Post Overview: Best Things to Do in Cascais, Portugal | Visiting Cascais
Sitting pretty at the western edge of the Tagus estuary, hugged by the breathtaking Sintra mountainside to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Cascais is Portugal’s dreamy coastal town. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of fun to be had while visiting Cascais.
But before we start talking about the best things to do in Cascais, we should probably address the elephant in teh room. How the heck do you pronounce this city’s name? This eluded me as well but I won’t let that happen to you, it’s pronounced “cash – kai -sh.”
I took a two day trip to Cascais during my month-long stay in Lisbon and found myself impressed by this charming seaside town. Today I’d like to roundup the town’s highlights for anyone planning a similar trip.
Where to Stay in Cascais
As mentioned, we visited Cascais in the off season and were able to score a deal on this historic hotel. It was perfect (perfect, perfect) for our stay! Very charming and right on the water, couldn’t ask for more.
A brief history of Cascais, Portugal
Located on the Portuguese Riviera, Cascais rose to prominence as a desirable seaside resort when the royal family made it their official summer residence. In typical fashion, nobility followed suit and before long, Cascais became a playground for the wealthy.
The roster of royals who have called Cascais home is quite impressive. Some notable names include King Edward VIII (who abdicated from the British throne), King Umberto II of Italy, King Juan Carlos I of Spain and exiled Cuban president Fulgencio Batista.
And you know what I always say: If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s probably good enough for me.
Visiting Cascais | Quick Tips
Wear sunscreen: You know what they say, always wear sunscreen. This is especially true while visiting Cascais because shade is hard to come by and the beaches should be enjoyed! Here’s the ONLY sunscreen I’ve used for the past 7+ years.
Wear comfortable walking shoes: Like most cities in Portugal, Cascais is very walkable. But unlike most Portuguese cities, the geography is flat so you don’t have to worry about steep hills (I’m looking at you, Lisbon & Porto). Bring comfortable walking shoes because you’ll be getting your steps in.
Cascais is dead during the winter season. Most shops are closed and many attractions close down. This is a summer town through and through, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
Best Things to Do in Cascais
Get Lost in the Historic Old Centre
As mentioned earlier, Cascais is a very walkable city. Its small size invites visitors to explore the meandering streets aimlessly. You have my full permission to get lost!
There’s no tall buildings to speak of, so you won’t feel overwhelmed as you dart from one charming corner to the next.
Exploring the Old Centre is one of the best things to do in Cascais thanks to the charming small local shops and authentic seafood restaurants waiting to be discovered. Spend an afternoon enjoying the grandeur and wealth of the buildings before parking yourself at an outdoor cafe.
It’s easy to understand why the royals were so drawn to this picturesque coast. It’s even easier to imagine the royals strolling the same streets and looking up at the same buildings all those years ago. The lazy summer months are for reminiscing, and nowhere is this easier than in Cascais’ historic old centre.
If you’re into history, head over to the historic center while visiting Cascais and learn about the city’s founding.
Tour the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães
Touring the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães was a clear highlight while visiting Cascais. This beautiful 19th century mansion pulls out all the stops (it even has a tower!).
We arrived a bit before opening and decided to tour the beautiful gardens while waiting for the musuem to open. The gardens were lovely and provided a very welcome reprieve into nature. When the museum finally opened, we popped in for tickets.
The museum is mostly a tour of the mansion with exhibits that include interesting art, Indo-Portugeuese furniture, notable manuscripts and an impressive display of rare books. I really enjoyed seeing the furnished rooms and found the preservation immaculate.
Between the bright splashes of paint and striking tiles, this ended up being one of the best things to do in Cascais during our trip. I highly recommend popping in for a tour, I think you may enjoy it too.
Visit the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum
Built in 1868 on the grounds of the decommissioned Santa Marta Fort, visiting the Farol de Santa Marta (Santa Marta lighthouse and museum) may be worth your time while visiting Cascais if you’re into lighthouses.
The museum was established by the Portuguese Navy and gives visitors a chance to learn about Portuguese lighthouses. This informative musuem focuses exclusively on lighthouses and provides a general overview of what it takes to operate these vital structures.
You’ll get a chance to learn about the function, history, technology and everyday life of the lighthouse keeper. Having a museum combined with a working lighthouse is not common practice, so this is considered a very unique thing to do in Cascais and we’re glad we took advantage.
Spend an afternoon at Praia da Rainha
Portugal’s iconic rugged coastline is known the world over, so why not experience the splendor for yourself? Cascais itself has no shortage of spectacular beaches to choose from, but one of my favorites is Praia da Rainha.
When we visited last January, the beach was completely empty spare for one gal taking an early morning dip (photo below). But we’ve seen photos of this gem in the summer months where every square inch of sand is occupied by beach towels and umbrellas.
Regardless of the time of year you visit, make sure to pop in for a relaxing minute or two. Cascais is known for its beaches and Praia da Rainha is considered the cream of the crop.
Visit the Citadel Palace
I’m probably not the first to point out that Europe has a lot of fortresses. So many fortresses. And after a while it’s easy to get fortress fatigue, but every once in a while you can find a gem.
Portugal has a breathtaking display of castles, palaces and fortresses so I was hardly surprised to come across the Citadel Palace while visiting Cascais.
Build between the 15th and 17th centuries, the citadel served as a fortification before being transformed into the summer residents for Portuguese royals. The building was extensively renovated and now serves as a museum, hotel and art center.
