My first impressions of rush hour Lisbon in May weren’t great.
I arrived at a rainy airport on what was the busiest time of day, and was driven through a grey and drizzly city to the region of Cascais, a journey that took three times longer than the usual quick thirty minutes. I saw nothing but cars, concrete and tower blocks covered in rain.
I now know we went the distinctly un-scenic route: but this didn’t matter, as the most gorgeous Cascais welcome made up for it. I spent two nights there with Martinhal attending their travel conference, enjoying their luxury hotel, incredible landscapes and beaches before heading back to Lisbon for a night in their city centre property.
My journey back to Lisbon couldn’t have been more different to the outward bound taxi. Bright sunshine replaced the miserable drizzle, and the coastal route was literally breathtakingly beautiful. We made a couple of blowy stops on the way, taking in the magnificent vistas, before arriving in the Chiado district of Lisbon and checking into my second Martinhal property of the weekend.
I wasn’t sure what to anticipate when it came to what Martinhal bill as ‘the world’s first luxury family city centre hotel’. Certainly, I’ve never taken a city break with the kids, thinking those kinds of trip would be frenetic for them. But then I hadn’t been to Martinhal Chiado…
Though I was travelling without the children (this time!) I could see how brilliantly set-up this hotel was for kids. Not only is there a brilliant kids club within the hotel itself (it’s free of charge, your children can attend from 6 months and it’s open til 10pm) but just look at the little studio room I was given! It had everything you would need when travelling with kids or babies, from bottle warmers to a step up to the sink and children’s cutlery. And it did all this without feeling like a ‘family hotel’ – it remained light, airy and stylish.
I only had a few afternoon and evening hours to spend in Lisbon before my flight home the next morning so I’d asked the advice of some locals where I should eat and what I should see locally. Not wanting to waste time on travelling too far I took a bit of a stroll around Chiado as the sun set and was genuinely taken aback by how beautiful the area was: it felt like it was an amalgamation of two of my favourite cities, Barcelona and Paris. I picked up a Pastéis de Nata (of course I did) and after a bit more of a wander went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
I know lots of people aren’t a fan of eating alone, but as I usually have a child hanging off my leg as I order drinks or begging to go to the loo mid-way through starters, a solo dinner is something I take real pleasure in – especially on a Saturday night. Plus as I was travelling alone there wasn’t really an alternative, unless I wanted to discover the Portugese equivalent of Dominos and eat in my room ;) I’d done my research and had been recommended the restaurant Sea Me, just around the corner from Martinhal Chiado, so this is where I went.
Sea Me is a sushi/fusion restaurant with a bar at the front and a busy restaurant at the back (it fills up quickly!). I sat at the bar and drank a glass of champagne while I enjoyed the atmosphere, ordering a couple of dishes to snack on. The food was absolutely fantastic (they use the freshest fish) and it was a really lovely buzzy place to while away a couple of hours.
I wasn’t quite ready to go back to my hotel (and had left a little room in my belly) so I on the walk back I stopped off at ByTheWine, a bar selling amazingly priced glasses of wine and delicious snacking plates. I sampled two – I was on holiday after all! – along with some amazing cheese and meat that was sliced by hand in front of me. It was loud and bustling, another great place to people watch but if you’re not alone it’s definitely worth booking: I saw lots of people get turned away at the door.
Because I’m British I headed home at about 10.30pm for a pot of tea and some biscuits in bed. I found the Mexican version of Ex On The Beach on the TV (pure trash… but in Spanish) and had a very nice hour watching until the Portugese version came on and the subtitles disappeared.
I’d planned to do a bit more walking to explore the city the next day but I awoke to absolute hammering rain. My room was so comfortable that I decided to just enjoy it, taking a bath and doing some work before my taxi arrived to whisk me home.
Lisbon was one of the loveliest cities I’ve seen in a long time, even though I only caught a little snapshot of it. It’s one I’d definitely rush to go back to before the other usuals, and next time I’ll definitely be taking the kids with me to sample the brilliant kid’s club, and my boyfriend to share that wonderful wine, meat and Pastéis de Nata. See you soon, Lisbon!
Thank-you to Martinhal for hosting me at their beautiful Lisbon hotel.