During our visit to Portugal in half term, we spent two days staying centrally at the Martinhal Chiado hotel, which is set in one of the trendiest areas of Lisbon.
The hotel is the perfect base to not only stay with the kids, but is also within a stones throw of the main transport network, offering the chance to explore everything Lisbon has to offer, whether by foot, underground, tram, bus or even tuk tuk.
On our first day in Lisbon we decided to get our bearings and explore Chiado by foot, finding stunning artwork, historic buildings and huge statues around every corner.
At the riverside we got a great view of Cristo Rei, which is one of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments which stands high above the southern banks of the Tejo Estuary.
The kids loved walking along the riverside and were mesmerised by the balanced stone statues by the side of the river.
I have to admit that I thought these represented something like a tribute to lost loved ones, but upon my investigations when we got home I discovered they are just a tourist attraction and a way of making money. They are still worth seeing though.
Just past these stones is Palace Square, otherwise known as Commerce Square, which is shaped liked a letter “U” with the open end facing the Tagus River.
At the heart of the square sits the impressive statue of King Jose I on horseback.
It was also the location we saw our first iconic yellow tram.
The square is situated in the Baixa district of Lisbon and walked through the arch into the heart of the city, which reminded us of Las Ramblas in Barcelona with restaurants lining the streets and seating in the middle of the pedestrianised areas, human statues and music playing.
Baixa itself is full architectural gems, shopping and sightseeing opportunities.
The kids are not interested in shopping, but were more than happy to race around the squares, admiring the various statues and fountains and also chasing the birds.
We did all stop and do a double take at the Cirque de Sardine shop at the edge of Rossio Square which had tins of sardines packed floor to ceiling decorated with either vintage imagery, minimalistic modern designs and even just years on them, perfect for some quirky souvenir shopping.
At this point it was starting to get late, so we decided to head back in the direction of the hotel, but we didn’t take into account how hilly Lisbon actually is and encountered steps…….lots and lots of steps.
At one point both Eliza and Sebby had to stop for a rest, but were gently persuaded to start climbing again thanks to a local busker who started playing some familiar tunes and making them laugh.
That was probably the one thing that really stood out for us in Portugal – everyone is so friendly, especially with the kids and most speak English too.
The kids were also motivated by the fact that they were going to Martinhal’s Pyjama Club for the evening, where they were having dinner, followed by a film and games night which allowed Hubby and I the chance to explore the area some more.
We had spotted the Santa Justa Elevator whilst exploring, so it was our first port of call when we headed back out for the evening.
It is a 19th century lift that transports passengers up the steep hill from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo and the ruins of the Carmo church, but it also has a viewing platform on the top, perfect for taking photo’s of the city. We arrived about half an hour before sunset, hoping to get some lovely pictures but the queue was much longer than we anticipated and it took almost 90 minutes before we boarded.
If I am honest, the lift ride was fairly underwhelming as the lift is sandwiched between two buildings and cost us €5 each. It was then a further €1.50 to take the spiral staircase to the viewing platform, all which is easily accessible on foot in less than a 5 minute walk from the hotel.
The viewing platform is well worth visiting as the views over the city are spectacular, especially at night as the Castelo de São Jorge is all lit up in the distance.
It was then back down the spiral staircases to explore some more of the city.
We did go in search of something to eat, however, opposite our hotel is By The Wine – a wine bar and restaurant that had caught our eye thanks to the 3624 bottles decorating the ceiling, so we ended up heading back there.
We were not disappointed and got to try some fantastic Portuguese wines as well as their amazing Tapas and meal offerings.
We made the most of our rare child-free evening and returned back to the hotel just before 10pm to put the kids to bed so we were ready for round two in the morning.
To be continued……..