Cascais is a beautiful small town at the western edge of the beautiful Lisbon coastline. Historically the town was a favourite of the Portuguese nobility, and today the town is an elegant blend of grand 19th century architecture, traditional Portuguese charm and outstanding tourist facilities. It is great holiday destination but also an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon, which is less than 20 minutes away by train. Since I was staying at Estoril I had the chance to explore Cascais as well because is just 5 minutes by train from Estoril.
Unlike many other Mediterranean beach resorts, which suddenly sprung up with the advent of mass tourism, Cascais has been established as a holiday destination since the early 19th century. Historically Cascais was a minor fishing port but this forever changed when King Fernando II (1816-1885) proclaimed Cascais as his favoured destination for his summer retreat.
The decampment of the Portuguese nobility from Lisbon to Cascais during the summer months encouraged the 19th century high-society of Europe to flock to Cascais as well. This influx of money and political power funded the construction throughout the town of grand residences, lavish entertainment venues and fine parks.
This trend of the high-society has continued through to the present day, with many of Lisbon’s rich and famous living within the vicinity of Cascais, providing the region with a prosperous and sophisticated atmosphere.
The center of Cascais, is filled with family owned restaurants, open-air cafes and stylish bars. There is nice shopping area with some famous chain stores but also some Portuguese stores such as Natura, etc.
If you are visiting Lisbon you should definitely find time to visit this pretty town. There is a regular train between Lisbon and Cascais.
The train departs from the Cais do Sodre train station (end of green metro line), the journey takes 30-40 minutes, and a return ticket costs €4.30. If you travel from Lisbon airport to Cascais using public transport requires both the metro and train and takes around 1.5 hour. From the airport you can take red line to Almeda. At Almeda you change to the green line to Cais do Sodre, from where you can take regional train to Cascais.
The Lisbon-Cascais region has many beautiful beaches.
If I was at the Cascais in the summer time I would definitely go to see the famous Guincho beach but I didn’t, I hope next time I will. This beach is considered as one of the finest surfing beaches of western Portugal. It is 8km to the north of Cascais. Guincho beach faces a westerly direction and is pounded by massive Atlantic Ocean waves, ideal for experienced surfers.
Cascais and the Lisbon region have long hot summers, pleasant spring and autumns seasons, and mild but possibly wet winters. Food and transport in Portugal are significantly cheaper than many of the other European countries. Hotels, cafes and restaurants do not shut down for winter at the Cascais.
The Praia da Rainha beach is a very pretty but small beach that is surrounded by cliffs and overlooks the fishing harbor. The beach is named the Queen’s Beach (Praia da Rainha) as it was the private beach of queen Dona Amelia (the last queen of Portugal). This beach is right in the centre of Cascais.
The Praia da Ribeira is the beach directly in front of the Cascais fishing harbour.
If you have time you can also walk from the Cascais train station to the Estoril through the walking and cycling path by the coast, it will take you around 45 minutes walking but is amazing experience. You can then have the chance to see all the beaches of Estoril area, a lot of people are jogging, fishing and surfing there.
If you walk up to the hill from the Praia da Ribeira beach you will pass by very beautiful mansions.
On the top of the hill is the Cidadela de Cascais, the 15th century fort.
It is above the minor fishing harbor of Cascais and Marina Cascais.
The king John II wanted the defensive tower to be constructed there at the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the River Tejo. The Santo Antonio Tower was completed in 1490.
The tower was built for the defense of Lisbon but a thriving fishing community grew around the protection that the tower provided from pirates and raiding parties. The Cidadela de Cascais was almost destroyed because of the 1755 earthquake and the resulting tsunami, and both the Fortaleza da Luz and the Santo Antonio Tower’s was severely damaged. Later on Cidadela de Cascais was rebuilt.
During the peninsular war part of the Napoleonic wars the Cidadela de Cascais was involved in numerous battles against the French. In the 19th century Cascais became popular with the Portuguese royal family and King Luis terminated the military occupation and converted the Cidadela de Cascais into a lavish summer palace. The Cidadela de Cascais was the first area of Portugal to have outside street lighting which was installed in 28th September 1878.
The Marina Cascais is located below the Cascais Cidadela on the southern tip of Cascais with the main seaward entrance opening on to the Atlantic Ocean.
Marina Cascais has a total of 638 berths spread over two large sections of water. Other facilities include a 70 tonne crane, dry storage, repair facilities and car hire. The coordinates for the Cascais Marina are 38°42’N and 09°25’W.
At the Cascais Marina there are a lot of shops, restaurants, bars you can also book the boat cruse ride or helicopter ride, rent a bicycle, scooter or car.
Above the Marine you have to climb to one more cliff in order to visit the Casa de Santa Maria and the Light house of Cascais. But don’t imagine that is faraway from the center. It took me about 15 minutes walking from the center and the Praia da Ribeira beach to reach the light house.
The Casa de Santa Maria (House of Santa Maria) is a building from 1902 and is one of the most emblematic works by the architect Raul Lino, who began his career precisely in Cascais, designing a series of houses for some friends.
Right next to it is the Farol de Santa Marta and the Farol Museu de Santa Marta (Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum). The exhibition area is divided into two spaces, located in the former lighthouse keeper residences.