Cascais Guide: 6 Things to See & Do

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Written by: | Last updated on September 22, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 8 minutes
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Nestled along Portugal’s sun-kissed Estoril Coast, the picturesque town of Cascais marries traditional Portuguese charm with the glamour of a modern seaside resort. Once a humble fishing village, Cascais has transformed over the years into a beloved holiday destination for both locals and international visitors, yet it has managed to retain its quaint, old-world appeal. Whitewashed buildings adorned with terracotta roofs line its winding cobblestone streets, while palm trees sway gently along its bustling marina, providing a serene backdrop to the yachts anchored there.

A mere half-hour drive from Lisbon, Cascais offers an alluring blend of sandy beaches, cultural attractions, and a vibrant nightlife scene. Its proximity to the capital makes it a popular getaway for Lisboetas seeking a break from city life and for travellers looking to combine urban exploration with coastal relaxation. Beyond its beaches, the town boasts an array of historical landmarks, art galleries, and delightful eateries serving some of the freshest seafood in the region. Whether you’re hoping to surf the Atlantic waves, dive into the area’s rich history, or simply bask under the Iberian sun, Cascais promises a fulfilling experience for every kind of traveller.

Over the years, Cascais has also emerged not just as a holiday hotspot but also as a preferred place of residence, particularly among expats and affluent locals. It’s ideal for those that want all of the amenities of Lisbon, but without needing to be right in the middle of the city centre. It also offers easy access to the beach: both the beach at Cascais, but also other nearby beaches at Estoril, Carcavelos, and further up the coast, such as Praia do Guincho. The presence of international schools, a plethora of dining options, and a tight-knit expatriate community further make Cascais a comfortable and cosmopolitan haven for those relocating from various corners of the globe.

Useful Resources for Your Trip to Cascais

Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Cascais. 
  • Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Cascais. 
  • Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental. 
  • Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Lisbon Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups
  • Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Cascais and tLisbon. 
  • Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal. More options can be found in our article about luggage storage in Cascais
  • Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal. 
  • Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Cascais is Lisbon Airport. 

 

What to See & Do

Go to the beach

Cascais Beach

Cascais boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the Lisbon region, with several within a stone’s throw of the town centre. Beachgoers can easily saunter to the local beaches like Praia da Ribeira, a picturesque haven nestled beside the town’s historic centre, or Praia da Rainha, aptly named the ‘Queen’s Beach’ for its royal allure. For those willing to journey a bit further, a short drive or train ride along the coastline opens up a realm of expansive sandy stretches, such as the larger Praia de Carcavelos or the wind-swept Guincho Beach, renowned for its surfing and kite-surfing conditions. Whether you’re looking for convenience or adventure, Cascais and its surroundings offer a myriad of sun-soaked options for beach enthusiasts.

Explore the old town

cascais old town

The historic heart of Cascais is a delightful blend of cobbled streets, pastel-coloured facades, and architectural gems from bygone eras. Wandering through the old town, visitors are treated to a mix of traditional Portuguese aesthetics and influences from its time as a favoured royal retreat. As you meander along its narrow lanes, you’ll discover a vibrant array of boutique shops, art galleries, and alfresco dining spots, all set against the backdrop of the shimmering Atlantic. With each turn, the rich maritime history and cultural tapestry of Cascais come alive, making the old town an unmissable part of any visit.
 

Fortress Nossa Senhora da Luz de Cascais

Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães

Nestled in the verdant gardens of the Marechal Carmona Park, the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães is one of Cascais’ most captivating cultural jewels. This aristocratic mansion-turned-museum was originally the summer residence of the Counts of Castro Guimarães and showcases an exquisite mix of architectural styles, from neo-Gothic to Manueline, reflecting the eclectic tastes of the bygone era.

The museum houses a vast collection of decorative arts, which include rare manuscripts, Chinese porcelain, European paintings, and stunning period furniture. One of its most treasured items is a unique illustrated edition of Luís de Camões’s epic poem “Os Lusíadas”. Beyond its impressive interiors, the surrounding gardens provide a tranquil haven with serene pathways, decorative fountains, and beautiful flora. The museum serves as a vivid window into Portugal’s aristocratic past, offering visitors an immersive experience of the opulence and artistry of a bygone era.

Cabo da Roca

cabo da roca

Positioned on the westernmost point of mainland Europe, Cabo da Roca offers breathtaking views of the vast Atlantic Ocean crashing against rugged cliffs. A monument stands here, declaring its geographical significance, and it’s a popular spot for tourists wanting to stand on the edge of the continent. The windswept landscape, combined with the powerful roar of the waves and the immensity of the horizon, makes a visit to Cabo da Roca an unforgettable experience, as visitors can truly feel the raw power and beauty of nature.

Take a day trip to Sintra

town square in Sintra

Just a short drive or train journey away from Cascais lies the enchanting town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its romantic 19th-century architecture, mysterious palaces, and lush gardens. Nestled amidst the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, this fairy-tale town has long been a favourite retreat for royalty and poets, and its mystical landscape seems plucked straight from a storybook.

Starting with the vibrant colours of the Pena Palace, a Romanticist castle that dominates the town from its lofty hilltop, to the intricate details of the Moorish Castle’s ancient walls that tell tales of a bygone era, Sintra is a treasure trove of historical wonders. The town itself, with its winding streets, traditional pastries like the famous “queijadas de Sintra”, and the National Palace with its unique twin chimneys, provides visitors with an atmospheric trip back in time. For those based in Cascais, Sintra offers an easy and rewarding escape, presenting a stark contrast to the coastal vibe, and is an essential addition to any itinerary.

Getting Here

There are several ways to get to Cascais from Lisbon. For most people, the easiest option is to take the train from Cais do Sodré or a taxi from the airport. 

  • Flying: Lisbon Airport, officially known as Humberto Delgado Airport, is the nearest international gateway to Cascais, located approximately 35 kilometres away. Once you arrive at the airport, there are various transportation options to reach Cascais, including car rentals, buses, and trains. There is also a very small airport in Cascais, Cascais Municipal Aerodrome, which you can fly to from other small, regional airports in Portugal like Portimão.
  • Train: Cascais is well-connected to Lisbon by a scenic train route that runs along the coast. Trains to Cascais depart regularly from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré station and take about 40 minutes. This journey offers picturesque views of the coastline, making it a popular choice for both tourists and locals. For tickets and timetables, see cp.pt. 
  • Bus: Several bus routes connect Lisbon and its surrounding areas to Cascais. These buses are operated by different companies, offering regular services. The journey might take a bit longer than the train, especially during peak hours, but buses provide another reliable mode of transportation. Google Maps is usually accurate. 
  • Driving: If you prefer the freedom of driving, renting a car is an excellent option and will allow you to easily explore other nearby attractions like Boca do Inferno and Praia do Guincho. From Lisbon, take the A5 motorway, which leads directly to Cascais. The drive is straightforward and takes approximately 30 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. Once in Cascais, there are several parking areas, though it can get busy during the summer months.