Today is my favourite day ever and not only because it’s Saturday. Today we are travelling to Portugal, a country that has a way of working its magic into your heart, and I can’t wait to see our favourite places face to face again.
Portugal is an endlessly fascinating place, and we can never get enough of it, so much that we seize any opportunity to return. It’s a place of beautifully endless shorelines, so beautiful, in fact, they can easily compete with all others in the world.
We understand why many travellers have their sights set on solely visiting the capital, we really do – being the largest and easily accessible cities in Portugal with some of the most photographed landmarks in the world, Lisbon provides pleasing nourishments and a warm welcome that appeals to many.
But if you are willing to briefly wander away from famous yellow trams and impressive architectural gems and jump on a train – think of it as a micro-adventure – you’ll find yourself in a town that can spark a lot of creativity.
It’s possible you already know which place we are about to bring to your attention and it’s possible you have already seen pictures of this photogenic coastal town on Instagram or other social media platforms.
Full of wonder and pretty sights, Cascais is a great place to visit as a day trip from Lisbon or even better – to extend your stay in Portugal for a couple of days to run around barefoot on sun-drenched beaches and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Your guide to the best things to see and do in beautiful Cascais, Portugal
Portugal and its many cities and villages still remain one of the affordable travel destinations in Europe, even if you choose to visit or stay in Cascais, which is a home for the wealthy.
We’ve been back countless times and have visited many beautiful small towns in Portugal, yet we didn’t expect to find another one quite so beautiful.
Here are the best things to do in this beautiful coastal town where whitewashed houses and winding streets cheerfully greet day-trippers and European holidaymakers.
#1. Explore the fortress and Cidadela Art District
On the day we visited Cascais, the ocean was calm, the sky was deep blue, and it was nice to walk around the fortress.
Make your way through the small arch and you’ll find – set within the same square -Palácio da Cidadela de Cascais and Cidadela Art District which is part of the beautiful 5-star hotel Pestana Cidadela Cascais.
We loved the ultra-modern art district surrounded by its bright white walls where different sculptures were scattered around the plaza. The Art District compromises six galleries including six Open Studios where artists can express themselves.
Devote your time to visiting Cascais Fortress, Citadel Cascais, which is a substantial historical landmark with impressive defence tower. In the 19th century, the original fortress was remodelled to a summer residence for King Luis I and his family. You can see the private bedroom, living quarters and the reception areas for a small fee.
#2. Be amazed by Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth)
Boca do Inferno is a collapsed cave that has left a sea arch situated just 2 kilometres north of Cascais town. Standing at the water’s edge, there’s very little doubt that this stretch of coast is a spectacular natural phenomenon eroded by the restless pounding of the sea and appreciated by the steady stream of visitors.
To reach Boca do Inferno from Cascais town, take a walk along path west of the coastal resort. It will bring you past the Citadel De Cascais then over the bridge with Santa Maria Lighthouse on one and Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães on the other side.
You can enjoy stunning coastal views and admire coastal rock formations free of charge as Boca do Inferno is situated on public land and is open year-round and you can reach it on foot, bike and car.
#3. Visit Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães
By visiting this museum, located in a Mediterranian and Arabian style mansion, you can see a beautiful art collection, admire many arches, oriental porcelain and browse through the impressive library where you’ll find 25,000 volumes with some of them dating back to 1600s.
For those who are interested in visiting-entry to the museum is free of charge; yet another proof that Portugal and its many towns and villages still remain one of the affordable travel destinations in Europe.
#4. Wander around Marechal Carmona Park
How about escaping crowds and spending time in the lush park where you can relax, read, walk and play? You can do that by visiting Marechal Carmon Park, which is exceptionally beautiful during the hot summer days as the trees provide shade.
This park is an excellent place for the whole families, in addition to intriguing artworks, fragrant roses and colourful azulejo benches, it also features two playgrounds, and little ones will love peacocks, ducks and turtles. The park is well kept with colourful flowerbeds, small pounds, picking area and a café.
