The beautiful city of Cascais lies west of Lisbon, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The old town of upscale Cascais is built around a lively marina, and features many gorgeous Cascais beaches, restaurants, cafés and shops.
Cascais was one of the first holiday towns of Portugal and nowadays one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon. Nevertheless, in Cascais there is enough to see and do for several days, and a it’s easy to combine with exploring Sintra and Lisbon as well.
Glamour is ever present in this leisurely coastal town, because both the royal family and some presidents of Portugal used to spend their summers in Cascais, many celebrities now having their holiday homes in the town.
Another part of the city called Estoril is attracting tourists with its famous casino and the relaxing holiday vibe. The Cascais beaches are famous for their clear waters, which makes it no surprise that the area is known as the Portuguese Riviera.
Cascais offers a wide range of accommodation
By staying in the picturesque old town, the Cascais beaches, restaurants and other services are located close at hand. Cascais offers a wide range of accommodation from stylish boutique hotels to comfortable vacation homes. The elegant streets are paved with traditional calçada stones and lined by swaying palm trees. When walking on them, one can sense the town’s past as a fishermen’s harbor and later as a summer town of the rich and famous.
The coast of Cascais is dotted with several resort-style hotels with large pools, but also with historical bed & breakfast villas with their beautiful gardens. It’s possible to sleep like a royal in the Citadel palace hotel of Cascais or in the palace hotel of Estoril.
Cascais is generally a safe travel destination, but it is advisable to stay aware of pickpockets and not to leave one’s belongings unattended at the Cascais beaches. Some burglaries in parked cars have been reported outside of the city center, so it’s smart not to leave valuable items in the car, at least not in plain sight. It’s also advisable to stay cautious when walking in the nature, especially close to the unstable sea cliffs.
Things to do in Cascais
The Cascais beaches are world famous, and the town has many great stretches of sand for swimming and sunbathing. On the coast there are walking and bicycle roads for jogging and cycling. Especially the seaside promenade between Cascais and Estoril is nice to walk and while doing so, one can stop on all the small and pretty beaches along the way.
On the northern side, the Cascais beaches are lined by the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, where it’s possible to try out not only multiple adventure sports such as hiking, mountain biking or rock climbing with amazing views, but also many water sports, including surfing, kite surfing and canoeing. There are also several golf courses in Cascais. The marina of Cascais is one of the largest in Portugal and home to many sailing events.
Boca do Inferno
Cascais is known for a popular natural site called Boca do Inferno, located a little outside of the city center. It is a kind of a sunken sea cave whose entrance forms a stone arch on top of the waves roaring below. The place is the most astounding during high tide and especially when the weather is stormy, which is when the waves crash to the cave and erupt upwards like a volcano, a phenomenon that has given a name to the place. Boca do Inferno also features gorgeous views over the cliffs of the Atlantic coast, especially during sunset.
Boca do Inferno is located some 2 kilometers west of the Cascais beaches and the center, so it can be reached by foot or bicycle. One can take a taxi there as well, but it might be difficult to find a ride back to the old town. One should always stay cautious when walking on the coastal cliffs.
Casa da Guia
A little outside the Cascais city lies Casa da Guia, a 19th century palacette that has been renovated to be a unique place of leisure surrounded by coastal views. The historical palace is surrounded by several outdoor cafés and restaurants where it’s possible to have a lovely lunch in the sun or enjoy the beautifully lit evening ambiance while listening to the sound of waves. The restaurants serve many types of quality food from steaks to sushi. The vistas opening up to the Atlantic and the cliffs bordered by succulents are gorgeous.
There is an art gallery and several stylish boutiques for shopping inside the yellow palacette and around its garden. The two-hectare garden of Casa da Guia also hosts the Guia lighthouse.
Museum Condes de Castro Guimarães
Built as an aristocratic summer residence in 1900, the palace was converted into a museum in the 1930’s. It exhibits paintings, Indo-Portuguese antique furniture, oriental porcelain, jewelry and a huge book collection including a script dating back to 1505. The revivalist villa, designed by Luigi Manini, is an impressive building by a small cove. Because of its tower rising directly from the sea, it is also known as Torre de São Sebastião.
