Cascais is a delightful Portuguese fishing town, which has a charming centre and is situated close to some of the finest beaches of the Lisbon region. Contained within Cascais is a range of interesting tourist attractions, including fascinating museums, historic mansions and pretty parks, along with all the facilities expected for a bustling resort town.
Surrounding Cascais is a varied region, of lively resort towns and the beautiful natural scenery of the Serra de Sintra, with its numerous hiking routes and outstanding surfing. There is a lot to see and do in Cascais, and this has established Cascais as a respected holiday destination and popular day trip from Lisbon. This guide will detail the main sights, attractions and activities in Cascais.
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Cascais has a beautiful coastline of glorious sandy beaches. The beaches within walking distance of Cascais offer golden sands, clean sea waters and great tourist facilities of bars, cafes and restaurants. These beaches are suitable for children and families, as they are supervised by lifeguards and have calm sea waters, but they can get very busy at the height of the summer.
To the north of Cascais, the beaches face the might of the Atlantic Ocean and are pounded by huge waves, making them ideal for surfing. This region lies within the Serra de Sintra nature park and the beaches have a wild and rugged appearance with virtually no tourist development. The best beach of this northern coastline is Guincho, and is 8km from Cascais.
Related articles: The beaches of Cascais - Lisbon beach guide
The Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth) is a collapsed cave and series of highly weathered cliffs, 2km to the north of Cascais. The unique rock formations of the Boca do Inferno have been eroded by the powerful Atlantic seas, which ceaseless batter the coastline. Over these jagged outcrops, amateur Portuguese fishermen clamber, with a serious risk of injury, hoping to find the perfect fishing spot. The Boca do Inferno is an interesting detour from a day’s sightseeing in Cascais and is a pleasant 20-minute walk from the marina, which follows the coastal road.
The Boca Inferno near Cascais
Cascais has a delightful centre of traditional fishermen's houses, which have been converted into chic shops, buzzing bars and alfresco restaurants. The centre is great to place to wander and absorb the holiday atmosphere, but avoid staring for long at the nauseating, waved patterns of the cobbled pavements.
Guincho beach is the greatest surfing beach in the region, and is 8km to the north of Cascais. There is a cycle path which connects Cascais to Guincho and the route follows the dramatic coastline.
This bike ride is suitable for, all as there are no hills, and there are multiple side excursions including; handicraft markets, fortifications, lighthouses and cliff formations. Bikes can be hired for €15 per day or free “Bicas bike” can be borrowed.
Related articles: Cycling to Guincho beach using the Bicas bikes
The free Bicas bikes and the red cycle path
The Condes de Castro Guimarães museum is housed in a delightful mock-gothic castle, which was constructed in 1902 by an Irish tobacco millionaire. On his death the building was given to the council of Cascais who transformed it into a public museum that displays furniture and art from his personal collection. The highlight of the museum is a 16th-century manuscript, which displays one of the oldest images of Lisbon. The ornate house is located in the Marechal Carmona gardens which were once the grounds of the house.
The decorative Castro Guimaraes museum
There is an enjoyable short walk that follows the coastline between Cascais and Estoril. The route is along a beachfront promenade and passes grand 19th-century mansions, a seawater swimming pool and numerous relaxing beachfront cafes and bars. The walk takes around 30 minutes, and from Estoril train station it is possible to catch the train back to Lisbon. For a guide, please click here.
The beach walk from Cascais to Estoril
The Cabo da Roca is the most westerly point of mainland Europe and is barren, wind-blasted landscape of massive cliffs and raging seas. The main attraction of the Cabo da Roca is the raw beauty of nature. There are short hiking routes along the cliff tops, but most visitors head here for the scenery, or to simple boast that they’ve been to the “most westerly point”. The headland is 15km north of Cascais, and there is a bus service (route 403) from the main bus station.
This small but informative museum details the fishing heritage of Cascais and the history of fishing within Portugal. Contained within the museum are models of the boats, historic exhibits and fishing artefacts. The museum is housed in the former royal residence of King Carlos, and the museum is named after him.
The Museu do Mar
The 16th Fortaleza da Cidadela was a mighty fort that guarded the mouth of the Tejo Estuary against sea bound attacks, and comprises of solid walls and imposing battlements. The fort has been since transformed into a stylish hotel and artisan centre. The artisan scene is more boutique focused with marina close by, but is certainly worth a visit.
The fort above the marina
The Mercado da Vila is the traditional covered market of Cascais. Inside is a range of stalls selling freshly caught fish, local produce and classical handicrafts. As with all Portuguese markets visit early in the day as it is all finished by 2pm. While at the market don’t miss the detailed Azulejos tile paintings on the rear of the building which details the heritage of Cascais.
Freshly fish stalls in the Mercado da Vila
Cascais is no different from any other resort town with a range of gimmicky waterside activities and tours (banana or ringo boat rides, powerboat tours and fishing trips) but the still sea waters lend themselves to Stand Up Paddle (SUP). A board can be hired and can paddle around the harbour or along the coastline towards Estoril.
The water front in Cascais
The Casa de Santa Maria is a grand 19th-century mansion, which contains decorative tiles patterns. Opposite the Santa Maria is the blue and white lighthouse, which also contains a small museum.
The Casa Santa Maria and Cascais lighthouse
The Parque Marechal Carmona are the pretty gardens that surround the Condes de Castro Guimarães mansion. These tranquil gardens include a duck pond, petting zoo of domestic animal and flower gardens. The park is always calm, where peacocks slowly strolling and Portuguese families enjoying picnics.
The Capela de Sao Sebastião in the Parque Marechal Carmona
The marina complex offers a range of high-end restaurants and bars that cater for the super-rich who moor their boats in the 600-berth marina.
The Centro Cultural de Cascais is an art museum that displays touring exhibits and has a selection of permanent displays. Unbelievable the vividly painted pink building was once a convent.
The vivid exterior of the Centro Cultural de Cascais
The Casa Das Historias is an art museum that displays a permanent collection from Paula Rego and other touring exhibits. The most striking feature of the museum is the building itself, which is painted in terracotta pink and has two huge towers that resemble the two chimneys of the National Palace in Sintra.
The Casa Das Historias