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Cascais Portugal – Tourism and Holiday Guide
Cascais is a delightful Portuguese fishing town that is situated on the western edge of the beautiful Lisbon coastline, and is the region’s most popular holiday destination. Historically the town was a favourite with the Portuguese nobility, and today the town is an elegant blend of grand 19th century architecture, traditional Portuguese charm and outstanding tourist facilities.
These factors combine not just to make a great holiday destination but also an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon, which is less than 20 minutes away by train. This guide will provide an introduction to Cascais, the finest resort town of the central Portugal region.
Highlights of Cascais Portugal
The wild and rugged surfing beaches of Guincho, just north of Cascais.
The stunning Guincho beach in the Serra de Sintra National Park
The pretty historic centre of Cascais, filled with family owned restaurants, open-air cafes and stylish bars - ideal for relaxing during the hot summer days or socialising late into the night.
The Praia dos Pescadores beach (Praia Ribeira)
A stroll along the beach front promenade that connects Cascais to Estoril.
The promenade is very scenic and a pleasant walk
The Castro Guimaraes Museum and the impressive 19th-century architecture found throughout Cascais.
The Castro Guimaraes Museum
Why have a holiday to Cascais?
As a holiday destination, you will struggle to find a better location than Cascais; there are world-class hotels, excellent restaurants and a social nightlife scene, all of which are set within the traditional streets of the historic centre. There is a lot to see and do in Cascais and the beaches of the region are simply fantastic; Guincho is an incredible surfing beach, while Carcavelos beach is ideal for families and sun-worshippers.
For those who tire of the glorious beaches there are many interesting day trips. Vibrant Lisbon, with it’s plethora of great tourist attractions and buzzing nightlife is only a short train ride along the coast. To the north of Cascais are the hills of the Serra de Sintra National Park and the picturesque town of Sintra, all contacted by a regular bus service.
Does Cascais make for an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon?
Cascais is one of the best excursions from Lisbon, as it offers a variety of historic monuments, grand houses and interesting museums. At the heart of Cascais is the pretty Old Town that has retained its traditional Portuguese character and heritage and overlooks the fishing harbour. Away from the town and beaches are scenic coastal walks along the cliffs to Cabo da Rocha, or that follow the beach promenade to Estoril. There is a lot to fill do in Cascais and this guide details the major sights and activities in Cascais.
The Estoril Casino is close to Cascais
There is a regular train between Lisbon and Cascais, making the town easily accessible for all, while for lunch there is an extensive selection of excellent restaurants and beach bars. Cascais is a highly recommended excursion for visitors on a longer (4+ days) holiday to Lisbon and our suggested order for Lisbon day trips is; Sintra (2 days), Cascais, Obidos, Sesimbra (Serra da Arrábida) and then Mafra. For a guide to the best day trips from Lisbon, please read this article.
Cascais for 2017 summer season
The Portugal is currently experiencing an unparalleled rejuvenation; new businesses are opening, hotels are being refurbished of and there is a sense of confidence and optimism about the Lisbon region. Cascais is expecting a stellar summer season for 2017 and this follows the sell-out summer of 2016.
This does mean that to secure the best prices, accommodation and flights must be booked far in advance. Fortunately many of the hotels reserved via the larger booking websites do not require a deposit, therefore negating any monetary penalty if plans are changed. If you are seriously considering a holiday to Cascais, our advice is to book accommodation now, as the best places will sell out; for a summary of the best hotels in Cascais please click here.
Overlooking the fishing harbour of Cascais
Why is Cascais known as the Town of Kings and Fishermen?
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 grand 19th century buildings of Cascais
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.
The two extremes of people who lived in the town gave rise to Cascais’ popular nickname of "The Town of Kings and Fishes". 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.
Does Cascais have great beaches?
Surrounding Cascais are two contrasting coastlines; the northern wild and rugged surfing beaches and the family friendly beaches that extend to the east. Guincho beach is considered as one of the finest surfing beaches of western Portugal and is set amidst the stunning scenery of the Serra de Sintra Natural Park.
The beaches of Cascais
The coastline to the east of Cascais is lined with great beaches, including Carcavelos and São Pedro beaches. These beaches are a favourite with the residents of Lisbon, who flock to them during the long, hot summer months. This coastline is easily accessible from Cascais, as it is served by the regional railway that connects Lisbon and Cascais. For a guide to the beaches of the Lisbon - Estoril - Cascais coastline please click here.
Travel from Lisbon (and the airport) to Cascais
Cascais is connected to Lisbon by a regular and inexpensive railway. The train departs from the Cais do Sodre train station (green metro line), the journey takes 30-40 minutes, and a return ticket costs €4.30; for a full guide to the Lisbon-Cascais train service, please click here. Travel from Lisbon airport to Cascais using public transport requires both the metro and train and takes around 1.5 hour, for a guide to traveling to Cascais from Lisbon airport please click here.
The Lisbon to Cascais train
When to Visit Cascais?
Cascais and the Lisbon region have long hot summers, pleasant spring and autumns seasons, and mild but possibly wet winters. The weather in central Portugal is suitable for spending time on the beach from mid-May until the end of September. The sea temperature of Cascais is always cold, even in the summer when the water temperature only reaches a chilly 18C.
The Average Weather of Cascais Portugal
The first two weeks of June are the Popular Saint celebrations and there will be traditional dances, grilled BBQs and decorations throughout the town and Lisbon. The best time of year to visit Cascais is during the spring or early summer months, when the weather is pleasantly warm and the region does not feel overrun with tourists.
Portugal is a comparatively inexpensive country; with accommodation, food and transport significantly cheaper than many of the other established holiday destinations, especially when compared to Greece, or the Balearic Islands. Cascais is a major town so the hotels, cafes and restaurants do not shut down for winter but the weather could be poor, with an equal number of wet days and bright sunny days. For a full guide and more weather charts for Cascais please click here.