Cascais & Sintra – What to visit
This article was sponsored by Cascais tourism.
Cascais… Few people know that tourism in Portugal was born here when King D. Carlos in 1870 made the Cascais citadel his official summer residence, a decision that led the court in the following years to search in the beautiful Estoril coast a escape from the heat of the city of Lisbon. This was the driving moment for tourism in the region, which led to the construction of beautiful palaces and hotels that for decades have hosted from the great royal families to famous artists. For this reason, Cascais went from a picturesque fishing village to the most “IN” place in the country and one of the most famous in Europe.
Nowadays, Cascais continues to fascinate millions of tourists who visit the city annually, many fascinated by its beautiful beaches, refinement, cuisine and excellent climate. Despite having been there numerous times, I decided to return to relax for a few days and explore again some of the places I like the most and others that I had been curious about for a long time. This will be a post with tips, places to visit and activities, which I hope will be a valuable help on your next visit to this region, one of the most beautiful and culturally rich in Portugal.
WHEN TO GO?
We can visit Cascais at any time of the year because the weather is generally pleasant in the different seasons. Obviously, whoever wants to take advantage of the heat, the sun and the beautiful beaches should come between April and October when the temperatures are higher and the number of hours of sunshine (12 hours) is greater to explore the region to the fullest. If you can only visit in the winter there is no problem, there are countless activities that you can do indoor and outdoor walks quite pleasant. The average summer temperatures are 23ºC and can reach 35ºC, in the winter months the average temperature is 12ºC. The temperature of the sea water in the summer varies between 16ºC and 21ºC.
HOW TO GO?
Cascais is 30km from Lisbon, for those coming from outside Portugal, Humberto Delgado airport is the best gateway to get here. For the Portuguese, coming by car is the best option to have freedom to move between places, but you can reach Cascais by train or bus if necessary.
Cascais has numerous accommodation options, from local accommodation to luxury hotels that were former residences of Reis. There is a lot to choose from and for all types of wallets. I stayed at Penha Longa, one of the most beautiful hotels in the country and that I wanted to visit for many years.
Located in one of the most beautiful parks in Portugal, the Sintra Cascais Natural Park, the Penha Longa Resort is the ideal place for those who want to have a relaxed day, in contact with nature and without giving up the comfort that a hotel of the Ritz group is used to offer its guests. The property is huge, composed of the resort with almost 200 rooms, 8 restaurants (two of them with Michellin star), 3 swimming pools, one of them indoor, golf course, spa, kids club and the part that most fascinated me, a chapel and monastery of the century. XIV of incredible architecture that served as a refuge for Portuguese royalty. Below I will talk about the hotel’s restaurants that I had the opportunity to visit. Here are some pictures of my stay. For those who want to relax, a visit to the SPA is a “must do”! Recently awarded as the best SPA award in Southern Europe, it is a place designed based on Zen teachings and offers several signature treatments.
WHAT TO DO?
BAIRRO DOS MUSEUS
The museum district is in the center of Cascais and consists of several cultural and architectural sites. Everything can easily be done on foot. I leave here some of the places you should visit. I recommend that you buy a pass to visit the museums, it’s cheaper and there’s no need to waste time in the queues.
FAROL DE SANTA MARTA
A beautiful space that was restored by architects Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, today it is not only an excellent place of leisure with a nice terrace, but also a Lighthouse-museum where we can learn more about the history of lighthouses in Portugal. If you have the opportunity to go up there, you have very beautiful views of Cascais Marina.
CIDADELA DE CASCAIS
Once an important site for the strategic defense of Lisbon, the fort of the citadel of Cascais, which houses the Cascais Citadel Palace, is today a cultural space of reference with exhibitions and guided tours.
MUSEU CONDES CASTRO GUIMARÃES
Built in 1931 with open views over the Atlantic Ocean, this building of romantic architecture is one of the most beautiful palaces in Portugal. The interior is amazing, especially the worked ceilings and the rich library with more than 25,000 books, including manuscripts dating from the 19th century. XV. The Museum has exhibited hundreds of paintings and a beautiful organ. The property’s huge gardens are today one of the most beautiful parks in the city, the Marechal Carmona park which is also worth a visit.
PARQUE MARECHAL CARMONA
The perfect place to take a break and stretch your legs on the grass in the shade of a tree. Very peaceful and very beautiful. Also ideal for a small picnic overlooking the romantic lake and surrounded by nature and animals, including the beautiful peacocks.
CASA DAS HISTÓRIAS PAULA REGO
One of the most unique buildings in the city, designed by the architect Souto Moura, distinguished in this work with the Nobel prize for architecture, it houses the Paula Rego museum. Here, more than 620 works by the artist are on display, from paintings, drawings and engravings. It is in my opinion one of the places not to be missed!
