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Best Things To Do in Cascais – The Perfect Day Trip from Lisbon

Hi travelers – welcome to our article on Cascais! We are Ana Luiza and Greg, Luso-Brasileiros, who were born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. We moved to Lisbon for the first time back in 2017, with the main intention of studying abroad. However, we ended up returning to Brazil in 2018 due to professional reasons. After a few years there, we decided to move to Lisbon again in December 2021 and have been living there ever since.

We created our Instagram @lusideias in an effort to seek new adventures, get in contact with Portugal’s abundant history and culture, as well as embark on purposeful and soul-enriching travel experiences. This is a way for us to explore different places in Portugal every weekend. Greg’s father was born in the Alentejo region, in the southern countryside, so we also enjoy visiting him from time to time and experiencing the family roots

How we Spend Time in Cascais

So far, we have visited Cascais at least 20 times and we normally go for the day. Just like Sintra, it’s the perfect location for a day trip from Lisbon. Since we live in the capital, Cascais is just a 40 minute drive or a 55 minute train ride. We love going during summer, having lunch at our favorite restaurant, relaxing at one of the beaches (e.g. Praia da Duquesa, Praia da Rainha, Praia da Ribeira or Praia de Santa Marta) and strolling around the historic center.

Why Cascais is so Special

Cascais definitely makes for a dream day trip from Lisbon. One could easily check out its attractions in 24 hours. That being said, it could be worth staying overnight and exploring the area in detail – in case you would like to venture outside the town and see the wider municipality, which has well-preserved nature. The best attractions surrounding Cascais are Boca do Inferno, Praia do Guincho, Praia de Carcavelos and Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. Sailing, watersports, sunbathing and hiking are all possibile.

The town of Cascais is famous for its beaches, and historic role as a seaside resort for the Portuguese royal family and nobility. Traditionally, Cascais has been a small village of fishermen and farmers. From the presence of Romans and Arabs to medieval battles and Napoleonic invasions, Cascais was one of the departure points for ships heading into the unknown.

In the second half of the 19th century, it became the favorite place of counts and dukes, and years later, it became the destination of artists, spies, political exiles, refugees and everyone who appreciated a seaside life. Its abundant nature, and picturesque atmosphere, have always attracted locals and foreigners alike. Walking in the streets of its historic center is always a great option to experience a pleasant afternoon. Cascais offers multiple cultural attractions as well, from museums to festivals.

The Cascais Marina, situated behind Cidadela de Cascais (“Citadel of Cascais”), is Portugal’s third largest marina and an interesting place to visit. Beyond its infrastructure for receiving up to 650 boats, the marina also has great restaurants and shops – and is a pleasant place to spend quality time with family and friends. The contrast between the ocean, the modern buildings and the 17th century walls of the historic fortification is something to pay attention to. This place is full of curiosities too – for example: it was the first location in Portugal to receive electric energy.

Favorite Spot: Praia de Santa Marta

Praia de Santa Marta (“Santa Marta Beach”) is a special place for us. It’s sort of a hidden gem – the unofficial beach between Boca do Inferno, the Cascais Marina, the Santa Marta Lighthouse and the Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes. Praia de Santa Marta relies on unpredictable conditions to “exist”: good weather, the right tides, water quality and of course people showing up (it’s very small and so most people relax on the rocks).

Depending on the tide, this beach is more or less accessible – but nothing compares to the scenery created from the juxtaposition of the green water, the bridge and the architectural heritage. The small beach emerges from where Parque Urbano da Ribeira dos Mochos meets the Atlantic Ocean and it seems to have come out of a fairytale. The municipality of Cascais doesn’t even consider Praia de Santa Marta an actual beach due to the ever changing natural conditions that might enable it (or not) to exist. We have a YouTube video on this beach for you to learn more.

Top 7 Things To Do in Cascais

As you can probably tell – Cascais offers a delightful blend of history, natural beauty and seaside allure. Whether you are getting lost in its historic center, visiting the marina or relaxing on its stunning beaches, you are in for a treat in this Portuguese gem. Below is our list of the seven best things to do in Cascais to help you immerse yourself in its authentic charm.

1. Explore the Historic Center of Cascais

No trip to Cascais is complete without exploring the heart of the town, where cobbled streets wind through the historic center. Admire the colorful buildings, browse through the quaint shops and sip coffee at the cozy cafes. Don’t forget to snap some photos of the iconic black and white mosaic tiles, especially in the main square called the 5th of October Square.

