This post on my favorite things to do in Cascais is in partnership with Visit Cascais. They sponsored my stay in exchange for an honest review, but all opinions are my own!
It’s not so hard to imagine Cascais as a seaside painting. You know the kind: a scene of fisherman skiffs bobbing about on a harbor with a whitewashed lighthouse and rustic houses in the background? And when you walk around Cascais, it feels that idyllic, too. The town once favored as a retreat for Portuguese royals has maintained a certain old world charm that is particularly hard to come by these days. Many of the best things to do in Cascais don’t involve doing much at all, and it’s the slow pace of life that makes this place great.
Want to explore one of the cutest cities on the coast of Portugal? Here are nine reasons you’ll probably never want to leave Cascais.
1. The sea is pretty great
Just calling it a beach town would sell Cascais short, but its seaside location is definitely the best part. The rocky coastline is lovely and scattered with viewpoints where you can stop and stare. There are four major beaches in Cascais (with plenty more nearby!) speckled with sunbathers and picnicking families. If you’d rather stay busy than lay on the beach, surfing is one of the best things to do in Cascais with waves and conditions for all skill levels. Tip: Wanna learn how to surf? Beyond Boards offers daily surf and SUP lessons from 35€.
2. The city is really pretty, too
Cascais may be a city but it still has the vibe of a small beach town. What really sets Cascais apart from other beach towns is how genuinely pretty it is. Thick coats of white and pastel paint ensure that the whole city — from the lighthouse to the church — always looks freshly painted. It’s the kind of place where crisp linens hang from second story balconies and old gentlemen in newsboy caps tap cane to pavement as they navigate uneven streets. Some of the cutest places in town are away from the main tourist drag up Rua Alfonso Sanches. The city is a street photographers dream and you’ll have a hard time finding a city that more perfectly captures the old-but-modern essence of this part of the world. Tip: Want to support the local economy? Forget about souvenir shops on the main drag, and buy some locally made cosmetics from Juicy Soaps or handicrafts from Sardina Cascais.
3. The seafood is seriously delicious
Portuguese cuisine has never achieved the notoriety of its Mediterranean neighbors, but damn is the food delicious. Fortuitous for its seaside location, most of the food that you’ll eat in Cascais comes sea-to-table. The local specialties include sea bass, octopus, cod, or shells, served grilled and with a side of boiled potatoes. When paired with olives, bread, and (quite obviously) a glass of Portuguese wine, you’ll wonder why you haven’t had Portuguese food before.
Love to eat? Check out my post on the best restaurants in Cascais.
4. …and so is the ice cream
While Italy is better known for gelato, Portugal has a gelato culture all of its own. The recipe is simple — cream, fruit puree, and sugar — but the outcome is far better than your average homemade popsicle. Tip: Grab a cup of gelato at Santini’s, the best shop in town. It was recommended by Along Dusty Roads, Visit Cascais, and the line outside of the place speaks for itself!
5. Cascais makes for a great base for day trips
Not into big cities? Cascais is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a Portuguese city smaller than Lisbon with plenty of things to do. Located just 30km west of Lisbon, and 20km south of Sintra, you can get a feel for authentic Portugal by staying in Cascais.
Getting to Cascais from the Lisbon Airport: RyanAir offers affordable flights to Lisbon from most major cities in Europe. They hooked me up with round-trip airfare from Berlin to Lisbon for under €120! You can then get from the Lisbon Airport to Cascais by train or by renting a car right at the airport. In my opinion, renting a car your best option if you really want access to all that the region has to offer.
6. And you can maintain the magic of Sintra
Palaces and royal residencies? Craggy coastline and old towns? Sintra is a charmer, but the congested sights make it slightly less picturesque than you might first imagine. Preserve the magic of Sintra by visiting Palácio de Monserrate, Palácio Nacional da Pena, or Cabo do Roca early in the morning or late in the day. By going during off hours and making a day trip of it, you’ll dodge the worst of the tourist buses and get back to Cascais without shattering your vision of a fairytale.
7. You can learn to fight at Lucky’s Guest House
Just outside of Cascais in the residential area of Estoril is the very eclectic Lucky’s Guest House. The place was dreamt up by an unlikely duo – one with an off-center taste in home decor and the other a background in Muay Thai. Sounds unexpected, right? Somehow, the upscale decor with Buddhist accents makes for a memorable stay.
Want to know more about these eclectic bungalows? Check out the full post on Lucky’s Guest House.
8. If it’s good enough for 007, it’s good enough for you
Dusan Popov was a Serbian double agent who used to hit up Cascais’ own Casino Royale. He hung out at Casino Estoril with beautiful women on his arm and captivated the attention of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. To walk in the footsteps of Bond (… James Bond) you’ll want to hit up Palacio Estoril Hotel where you can see the hotel, the lobby, the pool and the rooms’ view used in the 1969 production of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. You can also stop by Bar Estoril for a 007 Martini in an ambiance reminiscent of a gentlemen’s club or play the tables at Casino Estoril to complete your Bond pilgrimage.
9. And, to top it all off, you can catch a killer sunset at Boca do Inferno
Some sunsets are better than others, and Boca do Inferno offers one of the best. Boca do Inferno (aka Mouth of Hell) refers to the seaside cliffs just outside of the town. The rock formation received its name thanks to a legend and for the notoriously violent waves that clamor into them. Despite the ominous name, the sunset here is nothing but lovely. Get to Boca do Inferno before the sun goes down to watch as the sun kisses the horizon in a flash of green.
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