The Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon – Lovely Lisbon the Luxury Family Way
For someone pretty well-traveled, I have to admit that I have no memory of Lisbon whatsoever. Probably because Portugal wasn’t too high on our family travel list. I know its hugely family-friendly but I’ve always been drawn to other countries, either on the Med or with high, snowy peaks! I didn’t fancy the Atlantic coast much, nor the food.
How narrow-minded of me. How little did I know. My best gay friends have literally been spending every weekend in Lisbon (one is Brazilian, so it figures!) and they love it, so I knew that it was time to try for ourselves.
So, this October half-term (perfect time to go), we flew from Heathrow with TAP Airlines, the national carrier; a civilised and comfortable flight in a plane with all-leather seats and a super-friendly crew, from a ‘proper’ London airport. Using the quick and easy Purple Parking Meet and Greet – you literally drop your car in the short-term car park and go. An 8am flight gets you to Lisbon city centre before lunch. The airport is literally 15 minutes away – another huge bonus. We pre-booked a car with Blacklane online. They serve many European cities and had a luxury minivan with baby and booster seat awaiting our arrival.
In fact, we arrive en famille to the most luxurious, family-friendly hotel in Lisbon, just in time for their famous weekend brunch. A perfect way to start our trip. The Four Seasons Hotel Ritz was built in 1959 by the Dictator Salazar to show off luxury in Lisbon. Sitting in pride of place in it’s own beautiful gardens, atop one of Lisbon’s 7 hills, near Eduardo VII park, the main Avenida de Liberdade, walking distance or short (cheap) taxi to all the important museums and sights of the city, the hotel lives up to the brand and more.
High ceilings boasting stunning flower arrangements, marble, gilded furniture and interesting pieces of Portuguese art all add to the experience. There’s a serious restaurant (Varanda) in a dining room that blew me away – or at least took me back to some of my summers in grand Italian hotels. Floor to ceiling windows with views from three sides plus a spectacular terrace (I’m looking forward to summer breakfast or dinner there), opulent curtains and old -fashioned style, the way it used to be. I’m a stickler for grandeur and this place has it in spades.
Nearly every room has a balcony here, including ours. Big enough for our family of 4 with ease. Plus, we were on a corner which gave us a separate corridor within our suite the length of the bedroom with big windows, lovely views and storage space, plus a separate walk-in wardrobe. Had we been living at the hotel for a month, we would have had ample space. What my kids loved however, was the fact that they had their own area to play, without being in the bedroom itself.
As you would expect, a marble bathroom, modern and luxurious, separate shower and WC, robes and slippers for everyone including the baby, plus a brilliant baby amenity bag containing the much-revered Mustela brand.
To the food. As I mentioned, we started with the brunch. An institution in itself. It’s a must. A wet buffet serving oysters and cerviche made to order, a roast beef trolley, hot food section making fresh fish dishes, eggs and pancakes any way that you could wish for, sushi, salads, fruits, a groaning dessert buffet and of course lots of champagne.
Sufficiently stuffed, we grabbed a taxi and headed the short ride down to the waterfront. Lisbon is made up of several different areas from Praca do Comercio – a majestic square flanked by splendid buildings and facades to Ribeira das Naus on the waterfront; a contemporary pedestrian space and park, to Bairro Alto – trendy and unique with amazing restaurants, one-off boutiques and concept stores and the elegant Chiado and all it’s shops.
We visited Belem with its wonderful gardens and the National Coach Museum – don’t leave without tasting the mouthwatering Pasteis de Belem; (custard tart) dating back to a secret recipe from 1837 they are exquisite.
Then, on to the Parque das Nacoes – the modern area of Lisbon where the kids marveled at the array of wildlife in the Oceanarium (one of the largest in the world). Next door is the cable car; another scenic ride not to be missed and so family friendly.
I realised very quickly that Lisbon is a real foodie capital of the world. Tapas everywhere. Small plates of meats and cheeses especially, I was in my element, but that’s for another day. One place I must mention though is the new venture by the 2 Michelin starred chef at his restaurant Belcanto – Jose Avillez.
Invited to his new venture Pateo, a restaurant within Bairro Do Avillez, this spectacular space with a bar along one side, balcony above and a huge open kitchen at one end is relaxed and playful but with a emphasis on serious, serious food and wine, mostly with small plates to be shared and enjoyed by all.
One thing of note, the service was exceptional too. The staff were nothing but amazing and very, very welcoming. This place has to be on every itinerary. It is also very child-friendly, highchairs and all.
Back at the hotel later we all went for a swim.
Relaxed dinners were taken in the Ritz Bar where you can see your food being made at the sushi bar – buttery soft sashimi really stood out. Every delicious dish made with care and attention and service to match.
As far a family-friendly cities go, it doesn’t get much better and if you can afford it then stay at the Ritz, ditto.