Looking for a quiet escape after a busy citybreak in Lisbon? You should visit Cascais, a fishing village turned trendy holiday resort on the Portuguese Riviera. And better yet, Cascais is only 40 minutes away from Lisbon on train. It couldn’t be easier for you to access!
Whether a visit to Cascais was already on your bucket list or is something that you’re considering, this post is here to help!
Our Visit To Lisbon
We had an amazing time at Eurovision in 2018. By travelling with Eurovision, I was able to visit another amazing host city and to put a tick in the box beside Lisbon on my bucket list. I had 3 days exploring the Portuguese capital as well as having tickets to the greatest show on earth. And what a contest it was! Stage invaders, a photo finish and a worthy winner taking me on another Eurovision adventure to Tel Aviv.
Eurovision week can be quite intense, particularly for those travelling to enjoy the contest. There’s so much to see and do, there are so many side events and Eurovision fans to mingle with.
By the Sunday after the contest I was exhausted and completely deflated. I needed a break! On my previous Eurovision adventures, I’d usually travel home on this Sunday. But by doing this I was only adding my end-of-holiday slump to the post-Eurovision blues and making myself feel even worse.
This isn’t exclusive to Eurovision. It can be applied to any citybreak. There’s so much to see, places to go and food to eat. We come home feeling exhausted and needing another holiday.
One amazing thing about travel is that it’s great way to get some perspective. A change of scenery can really do wonders when you’re feeling out of sorts. So I decided to avoid the post Eurovision slump by extending my trip. I started looking for somewhere close to Lisbon for some much needed rest.
And that is when I discovered Cascais! A curious mixture between a fishing village with a fashionable holiday resort. And better yet, only a 30 minute train journey from central Lisbon. I’d found the perfect place for a quiet escape!
An Introduction to Cascais
The town of Cascais is hundreds of years old and spent centuries as a quiet fishing village. For most of its history, it lived relatively unnoticed by the outside world.
Cascais’s royal connections began in the 15th century when fortress was built to protect Lisbon from maritime attack.
When the royal family arrived to holiday at the Citadel in the 1870’s, the town quickly became one of Portugal’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. And before long, the rich and famous of Europe alongside European royalty were flocking to spend time on the sandy shores (not Sandy Shaw) of Cascais. It’s for this very reason that many call this stretch of coast the Portuguease Riviera.
Modern Cascais has a dual identity. The town has kept maintained its roots as a harbour and fishing village. But today the fishermen sit side by side with tourists, fashionable eateries and boutique shopping stores.
Where is Cascais?
Cascais is 30km along the coast from Lisbon when heading west. This stretch of coast line is known as the Portuguese Riviera. This name comes from for it’s beautiful beaches and for being associated with the rich and famous, including European royalty! Very fancy!
The quickest way to visit Cascais is by rail. Trains leave regularly from Lisbon’s Cais Do Sodre train station, approximately every 20 minutes or so.
If you’re skipping Lisbon but arriving by plane, both Lisbon airport and Cais do Sodre are on the Lisbon Underground network. It’s a short journey across town before heading along the coast to Cascais.
What to do when visiting Cascais
Cascais is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a busy city break in Lisbon. But there’s still plenty to see and do here. It’s more than beautiful beaches and sunbathing (although equally great for that).
Cascais Old Town and Town Centre
Spend some time getting lost in the narrow street’s of Cascais’s Old Town. And if you can look past the sports bars and souvenir stores, you can begin to feel what Cascais was like before the royals arrived. Some of the charm left with the arrival of mass tourism, but do some digging, there are still a few gems to be found. Imagine traditionally cobbled streets with crumbling building facades.
There are some great restaurants in here which specialise in locally caught seafood.
Begin in the main square with its statue of King Pedro I and little white church, and gradually work your way into the old town from here. You’ll spot when you’ve reached the end of the old town by the width of the roads.
Cascais is small, so the old town is even smaller. You should be able to find your way around, whilst grabbing something to eat in less than an hour.
Previously a fortress, then a Royal palace, today the citadel has been given over to a hotel and modern arts centre.
Enter via the main gateway and take a stroll around the various courtyards where a number of modern art pieces can be viewed.
Cascais Harbour and Marina
Once you’ve had a look around inside the Citadel, take a walk around the outside. Here you will find the remnant of the town’s fishing industry as well as a very popular marina.
Start by following the coast and follow the path that takes you between the sea and the Citadel’s outer wall. You’ll find it just after the statue below which looks out over the harbor.
This pathway will take you past the more traditional fishing boats which are moored in the harbor. This is also a great spot for views eastwards along the coast of the Portuguese Riviera.
Continue to follow this path and you will reach the Marina where the more modern boats and yachts are moored. Keep the walls of the Citadel on your right hand side and you’ll eventually complete a circle around the building and find yourself at the entrance again.
See Beautiful Architecture
On your visit to Cascais you will see many interesting buildings and fascinating architecture. Better still, many of these buildings are museums so you can see inside them too.
Many of these buildings were built by rich families arriving in the area after the Citadel became a royal palace in the 1800’s so expect grand facades and beautifully landscaped gardens.
The Santa Marta lighthouse and the neighbouring Casa de Santa Maria are particularly beautiful and offer stunning views out into the Atlantic ocean. Both of these are open to the public which allow you to see inside. The Casa de Santa Maria was owned by a rich Portuguese family who welcomed the royals, rich and famous to summer in the beautiful surrounds. And it’s easy to understand why!
The Count of Castro Guimarães Palace is very close to the buildings above and offers a very different architectural approach to the surrounding buildings. It looks similar to my imaginings of Dracula’s castle except that it’s perched alongside the azure waters and blue skies of the Atlantic ocean. There’s a great inlet of water down here and small beach which is very popular with locals.
Even the less palatial buildings have something to offer in Cascais, such as the building below with it’s stunning balconies. There’s much to see just by getting lost in the streets of Cascais. .
Boca do Inferno
Swap town life for nature with a visit to Boca do Inferno, a short walk west of Cascais. Literally translated into ‘the Mouth of Hell’, Boca do Inferno is an area of natural beauty that is best visited in bad weather. Here, the Atlantic ocean and the European mainland meet with dramatic effect, creating crashing waves, rugged cliffs and underwater caves along the coastline. It is said that when the waters are choppy and the winds are blowing in the right direction, that the thunderous sounds of the waters crashing into the caves creates a sound like the opening of the gates of hell. Which goes some way to explain the area’s theatrical name.
Unfortunately I missed the dramatic sound effects as we had good weather, not that I was complaining. And I discovered a place that was far from hellish, in fact its very tranquil in calm weather. I spent time here unwinding, observing the continuous ebb and flow of the ocean against the cliffs. It was reassured, gazing out to the ocean knowing there was nothing and no one for thousands of miles in front of me.
Visit Cascais – Thank You For Reading
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog about Cascais, Portugal and that it has convinced you to visit this beautiful seaside town.
We absolutely loved our time visiting Cascais and would recommend the town to anyone who is looking for some quiet time away from the bright lights of Lisbon.
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