15 things to do in Cascais (Portugal)

When wealthy Lisbon needs a change of scenery during the summer, they head west to Cascais, on the upper lip of the mouth of the Tagus. At this beach resort, you can bathe in the crystal clear waters of peaceful coves. Alternatively, you can brave the Atlantic waves in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park on a surfboard.

The Portuguese royal family vacationed in Cascais at the turn of the 20th century, and the glamour has never faded: the president spends his summers in a palace by the marina, while neighbouring Estoril has a huge The casino, once frequented by jets. There are elegant parks, aristocratic mansions with precious furniture and Paula Rego’s superb art museum.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Cascais:

1. Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães

Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães

Behind a long rocky creek is a whimsical Revivalist palace, completed in 1900. The palace has a loggia, mullioned windows with Manuel-style moldings and a grand Gothic Revival stone tower.

This is the whole stage of the museum, with paintings, Indo-Portuguese furniture, jewelry, prehistoric archaeology from local caves, oriental porcelain, all according to Manuel Inacio de Castro Guimarian His will was left to Cascais.

Bibliophiles will be excited about the library, which houses 25,000 volumes, many of which date back to the 1600s, including an illuminated manuscript from 1505. There is a chapel on the grounds and the palace backs the Parque Marechal Carmona.

2. Playa da Renia

cascais praia da renha

Picking a favorite beach in Cascais is not easy as they all have their strengths.

But if your vision for the perfect beach is a sandy cove covered in crystal clear waters, then Praia da Rainha is the place for you.

Just a short walk from Rua Frederico Arouca and easy access to bars and cafés.

The beach faces east, which explains why there is little current, and is more picturesque with low cliffs and two large limestone outcrops deposited on the sand.

3. Cascais Old Center

Cascais old center

Cascais is small and walkable, so you can see it in an hour or so.

The boutiques, restaurants and cafes on these streets have a luxurious vibe.

The squares and sidewalks are paved with calçada portuguesa, mosaics of various patterns.

If you don’t mind this tourist route, your evening will be centered around Praça 5 de Outubro, full of bars and restaurants.

But there are other, possibly more authentic, bars and restaurants in the quieter, more residential corners of town.

Wander the promenade under palm fronds to Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Luz, one of a series of sea forts built by Portugal in the 16th century under Spanish control.

In summer, it is the official summer residence of the President of Portugal.

4. Boca do Inferno

Boca do Inferno, Cascais

On the side of Cascais facing the open ocean, the coastline becomes rugged as you enter the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

A short walk from the pier is Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), a fissure in a limestone cliff.

Try to get to where the waves are choppy here, see the sea gushing out of the hole in the cliff and hear it reverberate in the room.

On summer evenings, it is not uncommon for couples to sit on the adjacent promontory and watch the sunset.

For some trivia, the cave was the first to be recorded on film, as the subject of Henry Short’s 1896 film The Sea Cave Near Lisbon.

5. Praia do Guincho

playa doguincho

All 7 km from Cascais are the wild Atlantic beaches, in the pristine natural environment of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Praia do Guicho has a huge arc of fine white sand surrounded by dunes with views of the mountains to the north.

In summer, steady north winds and small waves are ideal for kitesurfing and windsurfing.

In winter, the wind blows from the east and is the hollow left and right beach rest area that surfers look for.

If you don’t mind the wind, Praia do Guincho is perfect for sunbathing in the summer, and in the cooler months it’s a great place to walk and watch surfers.

6. Parque Marechal Carmona

Parque Marechal Carmona

If this park has a solemn feel, it is because it is located on the land of two noble properties: the Palácio Condes de Castro Guimarães and the land belonging to the Viscount Gandarinha.

Adjacent to the resort’s museums and monuments are lush lawns, flower beds, mature trees and plenty of water features, from fountains to ponds and the Mochos River.

Kids can spot turtles in the water and feed the roosters, peacocks and ducks that strutting around the mini farm.

Loungers and benches are provided, and there is a café with a terrace by the main pond.

7. Tamaris Beach

playa do tamaris

Passengers on the train from Lisbon to Cascais can get off a few stops early in Estoril and find themselves at this wonderful beach.

Like all beaches along the bay, Tamariz has only light waves and is further protected by a marina on its eastern edge.

If you want to take a dip but don’t want to deal with the currents, there is a Lido next to the marina fed by the Atlantic Ocean.

Praia do Tamariz was once favored by aristocrats and industrialists, then jets, as it was just a stone’s throw from the casino.

8. Casa das Histórias Paula Rego

Casa das Histórias Paula Rego

Famous for its red pyramid-shaped tower, this art museum is dedicated to the Portuguese-British artist Lady Paula Rego.

Built in 2009, the building is the work of Pritzker Prize winner Eduardo Souto de Moura.