The palace is surrounded by the lush Parque Marechal Carmona park, featuring ponds, animals such as tortoises and peacocks, and a chapel. The park is a great place for a leisurely walk.
Museum Casa das Histórias Paula Rego
This architecturally interesting museum has been dedicated to the art of Paula Rego, featuring paintings, drawings and sketches from along the artist’s career. Souto de Moura, the architect who designed the building, has combined contemporary design with the historical architecture of the region in an enchanting way, such as towers resembling the chimneys of the National Palace of Sintra.
Citadel of Cascais
The marina of Cascais is guarded by a medieval sea fortress, built in the 15th century in order to protect the Cascais bay, Lisbon and the Tagus Estuary from conquerors. The fortress was enlarged with a palace in the 19th century, which became the Portuguese royal family’s summer residence. Following them, many other rich Lisboners started to spend their summers on the Cascais beaches. A curious fact is that the first electric lights of Portugal were installed in the palace.
After the monarchy, the palace has served as a summer house of some of the Portuguese presidents, and since 2011 it has been an interesting museum. The fortress also houses a hotel and an art center called Cidadela Arts District.
Museu do Mar
The Sea Museum is a great place for getting to know the history of the Portuguese sailing and learning about the traditional fishing activity of Cascais as well as the modern fishing in the Atlantic, without forgetting the sustainability aspect. The museum should be reserved at least 1 hour of time.
Parque de Palmela
Between Cascais and Estoril, one can find the Parque de Palmela park built around a stream, with lawn areas and plantations as well as more forested paths to explore. The park is also a home to the Pedaços de Aventura adventure park, where it’s possible to climb on routes attached to trees.
Casino do Estoril
Estoril is located right next to Cascais and known for its casinos and the Hotel Palácio, where a James Bond movie has been filmed. The entertainment center with more than 100 years is still active and one of the largest casinos of Europe. The Cascais beaches also extend to Estoril.
Circuito do Estoril
The Cascais beaches are beautiful and many
When walking from Cascais towards Estoril, one encounters several small beaches, whose crystalline waters call for a dip on a hot summer’s day. It’s a matter of choosing one to spend a relaxing beach day. Almost all the Cascais beaches have basic services such as a life guard, toilets, showers, restaurants and lounging chairs with sunshades for rent. The larger Cascais beaches further away from the center such as the wild Guincho beach and Carcavelos closer to Lisbon are good choices for those who require more space around their beach towel, because during the summer season the smaller Cascais beaches might get crowded. The water of the Cascais beaches is cool around the year, and doesn’t exceed 20 °C even in the summer.
Praia da Ribeira
Praia da Ribeira is one of the main Cascais beaches, located next to the central square. The modest-size beach is great for families with children and beach volley is often played on its golden sand. The Cascais marina is located next to the beach, too.
Praia da Rainha
Praia da Rainha is perhaps the most beautiful of the central Cascais beaches. It is a perfect paradise-like cove with golden sand, turquoise waters, palm trees and rocks. The beach is small and protected, perfect for families.
Praia da Conceição
Praia da Conceição is the largest of the Cascais beaches, located right in front of the railway station. It’s lined by gorgeous palaces. During the summer season the beach gets as crowded as the other Cascais beaches, so it’s best to reserve a spot for your towel already in the morning. The beach is suitable for families with kids.
The seawater pool Piscina Oceânica Alberto Romano is located on the eastern end of Praia da Conceição, where one can swim in the Atlantic waters without worrying about waves.
Praia do Tamariz
Located in Estoril, Praia do Tamariz is a nice sandy stretch with sea water pools and several local restaurants and beach bars. It’s protected and usually safe for kids who can swim. The beach has lounging chairs and sunshades for rent as well.
Praia da Azarujinha
Located by the center of Estoril, Praia da Azarujinha is a small but impressive beach, thanks to the rock wall and palm trees hovering over it. There are many bars and restaurants close to the beach.
Praia de São Pedro do Estoril
The beautiful Praia de São Pedro do Estoril has greener surroundings than the other Estoril and Cascais beaches. The beach has lounging chairs available for rent.
Praia de Carcavelos
Located closer to Lisbon, Carcavelos is one of the longest Cascais beaches and great for spending a leisurely beach day. Lined by palm trees and sea fortresses, Carcavelos has many restaurants and surf schools. Carcavelos can be reached by the suburban train from Lisbon and Cascais.
