Is this the future of family travel? Lotte Jeffs discovers a blueprint for a visionary new way to holiday, work, live and parent in Portugal with Martinhal.

When is a hotel not a hotel? When it’s a school, a residence, a club, a workspace, a whole new way of living.

Martinhal is an innovative concept in hospitality. Its offerings are designed around the reality of how people navigate the modern world. And the founders aren’t held back by limiting beliefs as to what something that started as a hotel brand might evolve or expand into.

To open luxury branded residences is one thing, but an international school? While that might seem like a radical move, it is perhaps an example of the agile thinking hospitality brands are going to need to not just survive but thrive across the next decade.

Chitra Stern is the CEO, owner and founder of Martinhal Resorts and United Lisbon International School. Her husband Roman is CEO, owner, founder of Elegant Group, which develops, owns and operates the Martinhal brand of luxury family resorts and real estate.

Martinhal Sagres

The couple fell in love with a beautifully windswept, rugged and relatively untouched corner of Portugal’s Algarve coast back in 2010. As parents to young children themselves, creating a resort that centred families came naturally.

The result is a gorgeous, high-spec hideaway in Sagres where adults can kickback, relax and indulge in the good life while children are taken excellent care of too.

Whether they’re booked into the kids club for a play session or you spend the day together as a family, it couldn’t be easier to keep everyone happy. For example, there are giant trampolines for kids, and right adjacent to them is a cafe/bar so grownups can enjoy themselves while keeping an eye on their brood.Martinhal SagresMartinhal SagresMeanwhile, outside the resort’s fantastic, elegant seafood restaurant and within watching distance –there’s playground equipment so little ones don’t get bored but adults don’t have to rush through dinner to appease them.

The rooms themselves are thoughtfully equipped for families, with ample storage, toddler essentials and safe spaces to play all provided as standard.

For an insight into my stay at Martinhal Sagres, ironically without my family but instead with my dear friend and The Queer Parent co-authour Stu Oakley listen to the podcast we recorded live from our suite at the hotel here.

This five-star resort comprises 37 hotel rooms, but also 132 village houses and 50 townhouses and villas so there are options to suit every taste or length of stay. It’s certainly somewhere you could decamp to for the entire summer. There are ample food and drink options, village shops as well as a great gym, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and a range of sports facilities.Portugal, Algarve, Sagres und Umgebung Martinhal Sagres Martinhal Sagres Between 2015 and 2016, the Sterns opened three other Martinhal hotels and resorts in the Algarve and greater Lisbon. They sold their hotel in Quinta da Marinha to a local family, and in 2023 opened the doors to the world’s first city-centre luxury family hotel in Lisbon’s cultural quarter Martinhal Chiado.

Martinhal Lisbon Oriente

My next deep dive into the Martinhal world was at their second Lisbon property, not in the centre but in an up and coming area on the outskirts of the city called the Park of Nations.

The luxury apartment complex is surrounded by parkland, near the river and walking distance to the aquarium – Lisbon’s most popular family tourist attraction. We had an apartment at the Martinhal Lisbon Oriente property, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a large living and dining area.Martinhal Lisbon OrienteThere was a balcony overlooking the outdoor pool and an appealing sense of light and space in the proportions of the residence and its chic, understated styling. It was the perfect spot to stay with my wife and five-year-old daughter. Martinhal Lisbon Oriente Martinhal Lisbon OrienteWe enjoyed a buffet breakfast every morning in the fantastically family-orientated restaurant but then were able to have the flexibility of making our own food in the comfort of our own apartment.

I loved hanging out as a family at the indoor and outdoor pool and then escaping for some me-time at the well-equipped gym or following a running track down to the river. Martinhal Lisbon OrienteBack at the property there’s a coworking space with meeting rooms, and even a kids club which caters to toddlers (softplay and boardbooks) right through to teens (video games and pool table). And in another instance of proving this brand really gets what I need as a parent, there were adult tables in the recreation space so I could plug in my laptop and work while my daughter was occupied.Martinhal Lisbon Oriente Martinhal Lisbon Oriente Martinhal Lisbon OrienteThis luxury development features some of the best penthouses in Lisbon with panoramic views over the River Tagus and the Vasco da Gama bridge. These can be hired for short or long term stays and bring some five-star wow-factor to live/work family travel.

The Martinhal expansion into Lisbon really led the brand to reimagine the Martinhal experience for luxury long-term stays and business trips in the city. The thought that has gone into creating a work/life balance here reflects the founders’ own approach to parenting as busy and ambitious entrepreneurs.

In an interview with The Sybarite Chitira says: “As working parents with four kids, we understood the conveniences of a “15-minute city” as well, where Martinhal Residences is located – the Park of Nations in Lisbon – everything one needs day-to-day is literally within a 15-minute radius. I understand the benefits of having children walking to visit their friends, or to get a haircut.Martinhal Lisbon OrienteAs a working mother, I value having a good hospital nearby – not just for my children but also my ageing parents; having access to walking paths and a variety of public parks, for our enjoyment of leisure time and to help us take our daily exercise.

The elements within Martinhal Residences of serviced living are definitely also born out of understanding the pain points of a working mother. Martinhal Residences is also designed for the expat family – “our concierge will help the family settle into life in Lisbon”.

All four Martinhal hotels and resorts are based on private investors acquiring villas and apartments with the option to enter their property into the letting pool of the operator. To date over 300 Martinhal branded apartments and houses have been sold to individual expatriate buyers alone. And property company Savills has rated Martinhal as one of the top-three branded residences in Europe.Martinhal Lisbon Oriente Martinhal Lisbon Oriente

The School of Life

The United Lisbon International School, Martinhal’s innovative pivot into education, opened in September 2020 and already has more than 630 students. In November 2022, Chitira and Roman Stern entered into a Joint Venture with Dukes Education Group which owns over 45 schools – mostly in London, to be equity partners into the United Lisbon International School.

The school follows an American-based curriculum with an International Baccalaureate diploma for Grades 11 and 12. Chitra is involved in many aspects of the school and preparing its students for life in today’s unpredictable world.

As for what’s coming next, Chitira sees the brand growing beyond Portugal’s borders, with a Martinhal in major European destinations, including capital cities. Her driving principle for the brand is “Work, Live, Love”. Chitira says: “If you have love, most other things can be sorted out! We have worked hard on creating something with great architecture, design, curated art, and filled with our Martinhal people that our guests and owners are going to love.”

To find out more about short or long term stays at one of Martinhal’s Portugal properties or to purchase an apartment visit