In the nineteenth century, King Fernando II of Portugal visited Cascais and declared it his favourite summer retreat. Since then, many well-heeled Lisboetas have travelled to this fishing village on the Atlantic coast to enjoy its elegant seaside charm.
Today, the resort still draws crowds from and around Lisbon, who come here for the golden-sand beaches, beautiful architecture, elegant eateries, lively bars and charming cafés. But the Portuguese couldn’t keep this stylish seaside resort a secret forever.
The summer months now see a stylish international crowd descend on the cobbled streets and modern marinas of this most regal of fishing villages. For this reason, those looking for a more tranquil experience would be wise to visit in the spring or early summer. At this time, the beaches are emptier, the museums and galleries are quieter and the restaurants are less crowded.
Reflecting its boom in popularity in the nineteenth century, the town boasts elegant boulevards of large historic residencies built in the Portuguese style. These were the homes and summer palaces of the rich and powerful Lisbon citizens who were looking to escape the sizzling city heat in the summer.
Today, many of these impressive residencies have been transformed into refined hotels, restaurants and museums, reserving the charm and character of the regal resort.
Another welcome legacy from the nineteenth century are the beautifully landscaped parks, which offer welcome shade, as well as a place to walk and relax in the warm summer months. With its duck ponds, rose gardens and shady birch, pine and palm trees, the Parque Marechal Carmona is the perfect retreat from the midday sun.
Three Excellent Beaches
King Ferdinand II knew a good spot for a holiday resort when he saw one. Cascais has no fewer than three beautiful beaches to its name, two of which are perfect for sunbathing and swimming, while the other is ideal for long walks and surfing.
The beaches to the east offer gently sloping and soft sand, as well as safe, shallow waters, which are great for swimming and paddling. At the weekends, expect to find many Lisbon tourists taking their places on these beautiful stretches and working on their tans.
Northern Beach – Praia do Guincho
If you’re not interested in swimming but would like to take a stroll beside the ocean, the wind-tossed Praia do Guincho is a stunning, rugged spot to the north of Cascais. As part of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, you’ll enjoy an uncrowded beach when you walk along this coastline. In fact, the only visitors you’ll meet are likely to be surfers and windsurfers.
… A Stroll Down the Promenade
Another beautiful spot for an evening stroll is the town’s lengthy nineteenth-century promenade. The three-kilometre-long promenade runs all the way from Cascais to the small neighbouring village of São João do Estoril. The promenade follows the natural line of the coast, and will take you past some of the region’s most beautiful beaches. You needn’t do the walk in one long stretch; part of the fun is to stop off at the many cafés along its route, have a cold drink or coffee and watch the people passing by.
…The Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães
The town has no shortage of museums, covering everything from modern art and history to music and local culture, but my favourite is the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães. Nestled in the grounds of the Parque Marechal Carmona, the almost fairytale-like Castro Guimarães is a beautiful nineteenth-century mansion, complete with towers, turrets and seemingly endless arches. In the stunning interior, you’ll find an excellent collection of art, Indo-Portuguese furniture, archaeological discoveries and a fascinating illuminated manuscript from 1505.
…The Cidadela Cascais Fort and Marina
Old meets new at the village’s historic sixteenth-century fort, which overlooks the Atlantic coast and was originally built to protect Lisbon. Today, it’s an integral part of the luxurious and modern marina complex, which is a very worthwhile sight to behold.
Take a Day Trip to Lisbon
Just 31 kilometres from Portugal’s capital, Cascais is the perfect place from which to take a day trip to Lisbon and see some of its historic and cultural highlights. Spend the day in the hustle and bustle of the city and then return in the evening to the peace of your seaside retreat.
Take a tour around Lisbon’s historic Alfama Quarter, take in the view from the beautiful Miradouros and then wander around the fascinating collection at the Museu de Artes Decorativas Portuguesas. At the end of the day, you’ll love returning to your quiet beachside retreat. You may even want to enjoy some stunning ocean views as you sit down to a scrumptious, well-deserved dinner after a full day of sightseeing.
How to Get to Cascais
The closest airport to Cascais is Lisbon Airport. There are regular flights to Lisbon from most UK airports, and the flight time is around two and a half hours. To get from Lisbon to the resort, I recommend pre-booking an airport transfer online with Shuttle Direct before you leave home. That way, you won’t need to barter with taxi drivers at the airport, who may charge a premium for the 40-minute journey.
Where to Stay
Hotel Fortaleza do Guincho – Enjoy the kind of luxury and elegance that would have kept King Fernando II happy at the five-star Hotel Fortaleza do Guincho. Built on the site of a seventeenth-century fort and on the beautiful beach of Praia do Guincho, the hotel offers stunning views of the Atlantic. What’s more, there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant and excellent service.
Pestana Cidadela Cascais – Pousada & Art District – For a more contemporary take on Portuguese luxury, try the five-star Pestana Cidadela Cascais – Pousada & Art District. This holiday haven is part of the renovated sixteenth-century fort beside the marina and lies in the heart of the town’s Art District, meaning that it is surrounded by a number of world-class museums and galleries. The hotel is only a short walk from the beach, but there are also two swimming pools on site, one of which offers stunning views of the marina.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of private and group transfers in Europe and North Africa. Our dependable and convenient airport transfers offer an executive car service: a driver will meet you in the arrivals lounge, carry your luggage to a luxury car and drive you directly to your accommodation. What’s not to love? Book your ride with us today.