Praia do Guincho
Praia do Guincho is definitely the wildest of the Cascais beaches, surrounded by coastal nature and old sea forts. The fresh Atlantic winds are often blowing over this vast beach popular among surfers and kitesurfers. The waves can be high, so Praia do Guincho is not the best beach for families with kids. The beach features a couple of restaurants and a surf school.
Also the beach after Guincho, Praia da Cresmina, is worth a visit. The camping ground of Cascais is located close to it.
Praia do Guincho is located some 9 kilometers north of Cascais by a coastal road, which is an enjoyable bicycle ride, too. Alternatively, one can get there with the ScottUrb buses number 405 and 415. The buses depart from the bus terminal of Cascais.
Portuguese cuisine and local delicacies
Cascais has restaurants for all tastes, from traditional Portuguese cuisine to exotic flavors and fine dining. Being a fishing town, some of the Cascais beaches have restaurants where fresh fish and different seafood can be tasted.
Cascais has some local sweet delicacies, the most famous being the areias de Cascais – small, sugar-coated dough balls. Another special treat of the city are the nozes de Cascais made with walnuts and almonds.
The Carcavelos area is home to a strong, port-type wine that is best enjoyed as a dessert wine. In Estoril, one can visit the first artisanal brewery of Cascais called Deck Beer Lab, in order to learn more about beer brewing and, of course, sample the end products.
Cascais is a destination for those who love shopping
The old town of Cascais features some nice shopping streets with several souvenir stores and luxury boutiques to offer. There are also some souvenir stalls close to Boca do Inferno. A little outside of the city, the shops of Casa da Guia have clothing, accessories and arts.
Mercado Vila de Cascais has a busy vibe of a market that has been running daily since the 1950’s. It is a public market with anything for sale from fresh local vegetables to fish, meat and clothes. There are also cafés serving meals.
In Estoril, the Fiartil Feira de Artesanato do Estoril market is a place for making some unique handcrafted finds. The market is located in a garden that’s lit up with magical fairy lights in the evenings, and shopping can be done with live music on the background.
Cascais has shopping malls, too. CascaiShopping is a large mall with almost 200 stores and a cinema, featuring an extraordinary food court. It’s located some 6 kilometers north of Cascais center. Next to the Cascais train station is a smaller shopping mall called CascaisVilla, with a selection of shops for daily needs, a handful of restaurants and a cinema.
Coffee and cake
33 cl beer
Beach chair rental
Getting to Cascais from Lisbon and moving around
The easiest way of getting to the gorgeous Cascais beaches is by the CP suburban trains departing at the Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon. The journey takes some 40 minutes and the train stops also on the Estoril station. The Cais do Sodré station can be reached by metro or directly by the Carris Aerobus from the airport of Lisbon.
The city center of Cascais is compact and the simplest way of getting around is by foot. By walking, the details of the city can be best admired as well. There are also city bikes available, which can be used for exploring the coast by pedaling. The distance between Cascais and Estoril is two kilometers, which can be covered by walking or cycling on the beautiful coastal promenade or by train.
A rental car is handy when exploring the more remote Cascais beaches and the secluded sights of the Sintra-Cascais area, but finding parking space in the Cascais center and close to the Cascais beaches may be tough especially during summertime. Taxis and taxi apps like Uber work well in Cascais, too.
Weather and climate
Winter: The daily mean temperature is some 11 °C in the winter, rising up to 14-15 °C during daytime. The sun is nicely warm in the winter too, but the rainiest time of the year is between November and March.
Spring: In April and May the average highest temperature of the day is around 18-20 °C, sometimes more. In spring, it still rains sometimes.
Summer: In the summer, the daily mean temperature is 20 °C. The temperatures usually soar up to 25 °C and above in the afternoon. Rains are rare in the summer, but a cooling breeze of the Atlantic is often present.
Autumn: September is a summery warm month. The temperatures start to drop in October, even though the daytime temperatures are still above 20 °C. In November, the temperatures drop to the chilly side and the winter rains start.
Text: Johanna Maldonado
Photos: Johanna Maldonado, Adobe Stock