My Cascais Story
I moved to Cascais from Lagos in 2020 and have been living in the historical centre ever since. Now that I feel comfortable to call this corner of Portugal home I’m ready to share my Cascais Travel Guide with you.
This is written from my perspective as an expat /immigrant. I live and work from here permanently. I’m not a tourist or digital nomad, rather someone who has spent the last 3 years getting to know Cascais and what it has to offer. While I will never be a native Portuguese (much to my disappointment!) I’m very proud and honoured to call the country, and Cascais home.
Here I’ll share my insider knowledge of Cascais, rather than simply regurgitating information you can find anywhere online. In addition to the knowledge I’ve gained from living here I spend many hours researching and writing my guides so that they are truly one of a kind. I do this because there are very few reliable and meaningful travel guides for Portugal.
I’m not against anything that is popular. Top attractions are top for a reason. I’ve enjoyed many amazing and popular tourist attractions in Portugal, however the best experiences I’ve had have been when I’ve wandered a few streets back. Although I’ll aim to mention the most popular tourist spots in all my guides, they will never be the main focus, simply because the information is already out there for you to find.
My main priority for this travel guide is to share the real experiences that I think offer a good glimpse of Cascais. I aim to be an honest source of information for travel in Portugal and I hope you find this guide helpful in planning your trip to Cascais.
So without further ado….
Why Visit Cascais?
If its nickname ‘Charm of the Atlantic’ doesn’t make you at least a bit curious then let me share some of the reasons you should visit Cascais.
Cascais’ historical centre is the definition of charming. Imagine tiny streets of calçada lined with pastel hued houses decorated in bougainvillaea. Just utterly dreamy. If you did nothing else but wander these streets you would be glad you made the visit.
Beach please! Cascais is home to a string of stunning and captivating beaches from the local hang out of praia da Poça to the tiny but picturesque Praia da Rainha, right up to the windswept and mountain-backed Praia do Guincho. Cascais is a beach hopping paradise satisfyingly close to Lisbon.
Fresh air and outdoor activities. Cascais is no doubt a great place to relax but this seaside town is also one of the best places for an active holiday in Portugal. There is an abundance of activities to take part in such as cycling, surfing, sailing and SUP. If you’re a keen runner or cyclist there is a great 10km cycle path that runs from the Cascais centre to Guincho that follows the coast the whole way. And let’s not forget hiking! Malveira da Serra is only 20 minutes away and has some great trails to enjoy.
Foodie heaven. Cascais is home to a surprising amount of amazing bars and restaurants with all types of cuisine. Whatever you fancy, there’s a good chance Cascais has it. I’ve written a specific guide for this so hop on over if you are in need of some food inspiration.
Where is Cascais?
Cascais is part of Lisbon district just 15 km west of Lisbon city. The town sits right on the coast just a short distance from Sintra.
How to get to, from and around Cascais
I am the biggest advocate for driving in Portugal but for once I’m going to say cars aren’t the best mode of transport in this area. The best way to get to and around Cascais is not with a car. Unless you are planning on driving to Guincho or further up the coast then you don’t really need a car in Cascais. The easiest way to get to Cascais is by train from Lisbon.
Driving to Cascais
If you do drive to Cascais I recommend arriving before 10am in the morning to secure a spot and avoid the worst of the traffic. Traffic in and out of Lisbon during rush hour morning and evening can be very busy so try to avoid it where possible.
Parking in Cascais
I don’t usually talk about parking but I wanted to mention that finding parking in Cascais can be difficult during the busy periods, and free parking is like gold dust. My advice would be, if you don’t absolutely need a car, don’t bring one. There are several main car parks but Marchael Carmona is the best in terms of space, ease and location. Alternatively, if you don’t mind a 20/25 minute walk there is lots of free street parking next to Eurostars hotel in Guia. Some of the main hotels have car parking but most guest houses and Airbnb’s do not.
Taking the train to Cascais
If you are visiting from Lisbon then you can use the Linha de Cascais train that departs from Cais do Sodre every 20 minutes; it takes around 35 minutes.Trains run daily between 6am to 1am. There is a great app you can download at www.cp.pt which shows you all the scheduled trains. You cannot book tickets in advance for this journey. To get your ticket visit one of the machines in the train or metro station and buy a Viva card for €0.50 then top that up with a return journey to Cascais which is around €4.40.
Getting around Cascais
The best way to get around Cascais is by walking. It’s a relatively small town with very few inclines (in comparison to Lisbon!). Cascais is home to the same slippery calçada though so bear that in mind. Uber and Bolt are available and very cheap which you might want to consider for a trip to Praia do Guincho, Cabo da Roca or Malveria da Serra.
