Cascais was once a small fishing village near Lisbon. From the moment the Portuguese nobility started to discover this place, Cascais has started to develop as a seaside resort. Today, fishermen still land fish, but tourism is Cascais’ major economic driver. Over the years, Cascais has grown into a great seaside resort. The elements that are so necessary for a beach holiday are present here: sun, sea and sand. This is complemented by wonderful restaurants, a relaxed lifestyle and a number of fascinating sights. Cascais is therefore a holiday destination for many that meets the overall picture. Do you want to know what to see and do in Cascais? We will help you on your way with our top 10 sights of Cascais.
The direct train connection with Lisbon ensures that Cascais can be reached from the Portuguese capital within about 45 minutes. For those who do not celebrate a holiday in Cascais itself, it is therefore quite possible to just enjoy a day at the beach and sightseeing from Lisbon. Are you in possession of the Lisboa Card ? Then you can travel for free by train between Lisbon and Cascais.
Top 10 sights of Cascais
#1. The beaches
According to Recipesinthebox.com, the beaches are the main reason to visit Cascais. Especially in the summer months, the wonderful sandy beaches are great for sunbathing and taking a dip in the refreshing water. The most popular beach in Cascais is Praia de Rainha. This fine sandy beach is sheltered between the cliffs. As a result, it is also great to stay here on the beach during slightly cooler days. Praia Ribeira is considered the main beach of Cascais. This sandy beach is located directly in front of the most central part of Cascais. On the east side are the larger beaches of Cascais: Praia Nossa Senhora da Conceicao and Praia da Duquesa.
#2. Historical centre
The historic center is the most atmospheric part of Cascais. It actually consists of two pieces. Most tourists visit the area around the Alameda Combatentes da Grande Guerra. Here you will find the nice shops and a large number of food and beverage outlets. You can admire beautiful pieces of street art in a number of places. The car-free Largo Luís de Camões is popular for its restaurants and terraces. The also car-free Rua Frederico Arouca is the most popular shopping street in Cascais. This pedestrian street is paved with cobblestones that create patterns that mimic sea waves.
The western part of the historic center is less frequented, but is therefore more authentic. Mainly normal daily life still takes place here. Between the houses are a number of beautiful buildings such as the Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes. This is the oldest church in Cascais. Unfortunately, you cannot visit this baroque church outside of services.
#3. House of Stories Paula Rego
The Casa das Histórias Paula Rego is a museum in Cascais. The architecture of the building alone is a sight in itself. The red-brown building was designed by the Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. The color of the concrete seems to be inspired by the color of gravel. The museum is built on the site where tennis courts used to be. The two pyramid-shaped towers are striking.
The Casa das Histórias Paula Rego houses a collection of works created by the artist Paula Rego (1935-2022). The collection consists of paintings, drawings and etchings made by the artist on various media and using a wide range of techniques. This gives you a good idea of her fifty-year career as an artist.
#4. Viewpoint House of Santa Maria
In the southwest of Cascais you can enjoy a beautiful view. The Mirador Casa de Santa María is the most famous and, according to us, the most beautiful viewpoint of Cascais. You look out over a clear blue bay on the Cascais lighthouse and the Casa de Santa María, after which the viewpoint is named. Casa de Santa Maria is a stately home that was built in the early 20th century for an Irish millionaire who made his fortune in the tobacco industry.
The Santa Marta Lighthouse is located south of the center of Cascais. The quadrangular masonry tower provides a light for the bay of Cascais and for the city’s new marina. The lighthouse was built in 1868 on the grounds of the Santa Marta Fort, which now houses a lighthouse museum. The lighthouse has a height of 20 meters. The light has a range of 18 nautical miles. The Cascais Lighthouse is now fully automated.
#5. The rugged coast
West of Cascais the coast changes. Here you will not find soft sandy beaches, but hard rocks. The natural elements of water and wind have created a much rougher coastal area here. It is worth walking from the center of Cascais along the Avenida Rei Humberto II de Itália first to the rocks of Pedra de Nau and then to the Boca do Inferno. This is a cave formed by erosion in a cliff. This ‘Mouth of Hell’ causes the water to rise considerably in a somewhat rougher sea. Tourists love to watch this spectacle, located a fifteen minute walk from Cascais.
#6. Counts of Castro Museum
The Museu Condes de Castro is a palace built in 1897 by Jorge O’Neill to a design by Luigi Magnini. This architect is also known for some important neo-Manueline revivalist projects such as the Bussaco Palace Hotel in central Portugal and Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra. The building was further developed by the prominent painter and architect Francisco Vilaça.
Set in a small bay so close to the sea that the water actually washes around the building at high tide, the location of this fine example of the Revivalist architectural style is as attractive as its contents. The museum’s exhibits include an impressive art collection, rare pieces of Indo-Portuguese furniture, some prehistoric archaeological remains, and a library known for its 1505 illuminated manuscript and some richly bound volumes from the seventeenth century.
#7. Marechal Carmona Park
The Marechal Carmona Park, also known as Gandarinha Park, is one of the most extensive and beautiful gardens in Cascais. Located in the historic center of the city, the park includes the gardens of the Palace of the Condes of Castro Guimarães and owned by the Viscount of Gandarinha. It has large trees, spacious lawns, flower beds and herbaceous ornamental shrubs. Furthermore, the Parque Marechal Carmona houses many interesting architectural and sculptural elements.
#8. Palacete Seixas
The Palacete Seixas is a striking structure that was built at the beginning of the twentieth century in one of the most beautiful places in Cascais. It is built over the ancient fortress of S. Catarina, or Baluarte da Foz. If you look at Palacete Seixas from the front, you can still see the remains of the original wall. Today it functions as Palacete Seixas, a mess for naval officers. Much of the beauty and splendor within has been preserved.
You can count the Palacete Seixas among the most characteristic buildings in Cascais. Striking are the decorative elements, with themes related to the sea.
#9. Citadel of Cascais
The Citadel of Cascais (Cidadela de Cascais) is a series of fortifications built between the 15th and 17th centuries to defend the Cascais coastline and the mouth of the Tagus River. The first construction of a fort on the site took place between 1410 and 1415. Improvements to this were deemed necessary as Cascais Bay was under constant threat from the English. The current fortress dates from the end of the sixteenth century, with a number of extensions and reinforcements in the seventeenth century. After the citadel lost its role as a defensive stronghold, it became a refuge for the royal family and the nobility. At the end of the twentieth century, the complex was restored and incorporated into the modern design of the surrounding areas. It now forms an impressive backdrop to the new marina of Cascais. A hotel has been built in the buildings of the Citadel, which now also houses an art center (Cidadela Arts District).
#10. Municipal Chamber
The historic town hall of Cascais is a picture to see. It is especially the facade that impresses thanks to the very detailed painted tiles (azulejos). The blue and gold tones combine wonderfully with the natural stones used for construction. The Camara Municipal still has an administrative function. Part of the eighteenth-century building is used as a city museum. Here you will learn everything about the history of Cascais to the present day.