Cascais is a sophisticated leisure and residential resort located some 30 kilometres from Lisbon. Thanks to its proximity to Portugal’s forward-looking capital, its beautiful coastal location and its historical links with the Portuguese Royal Family and noblemen and their families from the far corners of Europe, Cascais offers year-round fun and entertainment in a relaxed yet sophisticated setting.
The town is popular amongst overseas visitors, Portuguese tourists and weekend escapees from the capital all year round, appealing to sporting enthusiasts during the winter months, golfers during spring and autumn and sun seekers through the long hot summer. There is much in Cascais to keep its visitors entertained no matter when they visit, including an events calendar that is jam-packed with fun and frolics.
Ringing in the new
January kicks off with a huge party to mark the transition from the old year to the new year. Bars and restaurants throughout the town get in on the act, offering spectacular gala dinners, dance events and private parties. For a real taste of Portuguese festival culture start the evening with a meal in one of the downtown restaurants before spilling out onto the streets shortly before midnight. The New Year is hailed with a huge firework display, which is best admired from the Pescador beach right at the bottom of the Old Town.
Next on the agenda is Carnival – cause for a huge celebration throughout Iberian and Latin countries and Portugal is no exception. Carnival occurs between mid February and mid March, with its exact dates dictated each year according to the lunar calendar. Carnival in Cascais involves a week of colourful street parties, parades and private celebrations leading up to Mardi Gras – literally translated as Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday as it is more commonly referred to.
Mardi Gras hails the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of restraint which is preceded by a night of hedonism and indulgence in which according to ancient tradition the population used up their supplies and stocked up on enough fun to see them through until Easter. Expect to come across fire crackers, fireworks, water fights, streamers, colourful decorations and a bevy of bizarre fancy dress outfits along with live music concerts and a distinctly Brazilian vibe.
Holy Week falls during the week before Easter and is celebrated all over Portugal. Colourful processions and festivals with a religious context fill the streets of Cascais making Holy Week a lively and interesting time to visit.
The June Feasts of the People’s Saints, or Festas dos Santos Populares as they are known in Portugal, take place in the capital city between the 12th and 29th of the month. The festivities spread out along the coast, particular at weekends, and Cascais visitors find this cosmopolitan town as good a place as any to enjoy the spectacles the Festas dos Santos Populares provides.
Handicrafts, festivals and all that jazz
There are several festivals that are specific to the Cascais and Estoril area, including the Jazz Festival, the Handicraft Fair and the Cascais Summer Festival. The Jazz Festival takes place in July and is a meeting point for many leading international and local jazz musicians, right in the heart of Cascais.
Meanwhile between July and August runs the Handicraft Fair in Estoril – the oldest handicraft fair in Portugal featuring handmade offerings of the highest quality from all over the country to the backdrop of live bands and entertainment. The Cascais Summer Festival joins the towns of Cascais and Estoril both geographically and culturally, the coast road between the two lined with entertainers, stalls and plenty of live entertainment.
High summer begins to come to a close at the end of August with the Festas de Viana and the Sea Festival. The Festas de Viana is one of the most popular festivals in Portugal and takes place on the last weekend in August, while the Sea Festival is a celebration that dates back to the fifteenth century and is to give blessing to the town and its surrounding seas, thanking them for protecting the fishermen who fish in their waters and praying for great numbers of fish in the catches of the forthcoming year.
The cultural calendar draws to a close on 1st November with All Souls’ Day. All Souls’ Day is celebrated all over Portugal and indeed in many parts of the world, to remember those who have passed away.