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Vila de Cascais
Fotografia: Ana Luzia Bay of Cascais

30 reasons to fall in love with Cascais

Either for the weather, the locals or the delicious food. Prepare to fall head over heels for Cascais

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Firstly, congratulations for choosing to explore such a heavenly destination. Welcome! Prepare to discover a historic town where once kings and aristocrats lived, and which is now the home of people who like to live well and unhurriedly. Before learning what will make you fall in love with Cascais, a warning - you may end up feeling like cancelling your return flight.

Recommended: The best way to spend 48 hours in Cascais

30 reasons to fall in love with Cascais

1. People will greet you with arms wide open

“Cascalenses” are happy people, really happy. Living in a seaside paradise, surrounded by the ocean and by greenery, helps keep the happiness levels way up. So does having fresh fish right at their doorstep and... well, you will find more reasons in the next few pages. And since happiness is better shared (said a wise soul sometime), proud locals will want to share it with you, dear visitor. Even more: they will be eager to show you what a great choice living here is. And you will be likely to agree.

2. Live life as if it was summer all year long

This isn’t a tropical land, but you’re not far from that warm, nice feeling. You get to wear sleeveless shirts even in spring and autumn. It helps that beaches form a spine of sorts for Cascais, and that the average number of sunny days per year is around 300 (yes, you read that right). Thus, even in the coldest months, the waters are full of surfers, the beaches are full of athletes and the Cascais “paredão” is full of people strolling. Follow them.

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Casa das Historias
Casa das Historias
© Casa das Historias

3. There is a district full of museums

It’s actually called Museum Quarter, and the museums are almost all within an easily walkable distance. For now, we’ll just whet your appetite about the best way of learning the history of Cascais. Start with the Town Museum, located in the same building as the City Hall, where you can find everything about the town you’re at. Then move on to Sommer House, home of the Cascais Municipal Archive, where Ribeira Beach temporary exhibitions are held. Cross the garden in front of the park and enter the Rei D. Carlos Museum of the Sea, where stories about the fishing community of Cascais are joined by interactive information about the bottom of the ocean. Without having to make your way back out to the street, walk towards the Paula Rego House of Stories, where the museum’s trove of works by the Cascais-born artist is shown in temporary exhibitions. And all this was just a taste... You can find more information at www. bairrodosmuseus.cascais.pt

Drogaria Costa
Drogaria Costa
Fotografia: Joana Freitas

4. You get to know one of the country’s oldest general stores...

Shopping Cascais

Which is still open for business. Drogaria Costa is located right in the middle of Cascais, and is one of the few general stores left in town. It is 127 years old, a family business, and if you are not familiar with the Portuguese concept of a “drogaria”, it’s a store where everything you require for a tidy home is for sale - from mops to detergents, from brooms to watering cans, from electric outlets to brushes, and also shampoos, hairpins, soaps, anything. They have a homemade recipe for a special oil, sold in bulk, for cleaning furniture.

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5. ... and another general store that sells the best china in the nation

Shopping Grocery stores Cascais

It is called Cajoar, located in Monte Estoril, and many locals consider it the finest general store in the Cascais Line, able to resist the big box stores by offering anything a family could need. That includes rubber fixtures to protect your car windows, lamps of all sizes and some collections of the two finest brands of ceramics and china in Portugal - Bordallo Pinheiro and Vista Alegre.

6. A natural solarium where it is never, ever windy

The name is Mexelhoeiro, the location is the Avenida Rei Humberto II de Itália, and it is not especially well known in Cascais. Accessing it is quite hard - there’s even a sign warning about the dangers of (or banning?) the descent due to the risk of a rock collapse, but there’s always people who dare going down the stone steps to lie on the rocks, sunbathing in one of the few windless spots even when the town is swept by a gale.In the Boca do Inferno road, Tamariz Two pontoonsanda park next to the yellow hot dog van, go down the stone steps and settle on one of the plainer rocks. Then just dive into the sea. Be cautious, obviously.

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Praia da Conceição
Praia da Conceição
Fotografia: Joana Freitas

7. You can check all the beaches out and pick your favourite in the end

Beaches are, let’s be clear, one of the greatest attractions for Cascais visitors in the summer. Starting in Carcavelos, Time Out provides a list of the 20 beaches not to miss. When you’re through, just pick where you want to go for a dip and relax under the sun.