If you are visiting Cascais as part of a larger trip then you can hire a car to get around. This way you’ll be able to stop off at some harder to reach places. I always recommend Zest because I have used them many times for my road trip around Portugal without any problem. My tip would be to pick up from Lisbon airport rather than central Lisbon.
How to get to Sintra from Cascais
If you’re thinking of combining Cascais with a trip to Sintra, note that driving to and around Sintra in the peak season is very busy and parking is a faff. Avoid if possible
You can get a bus to Sintra from Cascais here, or there is a very easy and cheap train from Oriente station in Lisbon. If you’re visiting outside of the busiest season the driving is not so bad, but bear in mind that the car parks are outside the centre of Sintra and a long way from Pena Palace. Alternatively think about using a tour guide for the day. Tour guides can get booked up months in advance so once you’ve done your research and found the perfect match get booking!
Cascais and Sintra in one day?
Unpopular opinion but I don’t think it’s the best idea to visit Cascais and Sintra in one day. You can technically do it but you won’t have time to enjoy the sights properly. Sintra specifically has a lot to explore that takes a lot of pre-planning. If you have the time, my advice would be to spend at least 1 full day in each. You could spend an afternoon in Cascais and see a lot but half a day is not really enough for Sintra. If you absolutely must do both in one day then work with a travel guide/driver to do it. I can personally recommend Portuguese for a Day tours.
Where to stay in Cascais
Firstly I want to start by saying do try and actually stay in Cascais rather than just doing a day trip. While I totally agree Cascais is a great (and easy) day trip from Lisbon, there is something special about staying overnight here. Especially if you have been staying in the buzz of the city the rest of the time. Spend a night, get up early for sunrise and have the beach to yourself. Take actual time to see Cascais and not just rush around to tick the box and you’ll appreciate it much more.
This is one of the few travel guides I’ve written where I can’t share recommendations for accommodation based on personal stay experience. I usually always share places I’ve actually stayed the night but since I live here, I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet. However I do know where the best stays are located. Here is my Cascais wish list based on location, facilities and character.
Hotels/Resorts in Cascais
Surrounded by nature. Located close to Guia a very short drive from Cascais centre. Features large outdoor pool and terrace with bar. It also has a great spa with massage and afternoon tea available. (I can personally recommend the spa afternoon tea package).
5* Pousada hotel with an “art district”. Right in the historical centre, next to the marina. Features include outdoor pool surrounded by tropical gardens, a gym and a spa.
Boutique hotel with rooftop pool and shared terrace.
5* Right on one of the most popular beaches in Cascais with 180 degree sea views.
Guesthouses in Cascais
Family guesthouse in central Cascais with a focus on sustainability. Surfy beach vibe and has an excellent stone-baked pizza restaurant on site (featured in the Cascais Eats + Drinks Guide).
Apartments/ Airbnb’s in Cascais
2 bedroom apartment just 200 meters from the pretty praia da Rainha.
Stylish 3 bedroom apartment. Not central but with free parking (hard to find in Cascais!).
Best Cascais Activities & Experiences
Cascais can be a place to wander and relax or a place to get outdoors and active and anything in between. Whether you are here for beach time, a family holiday or a romantic getaway Cascais has plenty to keep you busy.
Wander the Historical Centre
Definitely set aside some time to wander. Cascais is one of the most beautiful destinations to get lost in. Keep walking until you get thirsty or hungry. Stop off for a bite to eat or a coffee. Repeat.
Pick up picnic supplies at Mercado da Vila
One of the best produce markets I’ve visited in Portugal (and I’ve visited a lot). The market is very well organised and a fantastic place to pick up fresh ingredients for a picnic in the park or dinner at home. There is also a butchers, large fish market and a few highly rated restaurants.
Get Windswept at Praia do Guincho
One of the most unique beaches I’ve visited in Portugal. Compared to Cascais bay, Praia do Guincho is wild. It has a remote feeling to it and outstanding beauty surrounding it. This is a great spot to surf too. Beware, it can get very windy in the summer!
Fall in Love with The Santa Marta Viewpoint
Ok so if you’ve already done some Cascais research you’ve probably seen this view. It has got to be Cascais’ most scenic spot. As you can see it’s gorgeous, and even better in real life. At mid tide on a calm day the water is at its most alluring. I am always surprised that it doesn’t get busier than it is. Did you know you can climb Santa Marta lighthouse? The lighthouse has a very small museum too. It’s free on the first Sunday of each month (like most museums in Cascais).