It hosts temporary exhibitions of Rego’s paintings and graphic arts, presented in a refreshingly candid and unpretentious manner.

The context and clear explanations of each piece are given in Portuguese and English, describing different stages of her career.

The latest exhibition in 2017, curated by her son, deals with her early life in London, marriage, motherhood.

There is also a shop, café and a garden where you can admire this remarkable building.

9. Cascais Marina

Cascais Marina

If you want to wander around and get some sea breeze, you don’t need to stray far from Cascais city center.

The marina was refurbished in the early 2000s and became the venue for major sailing events such as the ISAF Sailing World Championships and the stage for the European 49ers.

At any other time, you can resize your luxury yacht, and at the end of the marina, you can look back to the Cascais waterfront and pick out monuments such as the Tower of Castro Guimaraes.

The terminal also has charter companies and a small number of bars and restaurants.

10. Santa Marta Lighthouse and Museum

Santa Marta Lighthouse and Museum

Rising from Fort Santa Marta, this blue-and-white lighthouse has been guiding ships in and out of the Tagus Estuary since 1868. The lighthouse still works when visibility is low, the fog horn still sounds, and a museum annex was built in 2007 next to the tower.

This is divided into two parts, the first part deals with general Portuguese lighthouses.

You’ll learn about their role in Portugal’s seafaring prowess and see exhibits such as the 3.7-meter-tall beacon and footage from the Berengas Lighthouse.

The other side shows the story of Santa Marta’s 17th-century fortress and the daily operation of the lighthouse when it is manned.

11. Museu do Mar Rei D. Carlos

Museu do Mar Rei D. Carlos

The town’s Maritime Museum opened in 1992, next to the Casa das Histórias.

It was named after the reigning King Carlos I of the early 20th century, who was an avid oceanographer.

Permanent exhibitions study the ecology and natural history of the ocean, and the relationship between humans and the ocean.

You can delve into the history of oceanography and navigation, learn how life first evolved in Earth’s oceans, and discover artefacts from shipwrecks at the mouth of the Tagus River.

These include Roman amphora, cannons and a 1600s Florentine bronze musket.

The town’s legacy as a former fishing village is also exposed in galleries of fishing nets, old clothes and model boats.

12. Estoril Casino

Estoril Casino

OK, so gambling might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Estoril Casino needs to be seen, even if you’re just passing by.

It first opened in 1916 and was remodeled in the mid-20th century.

It’s reminiscent of the allure of a jet plane, especially since Ian Fleming was here before writing Casino Royale.

The facade of Jardim do Estoril between the rows of cedars is worth seeing: it is said to be the largest casino in Europe.

And if you want to cheer up, the casino is as dazzling as you can imagine.

There are all the usual games such as roulette, baccarat tables and blackjack, as well as a thousand slot machines, restaurants and a spacious performance hall.

13. Mercado da Vila de Cascais

Mercado da Vila de Cascais

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the town’s market trades in a large semi-permanent hall that doubles as a live music venue.

If you find the TimeOut market in Lisbon a little sanitized and want to see a real market in action, be sure to drop by.

Fruits and vegetables, cheese, cured sausages, meat, fish, honey, flowers, olive oil, pastries, bread, everything.

There are also cafés and restaurants next to the market, serving coffee or authentic Portuguese meals.

Outside, meanwhile, are stalls selling clothes, kitchenware, as well as glazing and other handicrafts.

There is also a special twice-monthly market calendar with everything from chocolate to wine or sardines.

14. Water sports

Cascais

To play in the water, you can enjoy the tranquil waters in the bay in front of Cascais, or you can circle the headland to the windswept beaches in the natural park.

You can rent kayaks or paddleboards for self-guided tours at resort beaches such as Praia da Duquesa and Praia do Tamariz.

But if the adrenaline is plentiful, summer is the season for kitesurfing in Praia da Cremina and Praia do Guincho.

If you want to try it out, try Gustykite, SBKiteboarding and Kitesurf Adventures.

There are also many surf schools and camps open all year round and you can book week-long lessons, day lessons or single lessons at Angels Surf School, Cascais Surf School, Surf’s Up, Moana Surf School.

15. Golf

play golf

Consistent with the resort’s reputation as an upscale resort, there are five golf courses within a 10km radius of Cascais.

It’s safe to say that Cascais is where the wealthy Lisbon comes to the fairways.

The most prestigious is the Penha Longa Resort, which hosts the Portuguese Open and ranks among the top 30 courses in Europe.

27 holes designed by legendary architect Robert Trent Jones jr.

Tall maritime pines line the fairways in the flowing highland terrain of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Golf do Estoril is more affordable but still upscale, it was designed in the 1920s for the sophisticated tourist in Estoril.

With a green fee of 80 euros per week and 95 euros on weekends, the main course if known for its steep and challenging par 3 holes.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Cascais, Portugal
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