CENTRO HISTÓRICO DE CASCAIS
Take the opportunity to stroll through the picturesque streets of the historic center of Cascais where there are some buildings of enormous importance such as the Paços do Concelho, former residence of the Counts of Guarda, the beautiful houses of Av. D. Carlos I that have excellent views over the bay of Cascais. Pass by the beautiful Praça 5 de Outubro and enjoy the beautiful Portuguese sidewalk or the beautiful Seixas palace. Here there are many shops and restaurants to occupy the afternoon… and many sweets to eat at the most famous pastry shop in the city, Bijou! If the heat gets hot, take a dip in Ribeira beach or eat an ice cream in one of the most famous ice cream parlors in the country, Santini, which was founded here. I also recommend a visit to “Rua Amarela”, the new pedestrian street in Cascais and which has many bars and restaurants.
MERCADO DA VILA
There is nothing better than a visit to the market to get involved in the city’s energy. Built in 1952, the Mercado da Vila is more than a simple food market, it is a space where multiple initiatives and activities take place during 364 days of the year (it only closes on Christmas Day). Here you can find the freshest vegetables, fruits and fish in town. A place full of tradition combined with the modernity of the new chefs. There are several types of restaurants where you can have lunch, dinner or just have a drink and live in a neighborhood environment.
WALK TILL ESTORIL
There are 3 kilometers, a little more than 30 minutes walking distance between Cascais and Estoril. Take the opportunity to make this walk along the wall along the coast, where you will find beautiful palaces and excellent beaches for a refreshing dip. Along the way you will see the Queen’s beach, the beautiful Palacete dos Duques de Palmela which is located next to Conceição beach, the Fernando Lopes-Graça auditorium and the Alberto Romano Oceanic pool that is inserted in the sea. You will then arrive at Tamariz beach, very beautiful, spacious and with plenty of restaurants and bars. Take the opportunity to take a look at the incredible fort of Cruz, the garden of Estoril which is just after the marginal road. If you feel like trying your luck or having a drink in a more elegant place, the Casino is an excellent bet and is right next door.
How about a bike ride? It is an excellent way to get to know the west coast of Cascais that goes from the city center to Guincho beach, or if you prefer to Cabo da Roca (but here I advise you to go by car eheh). It is 7 kilometers and you will pass by the Grande Real Villa Itália Hotel & Spa, former residence of the last King of Italy, Humberto II. Then you will find Boca Do Inferno, a very visited natural cave where you can see the magnificence of the sea’s strength (but be careful!). Another 2 minutes cycling and you will see Casa da Guia, a mansion that has been transformed into a commercial space, great for those who like to combine shopping with a coffee on a terrace with great views of the sea. There is also the Farol da Guia, built in 1761, this was the second lighthouse to be built in Portugal.
Then visit the fort of São Jorge de Oitavos located next to the large dune of Oitavos where today the luxury hotel The Oitavos and Quinta da Marinha Golf. A few more minutes to cycle and you will reach Praia da Crismina and Praia do Guincho, famous for water sports, especially surfing. Here the waves do the wonders of hundreds of surfers practically throughout the year. If hunger strikes, I advise the Fortaleza do Guincho esplanade restaurant, I will talk more about the experience below.
Now how about seeing this from another perspective? I recommend two tours, a boat trip along the entire coast to Lisbon and then a helicopter tour. These are obviously slightly more expensive activities but if you have the opportunity, you should not miss this one, which was one of the best experiences I had on my visit to Cascais. The best thing is that you can reconcile the two tours in just over 3 hours, find out how to do it right away.
The boat ride lasts approximately two hours, leaves Cascais Marina and goes to Algés, where the helicopter departs. After the flight, you return to Cascais by boat again, but not before strolling through Belém and under the 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei (if you still have an extra day I obviously recommend visiting Lisbon, my beloved city full of many charms ). You will cross all the beaches and forts of the marginal line, I especially liked seeing the Fort of Carcavelos and the Fort of São Lourenço do Bugio in the middle of the sea that I never had the opportunity to visit. We still had the beautiful surprise of meeting some fishermen and having a conversation while fishing huge octopuses. Boat and helicopter tour company:Aquastart
There are several tours, I chose the one that runs along the entire coastline to Cabo da Roca, it takes 30 minutes to literally fly, it looks like it was 5. It was a spectacular experience to fly over the beaches and the imposing Cabo da Roca, the photos speak for themselves ! I strongly recommend that you indulge in adventure, even if you are afraid, I am sure you will be fascinated.
Visiting Cascais and not giving Sintra a sanctuary would be a sin, after all it is a 15-minute drive. In my opinion Sintra is one of the most beautiful villages in the world and whoever visits it certainly shares the same opinion as me. World Heritage, here are some of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal, namely the Monserrate Palace, the Castelo dos Mouros, the National Palace of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira and my favorite, Pena Palace. First of all I recommend that you get out of bed early if you want to arrive before all the tourists.