 

muraliza daniel eme 2017
muraliza daniel eme 2017
©Point and shoot

8. Cascais is a hub for urban art

An open-air gallery that keeps growing: Cascais has hosted since 2014 the Muraliza festival, which paints the town’s walls in colours and drawings by renowned Portuguese street artists, such as Gonçalo Mar, Kruella d’Enfer or Mário Belém. A good part of their creations are to be found in the Torre district, where, for the first time this year, the Infinito Festival was held, increasing from 13 to 21 the number of graffittoed walls. There’s also beyond the walls: a piece depicting a Cascais fisherman, named “Terra Mar”, by Portugal’s greatest street artist, Vhils, in cooperation with Pedro Pires, near Centro Cultural de Cascais; and outside the King D. Carlos Museum of the Sea is a work by Bordalo II, “One Strange Rock”, commissioned by National Geographic.

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9. There is an all-ages skate park

Things to do Cascais

The name is Parque das Gerações (“Generations Park”), and it really means it, since the park is always full of people of all ages. It opened in 2013, after winning a vote in the local participatory budget, a process in which residents propose and vote on new community projects. The park has around 10,000 square meters of ramps and curved surfaces, perfect for skating, biking and other extreme sports. There is also a small playground for children and, as the cherry on top of the cake, everywhere in the park there is a view to the ocean.

10. Peerless hot dogs for sale

Restaurants Snack bars Cascais

OK, we haven’t had every hot dog in the world, but we know these are special. Named Hot Dog Fusão (“fusion”), they are for sale in a Casa da Guia kiosk: very fluffy, somewhat floury bread, an always hot sausage, two difference-making homemade sauces - white and pink - and potato sticks on top. You may add other ingredients, like cheese, and then just scarf it all down. Don’t bring a first date here - you are guaranteed to get covered in sauce up to your nose. To go with the dog, order one of the fruit juices on the menu, always fresh squeezed.

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Duna da Cresmina
Duna da Cresmina
Fotografia: Ana Luzia

11. There’s a dune up for interpretation

Attractions Parks and gardens Cascais

In several parts of the world, dunes are protected areas (and that’s a good thing). That goes for the Cresmine Dune as well: hiking is banned, but there are wooden gangways to let you explore it. The starting point is the Cresmine Dune Interpretation Centre, where you can join a guided tour or pick up a leaflet about the animals and plants in the area, and then walk a few kilometres to get, for instance, to Guincho. Before or after the walk, sit at the centre’s outdoors tables, with a gorgeous view of the ocean and the Sintra mountain range, and order a salad, a crepe or a grilled sandwich in Scandinavian bread, to go with a natural fruit juice.

Paul - Cascais
Paul - Cascais
Fotografia: Arlindo Camacho

12. The historic centre is very photogenic...

And as soon as you are walking through the narrow streets of Cascais, you will realize what we mean - and you will pull your camera out of the rucksack. There is a harmony between the two identities of Cascais, both fishing town and royal vacation resort, which is plain to see in the Portuguese “calçada” pavement or the low houses - many of them still inhabited by the same families that have been there for generations. We suggest roaming the centre without looking at the map and trying to luck into pretty streets such as Rua do Gama, Rua Tenente Valadim or Rua Fernandes Thomás.

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Casa de Santa Maria em Cascais
Casa de Santa Maria em Cascais
Fotografia: Manuel Manso

13. ...and there are several cottages and palaces more than 100 years old

To tell you why it is so, we have to go back in time to 1870, when King D. Luís decided to settle in the Citadel Palace, in order to be closer to the sea. The town became part of the vacation routine of the royal family and other court members; the heir to the throne, D. Carlos, reinforced the tradition in the following years. Elsewhere in Europe, more and more sea resorts appeared, in recognition of the health benefits of going to the beach. Thus, in Cascais, some bungalows were built, some for summer use, some for living year-round, in what is now known in Portugal as “holiday architecture”. You can find a route to see it all here: www.cascais.pt/rota/ arquitetura-de-veraneio, but here are some of our favourites

14. The town is an open air fitness centre

If you walk around Cascais in daytime, you may find several people in sports gear. The Cascais “Paredão” and the bike path invite you to exercise, but there’s a growing effort by the City Hall to make sports accessible to all and free. A testament to that is the mega-gym on Avenida Diana Spencer, inaugurated in 2017, near the Casa da Guia, with eight training stations. There are several information plaques to teach how to use every machine without getting injured;it’s a great complement to a session of jogging or biking, particularly if you’re going along the adjacent bike path. But we saved the best for last: the Guia Fitness Park has a lovely view of the sea. It will make the workout seem easier.

