Renowned for its glorious stretch of white, sandy beach, myriad of shopping opportunities and cosmopolitan vibrancy, the former fishing village of Cascais has reinvented itself into a refined seaside resort and one of Lisbon’s most sophisticated destinations.
Snuggled between the sun-dappled shores of the Cascais bay and Sintra’s dramatic mountain range, this stylish coastal town is situated just a few miles from the mouth of the Tagus estuary and captures the attention of visitors year-round with its delightful maritime feel and contemporary charm.
Historically, Cascais is best remembered as an elegant summer retreat for 19th Century Portuguese kings and a haven for European royalty who sought refuge in the country’s neutral territory during World War II. However, while time has shaped this scenic resort into a glamorous centre of culture, nightlife and top-quality living, Cascais has managed to retain the splendour of its seafaring age through its elegant fortresses, lighthouses and 17th Century citadel.
The Largo de Camões square marks the historic centre of Cascais and is a favourite with locals and tourists alike due to the cheerful atmosphere created by its pubs, cafés and restaurants – an especially lively spot in the evening! While in the area, walk around ‘Rua Direita’, the most commercial street in town and find shops, friendly street vendors and nearby shopping centres. There are also several busy weekly fairs in Cascais that are great for picking up traditional Portuguese linen and handicraft items.
Whenever leaving the centre, you may catch a glimpse of the local fishermen mending their nets beside their colourful boats at the quaint Pescadores beach. Contrasting with this picturesque sight is the nearby marina – a modern seafront setting where you can appreciate luxurious yachts, sizzling seafood dishes, trendy bars and boutiques. Cascais is also a magnet for night owls, providing an eclectic range of evening entertainment that offers everything from glitzy cocktail lounges to cosy jazz bars and upbeat clubs.
Marvel at the unspoilt sand dunes and untamed waves of Guincho beach – part of the beautiful Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Situated near the exclusive Quinta da Marinha golf and leisure development, Guincho is especially loved by water sports enthusiasts and popular for its beachfront bar, free-rental bicycles and famous hot dog van! Monuments, museums and cultural performances are also a constant in Cascais, offering everything from classical music concerts to art exhibitions.
Take a stroll on the seaside promenade from Cascais to Estoril – home to one of Europe’s largest and oldest casinos. Boasting deluxe seafront apartments, a fashionable beach and a lively night scene, this resort attracts avid culture lovers and jet-setters from all over the world with its prestigious conferences, international film festival and legendary jazz concerts. Distinguished sports facilities in the area include the Estoril Golf and Academia Internacional de Golfe Estoril Sol golf courses, several tennis courts and a racetrack. A relaxing visit to the Estoril Wellness Centre and spa is another luxurious experience to enjoy during your holiday in this stunning resort.
Lisbon is a short car-drive from Cascais and Estoril, although a quick trip on the railway will also take you to the city centre – a pleasant train ride allowing you to admire the beauty of Cascais’ coast merge with Lisbon’s unique, historic appeal.
Places to See
Parque Natural Sintra-Cascais (Sintra-Cascais Natural Park)
This natural park extends from Sintra’s lush mountain range to Guincho beach and the outstanding cliffs of the Roca cape – the westernmost tip of Europe. Popularised as “The place where the land ends and the sea begins” (16th Century writer Luís de Camões), this cape boasts a lovely 18th Century lighthouse and sea views, while Guincho’s naturally sculpted sand dunes and mountainous backdrop create an inspiring setting for surfers and nature lovers. Although famous for hosting one of the leading windsurfing championships in Europe, this beach enjoyed its greatest ‘moment of fame’ when it starred in the 1969 James Bond picture, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.’
Boca do Inferno (‘Hell’s Mouth’ Grotto)
Literally meaning ‘Hell’s Mouth’, this grotto is one of Cascais’ main attractions and is believed to have been formed by the rough pounding of the Atlantic’s waters against its cliffs. Today, curious sightseers visit this unusual wonder to hear the intense rumble of the waves bursting on the rocks.
‘Casa das Histórias’ – Paula Rego (Paula Rego Museum)
This inspiring museum was opened in 2009 and is dedicated to the lifetime works of the internationally acclaimed painter, Paula Rego. Born and raised in Cascais (moving to England years later), this singular artist has honoured her homeland with a magnificent space enriched with 50-years’ worth of truly unique masterpieces and several works created by her late husband, Victor Willing.
Museu Conde de Castro Guimarães (Conde de Castro Guimarães Museum)
Founded in 1931, this museum is located in a palatial seafront mansion that once belonged to the Count Manuel de Castro Guimarães. Today, it contains a collection of beautiful 16th–19th Century paintings, sculptures and antique furniture. The museum shares the area with a lovely garden, library and chapel and is a fabulous example of the aristocratic character that defines ‘historic Cascais.’
Museu do Mar (Sea Museum)
This museum pays homage to Cascais’ maritime heritage and to D. Carlos I, the Portuguese king assassinated in 1908 and pioneer of oceanography in the country. Rare fossils, shells, examples of historic boats and vestiges of ship wrecks found in the Tagus and Sado estuaries are some of the intriguing features exhibited.
Casino do Estoril (Estoril Casino)
Facing the Tamariz beach is Estoril’s famous Casino – one of the oldest and most thrilling in Europe, where a world of luxury, gambling and entertainment continues to tempt the most discerning gambler. It is believed that this glamorous casino inspired Ian Fleming’s timeless James Bond novel, ‘Casino Royale’ (1953).
Santini (Santini Ice Cream Parlour)
This isn’t any ordinary ice cream parlour— it serves what is considered to be the best ice cream in Portugal! Founded by Atillio Santini in 1949, this historic gelato has impressed a long legacy of visitors including political personalities, curious tourists and even royalty. Get a taste of Santini’s unparalleled flavours!
Praia do Tamariz (Tamariz Beach)
Reputed as the most cosmopolitan beach on the coastline, Tamariz beach in Estoril is a favourite when its comes to sunbathing in style. Just a promenade walk away from the heart of Cascais, this trendy beach offers a superb seafront restaurant and a popular nightclub to enjoy on hot, summer nights.