafes is the absolutely ideal taste of Europe, as far as I’m concerned.
If this Lisbon coastal location sounds good to you, look at making Martinhal Cascais your home base. While Martinhal’s signature at each of their resorts is having fantastic kid care facilities, I believe the Cascais location takes the cake. Here your kids have an entire clubhouse, along with a vast outdoor playground complete with a zipline and lounging bean bags galore.
What Works for Families
- My favorite feature: 5-star dining at the resort restaurants, with attached and Martinhal-staffed kid play areas. Hungry kiddos can quickly eat, then go play while you savor every course of your gourmet meal.
- Complementary Kids clubhouse, childcare sessions included with your stay. Children areas are divided by ages, and varying activity programs are provided daily. These facilities are bright, cheerful, and appear quite alluring to kids.
- 3 swimming pools (2 heated year-round)
- Child sized robes and flip-flops provided in rooms.
- In addition to the standard hotel rooms, separate 2 or 3-bedroom villas are available with full kitchens and additional space for families.
- Airport transfer service available for a fee, complete with child safety car seats on hand.
- Excellent home base location for exploring the Sintra area and famous Pena Palace.
- Nespresso machine and pods in the room, helping you embrace Europe’s fabulous version of coffee
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- In regular rooms, fridge is fully stocked as a mini bar (ie no additional room for personal drinks or leftovers). For additional room or even a full sized kitchen, consider reserving one of the villas.
Rates vary by season. $$+ for room; $$$+ for suite; $$$$$+ for deluxe villa
There’s a lot to love about staying and playing at Martinhal Cascais. I had an excellent a massage at the resort’s Finisterra Spa. Parents can easily schedule some spa time while their kids play at the supervised clubhouse.
There are three restaurants on site offering top notch cuisine, but the concept behind the M Bar was my personal favorite. We dined in this glass walled restaurant and found it was delicious. But it’s their location on the second floor of the kids clubhouse, with a floor-to-ceiling windows providing a view of the outdoor kids playground that makes it so perfect. In the corner is a lounge area filled with soft couches, so relax and have a drink and/or tapas while watching the kids play.
This overprotective mom loves the concept of having kids occasionally occupied elsewhere, but I’m not always comfortable with the execution. The “you can still see them while they go play” arrangement I saw at each of the Martinhal resort restaurants completely won me over.
If you’ve been searching for the secret beach holiday destination of Europeans, you’ve just found it. Surrounded by a protected nature preserve, this sprawling full service ocean side resort is the only thing you’ll find in the area, aside from the small fishing village of Sagres.
What Works for Families
- Peaceful, scenic beach location full of outdoor recreation opportunities
- Complementary child care centers
- Once again, 5-star dining is served at each of the resort’s restaurants, with nearby Martinhal-staffed kid play areas. You kids can eat-and-go, while you linger over every course… from starters through to desert!
- Many sizes and types of rooms and villas are available, including some with a private swimming pool.
- Villas are fully equipped for family use, including rounded corner coffee tables, a high chair, plastic cups and plates, toddler sized silverware, bathroom stools, and plastic potty-training seat topper.
- Tubs of sand toys available for use on the beach.
- Restaurants have numerous high chairs already set up at dinner tables. Even though this is a 5-star dining experience, it offers an awesome, laid back
“Families welcome here!” atmosphere.
- Bike rentals and/or guided bike tours available on property. For little ones, balance bikes or even bike trailers are also available.
- Onsite store with groceries, souvenirs, and even a wine selection.
- 4 swimming pools
- 3 restaurants
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- Fairly remote location, requiring some significant travel time
- Come here for the natural beauty and outdoor recreation, which is fantastic. There’s not much else in the area.
Rates vary by season. $$+ for room; $$-$$$ for 1-bedroom house; $$$+ for 2-bedroom house
This is the original and signature Martinhal property. It’s located at the Southwestern most point in Europe, which results in surprisingly mild temperatures year-round (60 degrees Fahrenheit in winter months). It takes a bit to get here, but once you arrive you’ll not need stray any farther than a bike ride to the Lighthouse of Ponta de Sagres on Cape St. Vincent.
A local Sagres guide can be arranged to take you on a surprisingly do-able kayaking paddle tour. If the sea is calm, even little ones are welcome to join in, and double kayaks are available.
Everywhere you turn, there are provisions for entertaining children and making parent’s job of caring for them on vacation as easy as possible. It’s truly a place to come enjoy a bit of nature and relaxation.
If the purpose of your trip is to experience Europe, I’d recommend combining this with a stay at one of Martinhal’s Lisbon resorts (Martinhal Cascais or Martinhal Chiado).
Martinhal Chiado Family Suites
Chiado is the “old town” city center of Lisbon, and will give you an authentic glimpse into its culture and heritage. All within easy walking distance from Martinhal Chiado, you’ll find the scenic waterfront, famous Commerce Square, trolley car tours, fabulous Portuguese restaurants, and beautifully tiled pathways.
This area is very urban, but staying at the newly opened Martinhal Chiado offers extremely comfortable accommodations for families, unique in all of Lisbon. By renting one of their complete apartment units, you’ll have a spacious home base to return to after exploring the city each day.
What Works for Families
- 37 Individual Apartments, located in a historical building with fully renovated modern interiors.
- Delightful Kids Club child care center (and mini climbing wall!), with extended pajama hours available
- Full kitchen in every apartment
- Washer/dryer machine, enabling lighter packing
- Welcome starter groceries – including orange juice, milk, bottled water, biscuits, and napkins
- Nespresso machine and pods
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- No swimming pool (although in this historical Chiado area, I’m not sure any hotel has one.)
- No fitness center
Rates vary by season. Martinhal Chiado is currently offering fantastic opening rate specials, now through Spring 2017. $$+ for studio; $$$+ for 1-bedroom apartment (sleeps 4); $$$$+ for 2-bedroom deluxe apartment.
Finding a beautiful, completely modern and extremely spacious family-friendly property such as this in the middle of a European city’s old town is a rare find. I immediately wanted to go collect my family, and permanently move in to this beautifully appointed apartment.
The décor is cheery and contemporary. Yet just outside your window, the surrounding buildings remind you of the surrounding historical architecture.
Available apartments vary in size, sleeping up to 6 persons. Most children sleeping quarters feature bunk beds.
Once again, I noticed the kids gear on hand in every apartment. A high chair sits in the kitchen corner, and plastic cups and plates are found in the cupboard. These units also include a washer/dryer (in one machine… it’s a Europe thing) so you can freshen up your clothes, or even pack intentionally lighter for your vacation.
Martinhal’s consistent use of Nespresso machines at each and every resort rooms had me completely hooked. I made it less than one week back at home before ordering my own.
Martinhal ~ Luxury Family Resorts in Portugal
My visit of the Martinhal properties in Portugal was as part of a media press trip, but these gorgeous resorts had me plotting for when I could return with my family. I’ve honestly never seen a resort with so much attention given to families, and being accommodating to traveling with children.
They describe that their version of “5-star luxury” is with a family spin. It’s that children’s play area in the corner of the fine dining restaurant, which allows mom to slowly finish her entire meal in peace. I loved that the focus was not on completely separating children from the parents during the vacation, but rather providing some energy-burning side activities for kids to enjoy. This enables parents to have some blissful windows of quiet time.
With Martinhal Resorts you don’t have to choose between “child-friendly” and “luxury”… you can have both at their lovely Portugal properties. I can’t wait to return