A family holiday in Cascais, Portugal’s upmarket alternative to the Algarve

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The pretty Portuguese fishing town of Cascais is bursting with continental charm

Located a short drive from Portugal’s capital Lisbon, Cascais’ bustling marinas, pristine sandy beaches and historic old town – made famous as the retreat of the Portuguese royals – make it the ideal location for a family holiday.

Almost year-round sunshine and child-friendly activities such as a dedicated surf school and the Marechal Carmona Park – where you’ll find ponds, trees, an in-park cafe and more to delight the little ones – mean that there’s something on offer for all generations.

Where to stay in Cascais

For the ultimate relaxed holiday atmosphere, book in to one of the 84 luxurious deluxe rooms and 12 contemporary villas that make up the Martinhal Lisbon Cascais Family Hotel. Martinhal combines sleek, contemporary architecture and stunning landscaped gardens to ensure you have a perfect place to unwind in what the locals call the ‘California of Europe’.

The large modern rooms overlook the central courtyard of the main building. The hotel has three restaurants serving excellent food, from buffet breakfast to à la carte modern Portuguese dishes each evening – we loved the grilled sword fish with lemon and basil. Alternatively, you can dine out at some of the local acclaimed seafood restaurants on the coast in Cascais and Estoril. Try Restaurante Mar do Inferno in Cascais for the freshest of local seafood and stunning views to the west. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down. 

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Amid the pretty landscaped gardens, the hotel has three swimming pools, as well as an excellent kids’ club where you can leave the children while you book in to the Finisterra Spa. Choose from treatments including the mum and child facial, Indian head massage or detox mud wrap. 

Beaches in Cascais

The hotel’s location is also ideal for the more adventurous too. Try Guincho Beach (pictured below) on the nearby Atlantic coast for surfing, kite surfing and windsurfing – Martinhal operates a shuttle service three times a day. Otherwise you can rent bikes and explore the coastal paths that are just a few minutes ride away.

Kite surfing on Guincho Beach, Cascais

Kite surfing on Guincho Beach, Cascais

For authentic local food markets and beaches, head into town – again just a short shuttle ride from the resort. Check out the Santini’s ice cream parlour to help you cool down. You must try the bitter chocolate and orange – simply delicious! 

From Cascais to Lisbon

Martinhal is the perfect location for a day trip to Lisbon. Head in by train or taxi; either way it’s just a 30-minute journey. The Martinhal Chiado family suites opened in 2016, providing a perfect ‘home- from-home’ base of stylish accommodation for couples and family groups, right in the heart of the city.

The skyline of Alfama, Lisbon - just 30 minutes from Cascais

The skyline of Alfama, Lisbon – just 30 minutes from Cascais

For a true food and wine adventure, try the two-star Michelin restaurant, Belcanto, in the Chiado district. Also visit São Jorge Castle (pictured above) via tuk-tuk – the more adventurous can walk up through the steep streets for the most memorable city views. on your way back down, visit what’s fast becoming one of the city’s coolest new districts, Alfama. A warren of winding streets give a true taste of the real city as it once was.

The fairytale royal palaces in the nearby resort town of Sintra, a UNESCO world heritage site, are also worth adding to your itinerary, but be sure to go early to miss the crowds.

The Martinhal Lisbon Cascais Family Hotel offers rooms from £212 per night with breakfast included. Martinhal Lisbon Chiado has self-catering family suites from £255 per night in a studio apartment (high season).