#5. Enjoy one of many beaches
Most of the Cascais beaches are situated in the city centre, so you don’t even have to travel or rent a car to reach them. Praia da Poça, Praia da Conceição and Praia da Duquesa are great for soaking up the sun, relaxing and swimming. While they are undeniably busy, especially during the weekends and at the hight of the summer, they are litter-free with excellent facilities like a bar and toilets.
#6. Walk around Cascais Marina
Portuguese Royal Family has used Cascais as a summer residence for many years, and this marina has seen the arrival of many Europen Royals on its banks.
Walk around the Cascais Marina, which is the third-largest in the country, and you’ll find the 15th-century fort at one edge of it, super fancy hotel on the other and plenty of high-end restaurants, bars and even a cultural centre.
Cascais Marina is open for visitors who can wander around and admire sleek boats and check out the yachts.
#7. Stroll around Old Centre of Cascais
I’ve wanted to come to this beautiful tiled square for quite some time now.
Although there are many grand holiday homes scattered along the wild coastline for the uber-rich, you’ll find the old centre of Cascais irresistibly charming and oozing with character. There are plenty of traditional fishermen’s houses that are converted into lovely cafes selling pastries as well as souvenir stalls selling touristy nick-nacks.
The Town Hall Square located on Passeio Dom Luís I with a statue of King Dom Pedro, Portugal’s first liberal King in the centre of it is one of the cutes squares.
Word of advice, get up early before the day-tripper crowds are yet to arrive from nearby Lisbon, wander along winding laneways and look out for famous azulejos and beautiful buildings.
#8. Cycle to Guincho
Venture further north where the beaches are wild and windy and where the coast is scattered with rocky headlands to experience Portugal’s raw beauty.
A cycle path that connects Guincho beach and Cascais is mostly flat, which makes it for a great half-day self-guided tour. Bring plenty of refreshments as sweltering heat during the summer month can be rather unbearable and can make cycling challenge.
#9. Visit Santa Marta Lighthouse and Museum
In Cascais, you’ll find Santa Marta Lighthouse; the first museum dedicated to Portuguese coastal lighthouses. We had seen it photographs before and recognised it right away, from its blue and white stripes.
You can visit the museum and climb all the way to the upper platform for a beautiful view or join other people sitting in the warm sand among rocks right at the river mouth.
How to get from Lisbon to Cascais
Although many travellers choose to stay in Lisbon and take day trips to nearby attractions like Cascais and Sintra you can also use Cascais as your base for exploring Sintra and beautiful Estoril Coast.
Connected to Lisbon by the inexpensive and regular railway system, Cascais is only 30 minutes train ride away from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre station which is linked to the green metro line. The train leaves approximately every 20 minutes, and a ticket should cost more than 3 euros.
Once the train leaves the city, it follows the scenic coastline and stops in towns along the way until it comes to a full stop in Cascais, which is the last stop.
Where to stay in Cascais
We have never stayed in Cascais for a night or two, but I always like to find out what it has to offer in case we come back one day for more. Given its popularity as a holiday destination, Cascais is full of accommodation options, and prices will depend on the season.
- Ljmonade: Located in a quiet residential area, just a short walk away from a train station, this hostel is a great place to meet new friends and relax. It has beautiful communal areas, fantastic breakfast and a very pretty female dorm room.
- Cascais Bay Hostel: With its central location and a sunny terrace overlooking the ocean, this hostel offers a fully equipped kitchen, a lovely breakfast and a fun place to stay.
Hotels & Guesthouses
- Booking.com: Use this search engine to find your desired accommodation in Cascais. Many hotels&Spas are facing the ocean to choose from as well as affordable hostels and guesthouses.
Casa Vela Guesthouse: Set in a restored mansion with a breakfast terrace overlooking beautiful gardens, Casa Vela is situated just a short walk away from the harbour. Each of the fifteen suites is tastefully decorated and themed after discoveries related to Portueges history.
- Pestana Cidadela Cascais: Recommended by both the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times, this hotel is for luxury travellers. Set within the falls of the fortress, Pousada de Cascais is situated very centrally and offers unobstructed views from the rooftop pool deck.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Cascais? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Cascais and have travel-related questions!