Lisbon is one of the most underrated capitals in Europe: In addition to the historic center, the Castelo overlooking the city and great museum in Belem, you also enjoy wonderful daytrips to Sintra or the beach. I had planned to visit the famous Estoril, but after some research decided to give the “new favorite” Cascais a try – and I’m glad I did!
Cascais is a popular beach destination just 1 hour by train from the capital Lisbon. After a short walk from the train station, you reach the cute pedestrian area with cobblestone streets and lots of stores. Restaurants line the little squares and while they were not very busy during my visit in the shoulder season in May, I can imagine it being much more lively during a high-season weekend! It’s wonderful to see how well the town is restored!
If you feel like a little sight seeing, you’ll find the old fortress at the Southern End of town with a pleasant promenade along its towering walls. Inside, you’ll find the old palace – today a hotel I wish I had stayed at, just for it’s location! On the other side of the fortress is a peaceful park to go for a stroll or just hang out! It’s difficult to put in words how beautiful the town is – but I took some of my favorite photos of my Iberian Explorer trip in Cascais and let them do the talking!
If you came to Cascais for the beach, you have plenty of choices. A number of smaller beaches stretch along the coast, all conveniently connected with a wide boardwalk. In fact, the boardwalk stretches all the way to Estoril, about 2.5km and it makes for a great walk. You’ll find some wide, empty stretches of sand as well as beaches with loungers and umbrellas. Behind the beaches, there are a number of restaurants and bars, so you’ll have everything you need for a day on the beach!
Estoril was the first beach getaway from Lisbon and became famous for it. These days, the Casino in the heart of town seems to be the main attraction and Cascais had a lot more character. While it’s worth visiting Estoril, Cascais is the clear winner in my book and I’d recommend to make the side trip from Lisbon – it’s as good as city beaches get!
Travel Tips: Trains to Cascais leave from Cais do Sodre station, take about 40 minutes, run frequently and tickets are less than EUR5 round-trip. The train station is close to town and it’s easy to walk into town, to the beach and along the boardwalk. The trains also stop in Estoril, so it’s easy to start in Cascais, walk along the beautiful beach boardwalk and return from Estoril or the other way around!
For a lively day on the beach, go on a summer weekend. For peace & quiet time, weekdays or the shoulder season offer great weather without the crowds. While I didn’t get a chance to stay in Cascais, spending a little extra time after the daytrippers leave is very tempting!
If you want to combine Cascais with a trip to Sintra, I recommend to start in Sintra and spend the night in Cascais – the town has a lot more to offer and seemed more fun to hang out to me!