18 Best Things to Do in Cascais

Cascais has been one of Portugal's chicest coastal escapes since the country's nobility first made it their retreat of choice as they followed in the footsteps of none other than King Luis I in the 1870s. It's reputation only grew during the 1940s, when it became the destination of choice for overthrown members of royalty from right across Europe. Their stories are told in the Exiles Memorial Centre, one of many exciting Cascais museums.

Easily reached from both Lisbon and Sintra, Cascais is arguably the jewel in the crown of the Portuguese Riviera. Its attractive cobbled streets are lined with whitewashed buildings. They reflect the summer sunlight while maintaining an authentic Portuguese vibe.

Surrounded by expansive beaches including Praia do Guincho, Cascais is also popular with water sports enthusiasts keen to tackle the waves on surfboards or by windsurfing and kitesurfing. It also has enough golf courses to fill the average family holiday, while Casino Estoril has long been known by fans of blackjack and roulette, including James Bond author Ian Fleming.

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  • Museu do Mar, Cascais
    Museu do Mar

    The Museu do Mar, Rei D. Carlos, to give it its full name; or the King Carlos Museum of the Sea is set near the centre of Cascais. It is a modern museum (opened in 1992) that embraces both traditional and modern multimedia style exhibitions.

    Much of the museum's content relates to Cascais' relationship with the sea, although a good deal of this applies to the sea in general.

    The museum is split into several themed rooms set over a couple of floors. Amongst the more local themes is the Cascais shipwrecks theme with exhibits recovered from some of the numerous wrecks along this...


  • Pena Palace Sintra
    Pena Palace
    IPPA/António Sacchetti

    Fairytale castle meets Disney palace set on top of the hill high above Sintra. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the finest examples of 19th century Romanticism anywhere in the world


  • Cidadela de Cascais
    Cidadela de Cascais

    This 15th century citadel, overlooking Cascais marina at the mouth of the Tejo Estuary, has played a crucial role in the history of Portugal, having witnessed fights against pirates as well as battles against Spanish and French forces.

    The original fort and tower, Torre de Santo Antonio de Cascais was built on the orders of King John II of Portugal and completed in 1490, as part of a series of defensive positions to protect the city of Lisbon from invasion by sea. But in 1580 the defences proved inadequate to resist invasion by the Duke of Alba, who...


  • Cascais Marina
    Cascais Marina

    Cascais has a long-established seafaring tradition dating back to the Age of Discovery.  The modern marina was only built in 1999, with the more recent additions of shops, high-end bars and restaurants.  The marina in Cascais is the third largest in Portugal and has hosted a number of world-class sailing events including the America’s Cup World Series 2011 and the ISAF World Sailing Championship 2007.

    There is a lively atmosphere here in the summer months, with the usual yachting crowds mingling with tourists who come here to admire the array of splendid sailing craft, people-watch...


    Public Places
  • Palácio dos Condes de Castro Guimarães - Cascais
    Palácio dos Condes de Castro Guimarães
    Joaomartinho63 | BY-SA

    Set within the leafy grounds of the Parque Marechal Carmona is the Museu dos Condes de Castro Guimarães - the museum / library of the counts of Castro Guimarães. The museum is housed in one of the most imposing villas in Cascais, which is also known as the Tower of São Sebastião.

    This fantastic mansion by the sea is worth a visit in its own right. The house was built in the 19th century for Jorge O'Neill, the head of a Portuguese / Irish dynasty with links to the nobility. It encompasses several architectural themes the dominant of...


  • Santa Marta lighthouse - Cascais
    Santa Marta lighthouse

    The easily recognisable Santa Marta lighthouse stands on what was once the southern tip of Cascais (the marina now extends beyond the point). Built in 1868 on the site of a 17th century fort the lighthouse only came into operation after the site was stripped of its military status.

    Santa Marta's distinctive blue and white striped tower stands at 8 metres (25ft) tall and still stands guard over the mouth of the Tagus. Until 1981 it was manned continuously by lighthouse keepers, however these days the light is automated.

    The lighthouse and fort now incorporate a small museum...


  • Boca do Inferno, Cascais
    Boca do Inferno, Cascais
    singra13 | BY-SA

    Literally translated, Boca do Inferno means the "Mouth of Hell". Whether this coastal rock formation near Cascais actually lives up to its name largely depends on the sea conditions. On a calm, sunny day it can be positively idyllic, however, when the full fury of an Atlantic storm is thrown this way the display can be awe-inspiring.

