Why you need to visit Cascais, Portugal (and what to do while you’re there)

Most Portugal travel itineraries include stops in Lisbon, Porto, Sintra and the Algarve, but there’s another spot well-deserving of a visit: Cascais. Despite its location just outside Lisbon, the charming town seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of the country’s capital, thanks to its sun-soaked beaches, palm-fringed mosaic sidewalks and ocean viewpoints. Best of all, many tourists overlook this spot, making it a great place to get away from the crowds.

Here’s why you need to travel to Cascais, and what to do while you’re there.

Beach in Cascais, Portugal

Relax on the beach

Cascais’ perch on the North Atlantic coast means it’s teeming with beaches, including a few found right in the city centre. Praia da Conceição, Praia da Duquesa and Praia da Poça are in the heart of the action, and are great for swimming since the still bays are protected from ocean waves. Framed by winding promenades, sparkling golden sand and dazzling azure water, they’re the perfect spot for soaking up the sun.

A beach in Cascais, Portugal
A beach in Cascais, Portugal

Walk through the old town

The town centre in Cascais simply oozes with charm. Patchwork patterns combine to make artful pedestrian walkways, vibrant flowers drip out of window boxes perched on wrought-iron balconies, and sunshine casts a glow over the pastel-hued storefronts. There are plenty of souvenir stalls and a la carte restaurants popular with day-trippers, along with winding laneways which are perfect for getting lost in.

Cascais, Portugal
Cascais, Portugal
Cascais, Portugal
Cascais, Portugal

Explore the fortress and Cidadela Art District

A 15th century fort guards Cascais’ picturesque harbour, making it a favourite spot for photographers and history buffs alike. While there’s not too much to see inside Cidadela de Cascais, it’s well worth walking around as it leads straight into the ultra-modern art district, which features white-washed walls which are the ideal backdrop for the colourful murals and sculptures scattered around the sun-soaked plaza.

The arts district in Cascais, Portugal
The art district in Cascais, Portugal

Tip: If budget allows, book a room at the Pestana Cidadela Cascais, a trendy, artsy hotel built right into the fortress. Despite being close to the action it’s a surprisingly quiet spot—perfect for enjoying unobstructed ocean views from the rooftop pool deck.

Marvel at Boca do Inferno

It’s safe to say Boca do Inferno is one of Portugal’s most underrated attractions. Jutting out of the rocky cliffside against a pool of aqua-marine water, this spectacular natural phenomenon was created by the sea and spray hammering into the rock and carving an archway out of a collapsed cave. Its name means “mouth of hell”, but there’s nothing hellish about the gorgeous scenery.

Boca do Inferno in Cascais, Portugal

Boca do Inferno

Boca do Inferno can be seen from the boardwalk, or on one of the many viewing platforms that grant unobstructed views. There are also a few restaurants nearby for those needing a mid-day break, as well as a handicraft market.

Boca do Inferno in Cascais, Portugal

Boca do Inferno

Wander around the Museum District

Art lovers may want to head over to the Museum Quarter, which houses works from famed Portuguese artists. A popular spot is Centro Cultural de Cascais, a bright pink building that was formerly a convent and now hosts a variety of exhibitions.

Cascais, Portugal

Centro Cultural de Cascais

One that’s not to be missed is the Castro Guimarães museum, which dates back to the 1900s and is a great example of so-called “summer architecture.” Today it holds an art museum and public library, but most visitors are wowed by the grounds themselves. The castle-like estate is surrounded by fountains and gardens, and borders a shaded public park and quiet cove, which is a peaceful spot for soaking up both the sun and scenery.

Cascais, Portugal

The Castro Guimarães museum

Cascais, Portugal

The Castro Guimarães museum

Cascais most famous and postcard-worthy spot also happens to include a museum, called Casa de Santa Maria. The Mediterranean-style villa was built in 1902 as a summer home for royalty, and features touches like traditional painted tiles, arches and an oil-painted ceiling. It shares the coastline with a towering blue and white, red-topped lighthouse overlooking the turquoise bay, combining to create a dreamy view best seen from the adjoining stone bridge.