Sintra is one of the most visited places in the country and it is much more pleasant to explore these places without large crowds. We can say that entering the Pena Palace is like entering a trip to a fairy tale. The pearl of Sintra has a colorful architecture and is an excellent example of romanticism in Portugal. I would say that it takes almost a whole day to explore the entire palace and the magical gardens, but one morning is well worth it. I also recommend a visit to Quinta da Regaleira, another excellent monument in the Serra de Sintra, a complex of buildings in the heart of the forest, a place full of mysticism and beauty in every detail, one of the most photographed places is Poço Iniciático, a unique work and that will certainly leave you dazzled.
Then go through the historic center full of shops and picturesque terraces. I recommend that you have lunch at Café Paris, one of the oldest and most beautiful and that in addition to delicious dishes has a wonderful view of the village. After lunch how about a walk to aid digestion? I went by car to the Sanctuary of Peninha, located in one of the highest points of the Serra de Sintra, here you will find the ancient hermitage of S. Saturnino built in the century. XII. It has fabulous views of the entire mountain and a 360º view being possible to see from Ericeira, Mafra to Cabo Espichel. This was also our starting point for a walk through the beautiful and dense forest of Sintra with lush greenery. We walked for about 2 hours, I was enormously surprised by all the flower I discovered along the way. Then we continue on our way to Adraga beach to see the sunset, which on this day was especially magical. This is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Continental Europe.
If you want a guide to accompany you and talk about the rich and interesting history of Cascais and Sintra, I recommend André Rei da Shortcuts.
To go hiking in the Serra de Sintra and Cabo da Roca, nobody better than Francisco Mendonça from WalkHike.
WHERE TO EAT
The Pan Asian restaurant at the luxury hotel provided me with a wonderful trip through the East. Inspired by four different cuisines: Thai, Indian, Chinese and Japanese, he gave me a taste of some of the most characteristic dishes in Asia with a twist by chef Pedro Almeida. For those who like the world and exotic foods, this is not to be missed! I recommend that you order the Bao’s and the Green Curry, they were delicious. Open for dinner from 7pm to 10:30 pm. Closed for dinner on Sundays and Mondays.
CAFÉ PARIS – Sintra
Next to the National Palace of Sintra is one of the most beautiful restaurants in the village. Café Paris has a beautiful terrace to feel the atmosphere of Sintra while enjoying typical dishes of Portuguese and international cuisine. I ate a little fish that knew me for life and the desserts were also divine. I even brought some Queijadas from Sintra to the hotel, of course, they couldn’t be missing. Open every day from 10 am to 10 pm.
One of the restaurants of the award-winning Michelin star chef, Sergi Arola. Focused on Mediterranean cuisine, traditional tapas dishes are served in a very original concept. Wild potatoes are the most popular specialty and in fact they were DELICIOUS. The restaurant also has an excellent terrace with open views to the mountains and golf courses. Open for lunch from 12:00 to 16:30 and to dinner from 19:00 to 22:30 Closed on dinner on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
If you want to have lunch with a panoramic view to the sea, this is the restaurant to book. Located next to Rainha beach, the Albatroz restaurant has Mediterranean cuisine on its menu, with special emphasis on fish and seafood. It will certainly be a gourmet experience in which everything is thought out in detail without forgetting the genuine aromas and flavors of the ingredients. It was a very pleasant lunch, the view is wonderful and the hotel very beautiful! Open from 10 am to 11 pm. Closed on Thursday.
Located in the funny “Rua Amarela” and how well this Taberna fits here. A very relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, with very good dishes. Here the secret is to chop the innumerable snacks, which range from sausages, cheeses and Portuguese wines to the best ingredients in Italy. The Burrata is sensational, and the Ravioli with truffle … help! The restaurant, which is also a bar, has a terrace on the pedestrian street for those who prefer to dine al fresco. It has very affordable prices, good atmosphere, good food, good cocktails… I’ll be back! Open every day from 18:00 to 23:00.
The outside restaurant at Hotel Fortaleza do Guincho is the perfect spot to have an informal and leisurely lunch, not only to enjoy the dishes but also the beautiful view of the Crismina beach. Inspired by the flavors of the sea, here you can find everything from dishes for a light meal to the dishes of the day suggested by Chef Gil Fernandes. I recommend the gazpacho and the spaghetti from Lavagante, how wonderful! For the sweet tooth, the Chocolate Cake with caramel foam and peanut ice cream cannot be missing. After lunch is drinking Gin’s, reading a book, or celebrating life with friends until sunset, it was one of the best afternoons of the year!
I hope you enjoyed this trip through one of the most beautiful areas of our country and that this post will provide you with valuable help for your next visit to Cascais. Venture out, take friends and share those photos with me! 🙂
Hi! My name is João Cajuda, I’m a travel blogger from Portugal and founder of this website. In this blog I share my adventures around the world and give you tips about hotels, restaurants, activities and destinations to visit. You can travel through my videos or join my group tours that I organize to selected destinations. Visit my Adventure Travel Agency LEVA-ME and join one of my journeys!