Lisbon is a thriving urban centre with plenty to occupy and amuse its visitors no matter how long they stay. If you have the time and the inclination however, it is well worth escaping the city centre for one day in Cascais to explore the delights of the nearby coast.
Cascais is a sophisticated resort town located right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, just a short journey from the bustling centre of Lisbon. Once a sleepy village, it was catapulted to fame and fortune when it became the destination of choice for Portugal’s nobility during the 19th century.
When the Second World War descended, Cascais built on its upper class roots by welcoming a wide variety of landed gentry from all over Europe, all desperate to escape the ravages or war in their homelands.
Cascais’ history dates back for longer however. Long a bustling fishing village, the old town was established in the 17th century and still boasts many remnants of its seafaring roots. These include fortresses, lighthouses and the old town citadel, which is the perfect spot from which to begin your exploration of the town on your trip to Cascais.
It is worth making the journey from Lisbon to Cascais simply to admire the eclectic mix of attractive architecture.
The old town is full of period mansions and ancient monuments, all of which contrast sharply but none the less effectively with the brand new marina that is to be found at the quayside.
Take the time to explore the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assuncao, located on a tree-lined square towards the western end of the town. This attractive church features a series of paintings by Josefa de Obidos, a well-known 17th-century artist as well as an attractive 16th-century altar and some lovely hand-painted azulejos – traditional Portuguese tiles.
From the church, head on to the Museu do Conde de Castro Guimaraes. Situated on the Avenida Rei Humberto II de Italia, this museum is located in the former 19th-century home of a wealthy local family. It provides a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the 18th- and 19th-century Portuguese dignitaries who lived in and frequented Cascais.
Of course if you are visiting during the height of the season, a one day in Cascais is a great way to enjoy the weather whilst relaxing on the golden sands and soaking up the rays. Cascais has several excellent beaches to choose from, each of which has its own distinct atmosphere.
Try the fisherman’s beach right at the bottom of the town, where the seafarers still work today to bring their daily catch fresh from the water to the stalls in the local fish market.
Indeed, if fish is your favourite, you will be well taken care of during your trip to Cascais. The fish market is the perfect place to stop and admire the catch of the day or sample the delicious seafood specialities on offer, or you can choose to eat in comfort at one of the many restaurants.
Cascais offers a wide choice of eateries to match every taste and budget. Seafood is the order of the day, with prawns, octopus and lobster aplenty. Grilled sardines are another local favourite, and as with all areas of Portugal, salt cod is a speciality. For the latest newcomers to the town’s restaurant scene, head to the marina.
There are some excellent restaurants to choose from in this recently rejuvenated area and many wealthy Lisbon residents make the journey from Lisbon to Cascais on a regular basis in order to frequent them.
Don’t leave Cascais without taking the time for a little retail therapy. This sophisticated resort has many boutiques selling quality beachwear, sunglasses and accessories, some designer and others more mainstream. The beachfront makes for easy shopping, while the Rua da Raita is a pedestrianised walkway further into the heart of the town, which is flanked with a wide variety of shops selling gifts and artisan products.
With Portugal known for its artisan craftworks, basketware, ceramics and embroidery, there is no shortage of these to be found on the town’s attractive streets. The Rua da Saudade has several popular linen shops selling bed linen, nightgowns and intricately embroidered children’s clothing. One day in Cascais gives plenty of time to find the best bargains to remind you of your visit.
The journey from Lisbon to Cascais takes approximately half an hour by road and there are also regular bus and train services if you find yourself without a hire car.