Lighthouse in Cascais, Portugal

Casa de Santa Maria

Cycle along the bike path

There’s truly no better way to explore a place than on two wheels, and Cascais makes it easy thanks to its ocean-front bike path. The Ciclovia begins just outside town past the marina on Avenida Rei Humberto II de Italia, and hugs the coast for five kilometres all the way to the Guincho beaches. The best part is that visitors can borrow a bike for free (!!) compliments of the municipality, so there’s no need to try and line up bicas in advance. There are multiple pick-up areas, including at the main tourist office in the town centre.

The bike path in Cascais, Portugal

The Ciclovia

Head down the road to Estoril

Got time to spare? Then walk, bike or drive down the road to Estoril, which boasts more beaches (though not quite as nice as the ones in Cascais) and an ocean boardwalk perfect for cycling or jogging. It’s famous for its palatial casino which is framed by a labyrinth of perfectly-manicured gardens, and is the place to be for those who have Lady Luck is on their side!

A castle in Estoril, Portugal

Estoril, Portugal

Estoril, Portugal

A beach in Estoril

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Despite its location just outside Lisbon, Cascais, Portugal seems a world away thanks to its sun-soaked beaches, palm-fringed mosaic sidewalks and ocean viewpoints. Here's what to do while you're there!

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21 Responses

  1. Jane M says:

    Wow, your photos are so beautiful!! I’ve been to Portugal a few times but never to Cascais. It’s going on my list for next time!

  2. Diana says:

    I love such towns that are not over touristy and still very beautiful. I’ve only been to Lisbon and Castelo Branco in Portugal 3 months ago, but would really love to explore more of the country. And I love your photography!

  3. Kayley says:

    Oh my goodness Cascais looks gorgeous! I’m having mega regrets about missing Portugal on our Europe trip over the spring. Our next trip is definitely going to include it and I’m so glad to have this to work with. I can’t believe there are bikes available for free usage – that’s wonderful. Your pictures are stunning, by the way!

  4. Haha, I love the giant binoculars in the art district!! And anywhere called ‘mouth of hell’ would SO get a visit from me – I couldn’t bear not to see it in person. The Cascais scenery looks so good it’s almost unreal and I like that it’s quieter, too. With so much to see and do it sounds like the perfect holiday destination!

  5. Indrani says:

    I missed this place. Cascais does have an old world charm.
    Those binoculars make me curious. 🙂 Boca do Inferno seems like a great place to explore.

  6. These photos alone are enough to make me want to visit Cascais! I love old cities and towns in Europe. Soo picturesque. And they have beaches, too. Perfect!

  7. sherianne says:

    I have been planning a trip to Portugal and would have missed this — it looks like my kind of place for sure! In love with the mosaic sidewalks

  8. Megan Jerrard says:

    Wow, I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve heard of Cascais, thanks for the introduction! The whole destination looks stunning, from the beaches to the charming watercolored buildings, and cultural heritage in old town. And OMG Boca do Inferno is beautiful – bonus that it’s off the tourist radar and you can escape the crowds. Sounds like the perfect vacation!

  9. Paige W says:

    Wow, this area is just stunning. I’ve never heard of it. I’m a huge fan of rock formations, so I know that Boca do Inferno would just blow my mind! Plus, what a cute city! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I’ve been planning a trip to Portugal but not with Cascais on my list. Now, I’m definitely going. Thanks for the tip!

  11. Samuel says:

    Visited Lisbon last year, but only for a couple of days. Next time I must spend an entire week here and visit Cascais. Seems like a fantastic place. Thanks for sharing the information.

  1. August 7, 2017

    […] But…I wish we’d actually stayed in Cascais. […]

  2. August 21, 2017

    […] Why you need to visit Cascais, Portugal (and what to do while you’re there) […]

  3. September 18, 2017

    […] Why you need to visit Cascais, Portugal (and what to do while you’re there) […]

  4. September 18, 2017

    […] Why you need to visit Cascais, Portugal (and what to do while you’re there) […]

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