2. Visit the Citadel of Cascais (Cidadela de Cascais)

This former fortress is a must-visit on your trip. Wander through the ancient walls, explore art exhibitions, take a guided tour through the museum and soak up the ocean views. There is even a 5-star hotel here called Pestana Cidadela Cascais, if you wish to experience the town in pure luxury. All in all, this spot is a blend of old-world charm and contemporary artistry.

3. Experience the Cascais Marina

Strolling along the bustling Cascais Marina, where you can marvel at luxury yachts and sailboats is a fun summer activity. Sitting down for a seafood meal at one of the many restaurants overlooking the water, and absorbing the lively atmosphere, is also recommended. Additionally, the marina plays host to international events – so be sure to check the calendar

4. Witness the Beauty of Boca do Inferno

Nature’s drama unfolds at Boca do Inferno, a unique rock formation featuring sea arches and cliffs. Stand in awe as the Atlantic Ocean crashes against the cliffs, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The name Boca do Inferno translates to “Hell’s Mouth” but the view is heavenly. You can take a 20 minute walk to the rock formation from Cascais or drive there.

5. Have a Beach Day at Praia do Guincho

For beach lovers and surf enthusiasts, Praia do Guincho ticks all the boxes. This windswept stretch of sand is perfect for sunbathing, surfing or simply enjoying the sound of crashing waves. It’s a haven for water sports such as kitesurfing as well. If you just want to relax on the beach and enjoy a good book, for instance, be sure to pick a calm day without too much wind.

6. Relax at Praia da Rainha

Considered the smallest but most beautiful beach within Cascais itself, Praia da Rainha (“Queen’s Beach”), is a secluded cove surrounded by rocks and houses – providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the town. This is an ideal choice for a peaceful day by the sea, where you can work on your tan and take a nap on the 60 meters of golden sand.

Considered the smallest but most beautiful beach within Cascais itself, Praia da Rainha (“Queen’s Beach”), is a secluded cove surrounded by rocks and houses – providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the town. This is an ideal choice for a peaceful day by the sea, where you can work on your tan and take a nap on the 60 meters of golden sand.

7. Shop and Savor at Mercado da Vila

Treating your taste buds at Mercado da Vila, Cascais Municipal Market, is a fun experience for foodies. This local marketplace is a food lover’s paradise – offering an array of fresh produce, cheeses, pastries and more. Head to the market with friends, grab a bite to eat, sample some of Portugal’s most tantalizing specialties and sip on beer under the Portuguese summer sun.

What the Local Culture is Like

Cascais, just like Lisbon and Portugal, has seen an increase in the diversity of its residents/local population. Living by the beach plus being exposed to nature on a daily basis has the potential to make people friendlier and warmer, in our opinion, and this seems to be the case in Cascais. In general, the locals eat well (mostly fresh seafood) and practice some kind of sport.

To have a genuine experience, visitors should find the places where the locals hang out and avoid the tourist traps we all hear about. To immerse yourself in the local life – we recommend going to the beach on a weekday, having lunch or dinner at a family-run restaurant and buying groceries at the aforementioned Mercado da Vila (Cascais Municipal Market).

Important Tips for Visiting Cascais

Avenida Marginal, also known as Estrada Nacional 6 (EN6), is a coastal road connecting Cascais to Lisbon – where the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean meet. It pretty much follows the tracks of the Cascais Railway. This is the preferred route if someone intends to witness amazing views on their way between Cascais and Lisbon, avoiding traffic and the busy freeway.

Avenida Marginal goes through several locations (and their respective beaches) in the municipality of Oeiras, so it’s a nice and alternative way to access Cascais while soaking up views at a slower pace. If you do choose to visit Cascais by car, there are several public parking lots one could rely on. These are all centrally-located and provide great safety for rentals.

Another key tip is to carry a jacket with you (light or heavy, depending on the season). Even on warm days, Cascais can surprise you with strong winds when the sun hides behind the clouds. It’s always advisable to bring appropriate clothing in a backpack to anticipate changing weather. Apart from that, give yourself enough time to see all that Cascais has to offer. We are sure you will love this coastal gem as much as we do. Finally, be sure to follow us on YouTube and check out our virtual travel guides on Rexby!

Author: Ana Luiza & Greg


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