My first trip to Lisbon two years ago was not a great one. We only had a day in the city on a cruise and during our brief visit my grandad almost had his wallet stolen and I found it extremely difficult to get around all the hills and cobblestone streets with a baby in a pram. I was so disappointed that we came away with a negative view of this city that so many people, especially family travellers, talk so highly of.
But I knew we had not been able to experience the city fully in just our one short day so I wrote it off as a bad experience that could have happened anywhere and kept it on my very long travel wish list to visit again at some point in the future.
So when we were invited back by Duarte, the host of The Explorer’s Home Airbnb, after he saw a comment about our bad experience on Instagram (ah the powers of social media), with a promise to show us a better side to Lisbon and change our views on the city, I couldn’t resist giving it another chance.
The apartment is in the quiet neighbourhood of Estrela, with tram and bus links close by or only a few minutes drive into the city centre with a private parking space if you have your own car. Practically next door is the former Royal Palace, an enchanting pastel pink building with lovely gardens to wander through, and directly across the street is a pretty little garden with views out over Lisbon and the 25 de Abril Bridge in the distance.
The mornings were perfectly peaceful, sitting by the open window with a cup of coffee from the Nespresso machine and a Portuguese sweet treat, looking out onto the quiet sunny garden.
With all of Lisbon’s hills you don’t realise how high up you are until you look out of the window at the back of the house onto a spectacular vista of the terracotta rooftops and the city beyond. As Evie is able to walk herself now (or demand to be carried at least), we didn’t have a pram to push around this time, but the hills in Estrela are a lot less steep and much easier to navigate than the ones we had previously found difficult in the Alfama district.
If you can tear your eyes away from the charming views on either side of the apartment, inside the gorgeous décor gives it a cosy homely feel while also providing all the modern amenities you could possibly need when travelling giving it the luxurious feel of a boutique hotel. Comfort and luxury in equal measure. Whether we were sinking into the cosy Chesterfield sofa or sitting up at the breakfast bar in the open plan kitchen, we felt so at home here straight away, as you can see from Evie’s face on our very first morning!
Upstairs, four guests fit in a bright and airy queen room and a twin room plus a crib can be provided for little ones – perfectly sized for myself, Evie, my mum and my grandparents. I won’t lie…these are the plushest most comfortable beds I have ever had the pleasure of sleeping in at an Airbnb. Way better than a lot of hotels in fact. Every night after a long day of sightseeing I would sink into bed with a smile on my face feeling like I was sleeping on a cloud.
Evie and I co-sleep at home and she has never EVER slept in her own bed so I was a little worried she’d end up squishing in the single bed with me here somewhat taking away the enjoyment of having my own comfy bed for a change. But to my complete and utter surprise she slept all five nights in the crib without waking up or even stirring once. Maybe it was because she had worn herself out with all the exploring every day but the fact the crib was just as comfy as the big beds was probably the main reason. Trust me – I tested it myself (yes, it’s clearly a very sturdy crib) by climbing in with her a couple of times to cuddle her to sleep. The mattress was so plump and soft that I may have ended up falling asleep with her!
But as nice as somewhere may be it’s always the little personal touches that make an accommodation extra special for me and this place is full of them. You can see how much thought and effort has gone into creating The Explorer’s Home, from the story behind the host’s ancestor, explorer Roberto Ivens, with maps of his expeditions in Africa on the wall as well as elephant and rhino figures that can be found around the house. I have a huge passion for Africa so I appreciated these little details even more.
A thoughtful welcome basket packed with wine, tonic, cookies and other little Portuguese treats greets guests on arrival along with a selection of alcohol which can be enjoyed while binge watching some Netflix (if that’s what you prefer to do rather than going out to explore the city) from a choice of three TVs in different rooms – one a 65″ TV. Yes really. There’s practically a cinema screen in the house.
All these added extras are things that you would expect from a very good quality hotel not an Airbnb.
The Explorer’s Home moustached logo is found all over the house from the plush cushions and soft cotton towels to the cosy dressing gowns, and umbrellas that are available for when it inevitably rains on any trip. Again, all amenities that you would expect to find in a hotel.
It’s easy to see why this place received it’s Airbnb Plus status within just a few months of opening up to guests!
My favourite thing about the apartment was the cosy reading corner in the lounge where we sat every morning with the sun shining through the window, and picked out some stories to read from the big stack of books. From children’s to adult books in a range of languages including English, French, Spanish (even Catalan) and of course Portuguese, plus our favourite Dr Seuss book, Oh The Places You’ll Go!, was here too.
Later in the day, when everyone got tired from all the sightseeing, we’d head back to the apartment and relax here with a book or two. Well, they would relax with a book, whereas I preferred to relax with some wine. Because mama is on holiday.
With inspiration from his own 5 year old daughter, it is incredibly well set up for children here making it the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for family friendly accommodation in Lisbon. We were provided with a highchair, children’s cutlery, board games, colouring pencils, plus a huge box of Lego which Evie (and my grandad) loved playing with.
Even the bathroom with its heavenly rain shower and spotlessly white leafy wall tiles (which I totally want for my own bathroom back home) also comes with children’s bath products as well as a baby bath with an explorer rubber duck. We couldn’t get Evie out!
Aside from all the outstanding points I’ve already mentioned, what really sets this place apart from other standard Airbnb accommodations is the time, energy and love that Duarte puts into The Explorer’s Home. He goes above and beyond making his guests feel at home and truly wants them to have the best experience in his city. You can find a rather comical guide to Lisbon that he wrote himself with maps, sightseeing tips with routes leading from the apartment, recommendations for the best coffee shops and restaurants (because food is always a priority when travelling) as well as him being just a quick message away for any questions that guests may have.
We were lucky enough to have him around for the majority of our trip so that we really got to experience the city from a local’s perspective – post on Lisbon to follow!
Not only have I gained a wonderful friend from this trip, but it has also completely changed our views of Lisbon by showing us what a beautiful city it really is and giving us so many more positive memories this time around.
A huge thank you to Duarte at The Explorer’s Home who hosted our stay and made our return trip to Lisbon a wonderful one! If you’re looking for family friendly accommodation in Lisbon (with or without little explorers) you can book The Explorer’s Home on Airbnb or booking.com.
What makes an accommodation special for you? Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb that caters so well to children? Let me know in the comments below or at: