A chequered history, sumptuous flavours and the hustle and bustle of a busy port, Lisbon is a captivating capital – and delightfully, one that offers lots for families. Easy to get around (either walking, by metro, taxi, tram or tuk-tuk), the city also feels safe and friendly. Plus there are beaches within a short train ride, if you want to mix a city break with some seaside fun.
The 5-star Tivoli Avenida da Liberdade hotel is situated on Lisbon’s answer to Paris’ Champs Elysees – an elegant avenue of designer boutiques and high fashion stores and chic bars.
Within a 10-minute walk, you find yourself in one of the central squares in the Baixa region, by the tourism bureau and ornate Rossio station, where you can catch a train to Sintra. Or, to save time, just hop on the Lisbon metro, with stops close to the hotel. It’s all within a gentle stroll.
The hotel feels seeped in Lisbon grandeur, yet for all its sophistication there’s a welcoming friendliness from the staff. Take the lift to the lower floor and you’ll find a large gym, swimming pool and Anantara spa. Zoom up to the top floor and walk out onto the Sky Bar, with impressive views across the sweeping Lisbon landscape.
Plus there’s an idyllic outdoor swimming pool – more of that, later…
There’s an unassuming air of luxury to the rooms and their décor. Spacious, they feature free wifi, large TV screen, a wardrobe with iron and ironing board, hairdryer and a safe. Beds are comfy and are turned down each night. The monochrome ensuites have a bath as well as a large walk-in shower and there are soft bathrobes and slippers for adults.
Junior loves this little touch – several of the plug sockets are designed to take UK three-pin plugs (as well as European two-pins) and so don’t require adaptors. Perfect for when everyone’s device needs charging over night.
There are family rooms available, which feature double or twin beds, plus a sofa bed, which folds out to sleep two. Family rooms also have a living area with an addiiional TV. Cots can be booked in advance.
THE BATHROOM SHELF:
Portugese luxury skincare brand Portus Cale body lotion, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel are provided plus dental, comb, shaving set, vanity and shower cap are extras.
Another Junior loves – the hotel boasts two pools. One indoor, located near the spa and gym. The other, well – a beautiful almost secret outdoor pool, nestled within a walled garden across a cobbled road at the back of the hotel.
After a busy day exploring hot, dusty and hilly streets, the pool offers a calm oasis. Lie back on a lounger and the canopy of trees transports you far away from the city – a true mirage effect. While it’s a simple pool without child-friendly extras, it offers the perfect place for overheated children (and adults) to refresh.
Seafood is almost a religion in Lisbon’s eating out culture, and the hotel’s resaturant Cervejaria Liberdade sits among the best. In a high-ceilnged dining hall, delicious cockles, Algarve prawns, spicy pork, steak sandwich and of course traditional Portugese salt cod are delicious to eat and to admire. Catering for children as well as adults, we saw at least two families with young kids tucking into their evening meals.
We also ate at Tivoli Avenida Liberdade’s sister hotel restaurant – the Olivier resaturant at AVANI Avenida Leberdade. Large circular seating bays make for a social eating experience and the Mediterranean food and fine wines were a treat.
Based on the peaceful lower floor, the Anantera Spa has six treatment rooms – including some for couples. The treatments are based on ancient far-eastern healing skills using Biologique Recherche products, and from the gentle foot bath to the full-body massage, somehow it manages to be both a relaxing and invigorating experience.
THE SKY BAR:
Take the lift to the top floor and step out onto a terrace of white-washed walls, wooden floors (lovely looking but a nightmare if you’re wearing high heels as they kept getting stuck in the gaps) and a brightly-painted two-storey unit. You can go up at any time – we set our alarm early and watched the sun rise over Lisbon – and in the day time there are beautiful views, in the evening it becomes a lively drinking venue.
ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES:
The best way to start your visit to Lisbon is to get a feel for the city – to understand its neighbourhoods, flavours and stories. Given its size (and its seven hills) we found the perfect way to do this was by Tuk Tuk.
Our friendly, attentive driver, who spoke immaculate English, chose a route from one side of the city to another – mixing castle walls and roman excavations with narrow cobbled side streets and church finery while spinning tales of Portugese history and, of course, tales of the devastation of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. We got a sense of the layout and flow of the city in a much more vibrant way than if we’d travelled by metro. You’ll see Tuk Tuks everywhere, and they’re easy to hail (negotiate a price with the driver) or book through the hotel.
There are several family attractions to check out – including the fun-filled science museum (Pavilhao do Conhecimento), Tram 28 (they can be very crowded so best to avoid rush hour), Oceanario Aquarium, futuristic Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, the amazing Time Out food market, a jaunt on the cable car, clambering over the ruins of the Castelo de Sao Jorge (Moorish castle), the hands-on Electricity museum (more fun than that might sound) or a day trip to the palace-filled Sintra. Or take the train from Cais do Sodre station and in 15 minutes you’ll reach some beautifully sandy beaches.
We snacked at the lovely Cantina Ze Avillez restaurant run by in-vogue chef Jose Avillez offering a relaxed dining atmosphere and a feast of local flavours and lunchtime dishes.
And to walk off that magnificent Portugese cuisine, we chose a Vintage walking tour that took in some of Lisbon’s oldest shops, one of the tastiest pastry shops (Confeitaria Nacional) selling the traditional Portugese custard tarts (pastel de nata), the Gothic Santa Justa lift tower, an original salt cod store plus the incredible political story of the Carnation Revolution. Mediterranean shopping and artful stories – a delightful mix.
The one challenge is, if you’ve got a buggy – many of the streets are not only very hilly but also cobbled – not the smoothest ride for babies or toddlers, and not the easiest push for you. If you do have a young baby, best to bring a carrier. And if you do want to use a buggy, bring one as light as possible.
Thinking about the Algarve? See our review of the Tivoli Caroiero Algarve hotel
Address: Av. da Liberdade, 185 1269-050 Lisbon
Prices start at 200€ / £177 for a double room – for bed and breakfast