Touring the Citadel Palace is one of the best things to do in Cascais for history buffs. You’ll get a chance to learn about the country’s history, the royal family, see some interesting art and well decorated palatial rooms.
Tour the Casa das Historias Paula Rego
I was truly surprised by the number of art exhibits, museums and monuments while visiting Cascais. I had no idea the city catered to art lovers left and right.
The Casa das Histórias Paul translates to “House of Stories Paula Rego” in Portuguese. This musuem is dedicated to the works of renowned Portuguese artist Paula Rego (1935-2022).
The musuem houses the artist’s paintings, drawings and etchings produced over a 50 year span. There’s a handful of permanent exhibits mixed in with rotating ones that follow different themes.
I found the art to be unusual and thought-provoking. My husband and I had a great time trying to decipher meaning and had an enjoyable evening exploring this gem of a museum while visiting Cascais.
Designed by architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, the building itself is a magnificent sight to behold and worth the trip alone. I mean, just look at this thing! So whether you’re into architecture or art, touring this musuem is one of the best things to do in Cascais and should be added to your itinerary.
Ride Your Bike Along the Sea While Visiting Cascais
Okay, I saved the best for last, and if you read this far down then you get the reward of knowing what tops my personal list of the best things to do in Cascais.
Drum roll please, biking along the coastline! And I visited in winter, to boot. I can only imagine how enjoyable this would be in the warm spring and summer months.
Breathing in the salty sea air, the scenic ride over is revitalizing. The designated bike path makes this activity a breeze. You’ll ride alongside magnificent cliffs and panoramic ocean views with ample opportunities to pop off at interesting sights.
Pick up a rental bike (the day fees are nominal) and get your heart pumping while visiting Cascais. The path is flat, well marked and made me feel safe. Just keep biking until you’re ready to return.
One of the highlights from the ride was popping off at the Devil’s Mouth (Boca do Inferno), a chasm located in the seaside cliffs. My husband and I watched the violent waves clash below while two local men cast fishing poles into the sea, unfazed.
All told, this ended up being one of the most relaxing things to do in Cascais and I highly recommend.
More Time? Some More Fun Things to Do in Cascais
See the Westernmost Point in Europe
Want to see exactly where Europe begins (or ends, depending on how you look at it)? Head to Cabo da Roca, a mere 40-minute bus ride from Cascais. Have a car? You can shave that down to 30 minutes.
Visiting Cabo da Roca is considered one of the best things to do in Cascais. The reason is simple – getting to Cabo da Roca requires little effort but the significance is profound. Take bus 403 (runs every 30 minutes) and enjoy a scenic 22-minute ride.
The fare is €4.35 one-way and can be bought from the driver (have cash with you!).
Massive rock outcropping rise from the depths of the formidable Atlantic Ocean while a lighthouse offers some semblance of protection.
If you plan to visit Cabo da Roca then you’ll want to dress accordingly. The wind is incredibly strong so you’ll need to bring a warm jacket and snug warm hat (loose hats may fly off). We were freezing but hey — when else will you get an opportunity like this?
While exploring Cabo da Roca, you can hike to Praia da Ursa
If you’re into hearty hikes, this one is for you. Praia da Ursa is a secluded picturesque beach that rewards nature nuts with incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The trailhead starts at the same parking lot as the lighthouse. Most visitors snap a few photos of the lighthouse, take a short walk around the grounds and then eagerly wait for the bus to arrive so they can escape the cold.
But a handful of adventurous travelers choose to take the path less traveled and start making their way down a steep trail towards the beach. The trail follows a cliff side that offers epic views of the rugged coastline below.
It takes about 40 minutes to hike down and a bit longer to get back. You know the drill: Sturdy shoes are non-negotiable, this is not a place you want to slip.
If you have the strength to do this then more power to you! This is one of the most adventurous things to do in Cascais, I’m sure you’ll love it.
James Bond fan? Visit Casino Estoril
While in Estoril make sure to visit the Casino Estoril, which inspired Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. But if I’m being honest with you (as I’m inclined to be) I’d say you can skip this unless you’re a die hard fan. The casino feels tired, like that one coworker that should have retired 10 years ago.
My husband thought this was a cool spot and suggested I mention it for anyone looking for unique things to do in Cascais. He couldn’t wait to send photos of himself in front of Casino Estoril to his brothers (but I love him regardless).
Taking a day trip from Lisbon to Cascais
Getting to Cascais from Lisbon is a breeze. Portugal has a great public transportation system and the trains are easy to use. Simply pop on the train from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré Station (near the Time Out Market) and take a 40-minute scenic ride to Cascais.
The train runs every 12-20 minutes (depending on time of day) and the fare is €2.30 one-way per person, of free with the Lisboa Card.
Best Things to Do Cascais, Portugal | Visiting Cascais (Post Roundup)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the best things to do in Cascais. Hope you enjoyed!
- Get Lost in the Historic Old Centre
- Tour the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães
- Visit the Santa Marta Lighthouse & Museum
- Spend an afternoon at Praia da Rainha
- Visit the Cascais Citadel Palace
- Visit Casa das Historias Paula Rego
- Bike to Praia do Guincho
- See the Westernmost Point in Europe
- Hike to Praia da Ursa
- James Bond fan? Visit Casino Estoril
What do you think?