Cascais Tourism Guide
Situated on the picturesque coastline referred to as the Costa do Sol, Cascais is a former typical fishing village that has developed into a cosmopolitan, affluent beach town and one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. Located approximately 25km from Lisbon, it can be reached either by way of the scenic coastal road (the ‘marginal’), the Lisbon-Cascais motorway or by train.
Sometimes referred to as the Portuguese riviera, the fortunes of Cascais and its neighbouring town, Estoril, were changed in the 19th century when the Portuguese monarchy and nobility started to retreat to its sunny shores during the summer months. Palaces, mansions and sophisticated hotels proliferated amidst the charming little beaches and luscious pine forests and the area soon became a well-established cosmopolitan holiday destination, attracting wealthy and distinguished visitors. The fashionable allure was increased when it became the preferred destination of exiled royalty in the 20th century, receiving such illustrious residents as members of the Spanish, Italian and Romanian royal families, and developed into a glamorous hotbed of espionage during World War II.
Nowadays, Cascais has managed to retain much of its original charm. The picturesque town centre behind the sheltered beach is a maze of airy, little streets, many of which have been pedestrianised to allow for easy access to the multitude of shops, bars and restaurants that line them. The shopping opportunities are endless in Cascais: elegant boutiques sit next to all the best-known high street names while large shopping centres abound on the town’s perimeter.
Cascais beach is a pleasant secluded bay dotted with fishermen's’ boats and pleasure craft and only a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. It has a scenic promenade called the ‘paredão’ that follows the coastline to other beaches and is excellent for a leisurely stroll along the coast, jogging, cycling or drinks and a meal in one of the many bars and restaurants that line it. There are a number of beaches to choose from in this area, those on the coast leading into Lisbon being calmer than the ones to the north of Cascais. Guincho beach, approximately 3 km north of Cascais is a favourite with surfers and windsurfers but it is renowned for its strong currents and heavy winds. Further along the coast, the Sintra beaches as they are called (Praia das Maçãs, Praia Grande, Azenhas do Mar), are also very popular with beachgoers and surfers and make fabulous day trip destinations with their panoramic vistas over the sea, scenic country drives and a varied assortment of excellent restaurants to choose from.
Cascais’ general air of affluence is reinforced by its fashionable marina and proximity to the famous Estoril Casino, the Estoril tennis club and formula one racetrack as well as to various reputable golf clubs. The beautiful manicured surroundings of the Quinta da Marinha residential area house the Audubon International-certified Oitavos golf course as well as luxurious tennis and riding clubs. Cascais marina hosts many international events and the calm waters in front of Cascais and Estoril are favourite anchoring spots for many of the enviable yachts sailing along the coastline.
The local sights include the impressive rock formations at Boca do Inferno (Hell’s mouth) where visitors are mesmerised by the sheer force of the sea as it pounds against the rocks. The westernmost point of western Europe, Cabo da Roca, lies a short trip further up the coast and apart from providing equally impressive views of land meeting sea, is also home to a number of excellent restaurants. Alternatively, a beautiful drive through the lush vegetation of the Sintra hills will take you to the magical UNESCO world heritage site of Sintra, where palatial homes discreetly rising out of the undergrowth create the romantic and fairy-tale atmosphere that has inspired the likes of Lord Byron and Hans Christian Andersen.
Cascais has known how to grow into the cosmopolitan town that it is today whilst retaining its original flavour and charm. You would be forgiven for forgetting that you are a mere 25 minutes’ drive from a European capital when you walk around its town centre. The atmosphere is that of a bright and breezy seaside town, where picturesque and elegant go side by side in surroundings more befitting a holiday destination than a residential suburb of Lisbon.