    Boca do Inferno is located on the western edge of Cascais, around from the Santa Marta lighthouse. It is easily reachable from the town on foot but there is also plenty of parking here (and a restaurant) if you are driving.

    The name Boca do...


  • Casino Estoril
    Casino do Estoril
    kenward | BY-SA

    Whilst maybe not quite as glitzy as Las Vegas the Casino in Estoril is reputed to be the largest in Europe. Whether or not this is still case the casino is definitely big, offering over 1,000 slot machines. Game tables include roulette, blackjack, banca francesa, punto banco, baccarat and poker.

    In addition to the gambling on offer the casino is also an entertainment venue with events held in the 1,000 seat Salão Preto e Prata There is also an auditorium where concerts are held and an art gallery with permanent painting and sculpture exhibitions.

    Estoril Casino is also home...


  • Moors Castle - Sintra

    Situated on a high hilltop above the town of Sintra the site does indeed date back to the Moorish occupation of Portugal. The walls and towers that you see now though are the Romantic/decorative work of the 19th century King Ferdinand II


  • Quinta da Regaleira - Sintra
    Quinta da Regaleira

    Stunning romantic style palace and chapel set in parkland featuring lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. Built by Carvalho Monteiro at the turn of the century as a private residence the estate was in private hands until it was purchased by the local council in 1997


  • National Palace - Sintra
    National Palace - Sintra
    IPPA/Jose Manuel

    The National Palace mainly dates back to 15th and 16th century. Set in the heart of Sintra's old town, the twin conical chimneys still dominates the skyline. Built in a mixture of Gothic, Manueline and Moorish styles, the palace is not out of place in Sintra


  • Convento dos Capuchos
    Convento dos Capuchos
    User:W.Rebel | BY-SA

    If you’re looking to escape from Sintra's well-trodden tourist hotspots, and find a quiet, contemplative spot, this former monastery is just the spot. Almost hidden in a shroud of greenery, it gives a glimpse of the simple lifestyle of 16th century Franciscan monks and an opportunity to get away from it all. 

    The Convento dos Capuchos in the Serra de Sintra National Park was founded in 1560 and provided a place of retreat and penance.  In the 1830's, anti-clerical reforms led to the banning of many Portuguese religious orders and their assets were...


  • Cabo da Roca
    Cabo da Roca

    The rocky headland of Cabo da Roca , 40 kilometres southwest of Lisbon, has the distinction of being the most westerly point of mainland Europe and the Eurasian landmass and there is a monument here to tell you just that. To make sure you are still in no doubt, certificates to prove you have been here can be bought from the souvenir shop.

    The stunning view from the 144 metre-high (500ft) granite cliffs takes in the Serra de Sintra, the big open sky and the crashing waves of the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean.  No wonder it was once thought that this place...


  • Sintra Tram Eletricos
    Sintra - Praia das Macas Tram
    Alain GAVILLET | BY-SA

    This vintage narrow-gauge tramway connects Sintra with the lively coastal resort of Praia das Macas, 14 kilometres to the west.  The line dates back to 1904 and the open red, wooden carriages are a favourite with younger visitors. 

    Don't expect modern comforts or an efficient journey. In the height of the summer season there can be a long wait to board the tram and queue jumpers can be an annoyance.  The journey itself can be quite hair-raising, with plenty of sudden jolts and stops accompanied by the screech of noisy...


  • Palacio de Seteais - Sintra
    Palacio de Seteais - Sintra
    Can Stock Photo Inc

    This 18th century neoclassical palace was built for the then Dutch Consul. It later came into the hands of the 5th Marquis of Marialva who extended it significantly, adding the arch in 1802.

    The Seteais Palace occupies a prime position on the edge of the Serra de Sintra overlooking the countryside and town. It is surounded by extensive gardens with many fruit trees and features inspired by the then popular Romantic movement.

    In 1946 the Palacio de Seteais was acquired by the Portuguese government becoming a hotel in 1954. It is now the five star Tivoli-Palacio de Seteais...




Cascais travel guide »

At the end of one of the suburban train lines out of the capital lies Cascais. This once tiny fishing village has grown in the last century to become the elegant beach town that it is today. Visitors are no stranger to Cascais, having...