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15. The mouth of hell is here

Attractions

Be careful not to fall in. No, just kidding: one of the major tourist attractions in Cascais is called Boca do Inferno (“hell’s mouth”). It’s a curious rock formation with a natural arch where the waves clash with a hard thud. In spite of that, fishermen are always to be found sitting on the rocks, trying their luck. There are few places as beautiful in Cascais to watch the sunset, and it is also a nice spot from which to enjoy the beauty of the Cascais shoreline. If you’re thinking about proposing while on vacation in town, this is the right place for it. However, there is a legend haunting the Boca do Inferno. It is said an evil wizard once married the region’s most beautiful maiden and, miffed by her indifference, locked her in a tower near the sea, guarded by a knight that couldn’t see her. The first time their eyes did meet, the two fell in love and fled on a white horse. The wizard summoned a storm upon them, and the rocks opened, swallowing the unfortunate couple... and then never closed again, thus giving birth to the Boca do Inferno.

16. In a fishing town, you can have the best fish in the world

It is enough to see Cascais Bay from afar to realize you are in a fishing town. Many small boats dot the landscape at Cascais Bay (a.k.a. Ribeira Beach or Peixe [“fish”] Beach) leaving no doubt as to the nature of the place. On each side of it you can see the utensils employed by the fishing teams that every day go out to sea. They fish sole, croaker, octopus (by dawn), bream, ocean pout, mackerel and other species. If you are on a pescetarian diet - meaning you eat fish but not other animals - you came to the right place. If not, you won’t go wrong ordering fish anyway.

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Mercado saloio, cascais
Mercado saloio, cascais
Fotografia: Ana Luzia

17. There is a lot more than fresh produce at the town market

The central market of Cascais, rechristened in 2014 as Mercado da Vila (Town Market) was born in 1952. For decades it remained the (best) place for fresh produce, flowers and fish, but in the last three years it underwent a total renovation and became a hub for restaurants, bars and seasonal markets.

Marégrafo de Cascais
Marégrafo de Cascais
©DR

18. There’s a still- operating 1882 tide gauge

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Cascais

It was the year 1882 that Cascais got an observatory for studying tides with an analog mechanism by Amédée Phillipe Borrel, a French watchmaker. Impressively, to this day the mechanism continues to function. In 1895, the Cascais Tide Gauge (“Marégrafo”) moved to its present location, on top of a natural rock formation, on the steadiest possible platform. “The tide gauge records have been kept with no interruptions for more than 120 years”, explains José Manuel Campos, of the state heritage agency, who is in charge of the Tide Gauge’s maintenance. Seven days per week, the analog system tracks tides and records data with a pen (of different colours, changed throughout the week) on a sheet of paper. The resulting graphic is known as a “maregrama” (“tidegram”). “In the old days, this was a full time job for someone”, Campos says. The Cascais tide gauge also defined the Portuguese Altimetric Datum (the zero-level elevation), used as a reference for measuring heights in Portugal. What this means is that if you climb to the highest point of neighbouring Sintra - 528 metres high -, that altitude was measured from this sea gauge. Out of the four analog sea gauges once in Europe (the others were in France, the Netherlands and Scotland), this is the only still operating, and open for visitors.

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19. You can shop in a 19th century palace

Things to do Cascais

You can shop, have lunch, drink tea, sunbathe and pick plants for your garden in a 19th century palace. The palace in question is known as Casa da Guia. Located right above the ocean, it is one of those spots where you can spend a whole afternoon and never get bored. Casa da Guia was built in 1895 by D. José Saldanha Oliveira e Sousa de Rio Maior, and left in his will it to his daughter Maria Teresa, who lived there with her whole family until1973. Nowadays, the palace is open to the public, both the mansion and the gardens, and it functions as a shopping centre and restaurant hub. Inside are a series of shops catering mostly to a female crowd: Engy, a decoration store that also has clothing and accessories; Mia Fit, a new fitness apparel store with bathing suits and bikinis; or Harajuku, which sells women’s fashion from various international brands. Outside, with plenty of dining tables next to the wall with Casa da Guia a great view of the sea, you will find the restaurants. For carnivores, there’s Prazeres da Carne and Dom Grelhas; Confeitaria da Guia is great for breakfast or a light meal; Jammin has excellent grilled sandwiches and its espressos are very popular. You can also eat at several food kiosks, with Hot Dog Fusão the major highlight; Messias also deserves a recommendation for its wines. Beyond lots of room to breathe fresh air and run around, kids have a fully equipped playground to play in. Last but not least, this is where you will find the amazing Viveiros