Find a Peacock in Marchael Carmona
If you have kids (and even if you don’t) Marchael Carmona is a large park with a cafe, library and a whole range of birds including chickens, geese and a few peacocks. There are lots of shady spots and it makes a great location for a summer picnic. Many locals hold kid’s birthday parties here and it’s the perfect place to bring your little ones.
Take away Pizza on the beach at sunset
Go Paddle boarding in the Bay
For the majority of the year Cascais bay is calm, making it the perfect place to try out some paddle boarding. You can rent right from the beach at SUP com Alma. Enjoy a few hours cruising around above (or falling in) the big blue. In the summer months you will also find a giant inflatable assault course which is great for kids with too much energy!
Hire an eBike and Cycle the N247 to Casa da Guia
As I already mentioned Cascais has a brilliant cycle path that runs all the way to Praia do Guincho. Pick up a bike from one of several locations in town (including next to the train station, next to hotel Baía and next to Santa Marta Lighthouse) and pay via app. Set off to Casa da Guia where you’ll find a collection cafes, restaurants and shops perched on the edge of the cliffs. Come for lunch and enjoy a chilled afternoon in a unique location. Don’t forget to stop off at Boca do Inferno on your journey. Still got some energy left after lunch? The cycle path runs all the way to Praia do Guincho!
Take a peek at the Paulo Rego Museum
Take a wander around the fascinating Paula Rego museum. Rego, who was born in Portugal displays both parmanent and temporary exhibitions.
Summer Sangria (or an ice cream!) at Cresmina
If you’re in Cascais in the summer and want to avoid the crowds of the bay head out west towards guincho but stop off at Praia da Cresmina. This sandy beach is a lovely place to spend an afternoon, made even better by the beach bar which serves up giant cups of sweet, refreshing sangria. Bring cash!
Where to Eat and Drink in Cascais
There are so many fantastic dining experiences in Cascais it deserves it’s own guide, so I wrote one…
For a quick run down of places to eat, see below…
Bairro Amarelo (yellow district) is a car-free, restaurant-packed area and in my opinion the best area to eat out in Cascais. There is always a really buzzy atmosphere and the perfect outdoor dining environment. A few great restaurants here include Malacopa, Taberna Clandestina and Souldough.
This 3km beach walk runs right from central Cascais all the way to Praia do Poça. If you’re planning on spending some time on the sand, save these places to your wish list… Emma, Azimut, The Beach Club.
Typical Eats in Cascais
O Cantinho da Belinha – Portuguese tasca
Jardim dos Frangos – Portuguese style chicken and chips
A Leitaria – Cheap Portuguese snacks and lunches
Speciality coffee in Cascais
When I first moved here back in 2020 the excellent Lusophonica was the only place you could find speciality coffee in Cascais. Now you can also grab amazing coffee and brunch at Milkees, Euphoria and Fábrica.
Planning a trip to Portugal, Spain or Italy? I’m here to help.
If you want to plan the perfect trip but there are just too many options, I can help you make the most of your time. If you want a personalised travel itinerary, full to the brim with authentic experiences, I’ve got you…
Best Day Trips from Cascais
Azenhas do Mar
This pretty village tumbles down the cliff to a great beach and sea pool. Book a table outside at Agua e Sal to enjoy some super fresh and tasty fish. You won’t regret it.
Malveria da Serra
Hit one of the many hiking trails in Malveira and take in the views of Praia do Guincho. This 12km route starts at the village and takes you on a lovely loop.
Magical Sintra is very close to Cascais and a brilliant day trip to bolt on to your time in Cascais. Remember, if you want to do the main attractions in Sintra allow for plenty of time. You need at least a full day.
Cabo Da Roca and the west coast
Mainland Europe’s most westerly point and the starting point to a string of cliff backed beaches worth a stop at. My pick is always Praia do Magoito.
There we have it, my travel guide for Cascais Portugal! Don’t forget to make time to get lost, explore the streets and find some experiences to call your own. I hope you enjoy this corner of Portugal as much as I do.
Money in Europe
The majority of hotels, shops and restaurants in the bigger cities accept card but some smaller places only accept cash or non-foreign cards. Always carry some cash with you. ATM’s are easy to find all over the town. Unless you already have a Euro currency bank account I highly recommend getting a Wise Card. This will allow you to hold and exchange multiple currencies at the best possible rate. There is no charge for withdrawing or using your card to pay. I’ve been living in Portugal since 2016 and I use Wise as my primary bank card here despite also having a Portuguese bank account. I’ve also used Wise to pay and withdraw money in Spain and Italy.
Top tip: Avoid Multi Currency machines such as ‘Euronet’ (usually set up outside souvenir shops etc) as they charge you 3 or 4 euro to withdraw. Look for ‘Multibanco’ machines to withdraw money. More info here…