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Cascais or Estoril - Which for a holiday?

Cascais and Estoril are popular beach towns that are situated on the Lisbon coastline, which is sometimes referred to as the Estoril Coast. Both Estoril and Cascais make for great holiday destinations, with beautiful beaches, fine restaurants and excellent hotels. This guide will provide a comparison of the two towns and identify which is more suitable for your holiday.

Guimaraes museum

The grand buildings of Cascais

Overview of Cascais and Estoril

Cascais was historically a minor fishing port that became popular during the 19th century as a royal summer retreat. Cascais is centred around the pretty town centre with its classical architecture and grand residences that overlook the fishing harbour.

Estoril became a major tourist destination with the construction of the grand Estoril Casino, which to this day is still one of the largest casinos in Europe. The writer Ian Fleming was inspired to create his legendary hero, James Bond, based upon the intrigue and events that played out in the historic casino. Estoril is a sophisticated town but has none of the charm of Cascais.

Casino of Estoril

The Casino of Estoril

What is the distance between Cascais and Estoril?

Cascais and Estoril are only separated by 2km and the walking route follows the the pleasant coastal promenade. It takes less than 20 minutes to walk between the towns and the promenade passes by open air cafes, beaches and smart houses. It is possible to catch the train from Cascais to Estoril (€1.50 single) but for the short journey it is far more practical to take a taxi (approximately €7).

Cascais or Estoril for Beaches?

The three beaches within walking distance of Cascais are small and scenic but rapidly fill up during the summer. Estoril has a longer beach (Praia de Tamariz) that stretches around the wide bay but is only marginally better than Cascais’ beaches. The best beaches of the Lisbon coastline are Praia Guincho and Praia de Carcavelos.

Cascais beach

The glorious beaches near Cascais

Praia do Guincho is a massive surfing beach that is set amidst the Serra de Sintra national park (north of Cascais). Guincho has a remote and isolated atmosphere but there are limited public transport connections and is not really suited for families.

Carcavelos beach is the largest beach between Lisbon and Cascais/Estoril. The beach provides a large stretch of sand, medium sized surfing waves and great tourist facilities. Carcavelos beach is the most popular beach of the region and is connected to Cascais/Estoril by the inexpensive regional railway and is equal distance from both towns.

Guincho

Guincho Beach is north of Cascais

Estoril or Cascais for Sights?

Cascais has many more sights and activities than Estoril. Popular sights in Cascais include the Boca de Inferno cliff formation, the Condes de Castro stately home and the Paula Rego art gallery.

Guimaraes museum

The Guimaraes museum in Cascais

Between these sights are grand 19th century homes, pleasant parks (Parque Marechal Carmona) and a selection of other free museums (Sea Museum, Centro Cultural and the Santa Marta Lighthouse). There are sufficient sights in Cascais to fill a full day of sightseeing. Estoril has a single main attraction; the Casino, and there are almost no historic buildings in Estoril.

cascais pretty town

Cascais is a pretty town

Cascais or Estoril for tourist facilities?

In the pretty centre of Cascais (the Largo de Camões) there is a wide range of restaurants serving traditional Portuguese cuisine or popular foreign foods such as Italian, Chinese, Indian or British. There are also a good number of bars and late night clubs. Estoril has less choice than Cascais and the night-time entertainment is focused around the casino.

shops and restaurants Cascais

The shops and restaurants of central Cascais

Cascais and Estoril are connected to Lisbon by a regular (departures every 20 minutes) and inexpensive (€2.15 adult single) train service which also makes transfers from the airport relatively easy and inexpensive. Accommodation in both towns fills up quickly during the summer months, so it is advisable to book hotels well in-advance.

Palácio Nacional da Pena Sintra

The beach of Estoril

Conclusion

We personally prefer Cascais to Estoril. There are many more sights and activities in Cascais, and the best beaches are easily accessible from both towns. Cascais makes for a great destination for a holiday; please click here to read our suggested guide for a one week holiday to Cascais.

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