farol de santa marta
farol de santa marta
©Jaime Silva

20. There’s a lighthouse renovated by top architects

Attractions Cascais

The Santa Marta Lighthouse, still active in guiding ships, was fully renovated in 2007 by two Portuguese architects, Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus. On the outside, there’s an epic outdoors cafe facing the sea, which you can visit for free. But inside, where lighthouse keepers used to live, you get to learn more. The first part of the visit contains some objects connected to Portuguese lighthouses, such as Fresnel lenses, specifically developed for lighthouses; in the second part you will find a description of a lighthouse keeper’s daily life, including his diary. To learn even more, save 15 minutes to watch a film about the history of Portuguese lighthouses.

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21. Fishing traditions go beyond food

Ask locals why they would never leave Cascais for any other place, and they are likely to mention the importance of being close to the sea. How great it is to see the ocean every day and, even better, to be able to dive in for half of the year -or the whole year if you put on a wetsuit. How great it is to enjoy all of the ocean’s blessings. Among those blessings are seashells and whelks, the basis of one of the town’s traditional crafts. For several generations, women in Cascais have come by the stalls in the Largo Cidade de Vitória whenever they want to buy a necklace, a bracelet or some earrings. Some of the stalls have been there for as long as 40 years, after spending a lifetime in front of the Bay; besides jewellery, they sell dreamcatchers, lamps and more objects made with materials from the sea - even if the beads in necklaces are, nowadays, shipped from abroad.

22. You don’t need to own a boat to go to the Marina

Things to do Cascais

A 21st century Cascais major development, with room for 650 ships, it has already hosted several sailing tournaments, taking advantage of its welcoming natural conditions. However, if you own a boat, you already know all this about the Cascais Marina. Here we present you a guide to the Marina for the rest of us. Yes, because the Marina is a place where an ordinary person can get the paper, walk the dog, drink a cup of coffee, plan a photo shoot (if you cross the Marina all the way down, the background is lovely), eat a meal, buy nautical gear and even purchase a fur coat-really: one of the country’s finest fur shops, Casa das Peles, is located here. In the Marina you will also find a Crossfit box and some bars popular among night owls, such as Hemingway, famous for its cocktails. As for food, snack at Valério, have entrecôte and fries at Brasserie de L’Entrecôte, pizza and pasta at Mercearia Vencedora, and eat a big meal of shellfish at Marisco da Praça, where the view is splendid.

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Forte de Santo António da Barra
Forte de Santo António da Barra
DR

23. Travel to the past in various forts

We already mentioned that the shore of Cascais has always been heavily fortified. Some o those forts are still in existence, and three of them are worthy of a visit: -Santo António da Barra Fort which emerger in times of privateers and invasions from the sea. Thus, in 1589, Portugal’s King Filipe I ordered the construction of a Fort between Cascais and São Julião da Barra. Later it would be the seasonal residence of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. This year, it was opened to the public, only on weekends, from 10am to 6pm. -Nossa Senhora da Luz Fortress, nowadays it has a more modern look, but the whole Citadel fortification was constructed in 1488, during the reign of D. João I. The visit is worth it both for the subterranean areas and for the old lookout posts. -São Jorge de Oitavos Fortbuilt between 1642 and 1648, to protect the coast from hostile landings. The fort has been turned into a museum, where you can learn about its history and how it impacted the town.

24. Local street commerce still thrives

Before the era of the big shopping malls - of which the Portuguese are, sadly, great fans -, commerce was a street affair. In Cascais you also get the option of doing your shopping and catching a movie at malls such as Cascais Villa and Cascaishopping, but a lot of street commerce remains alive, particularly in two areas, Avenida Valbom and Rua Frederico Arouca. The local custom is to go up one street and down the other. Avenida Valbom has international brands such as Zara, Max Mara and Misako, the legendary Santini ice cream parlour, the Galileu second- hand book store, and one of the finest grocery stores in Cascais, Frutalmeidas. In Rua Frederico Arouca, also known as Rua Direita (“straight street”), you will find Bodyshop, Parfois and Calzedonia (you never know when you need to buy stockings), plus some quality shoe stores, the ancient goldsmith Ourivesaria Carlos, wine shops and an ever useful pharmacy.

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25. There's a street that becomes a gastronomical hub

No set date exists, but it usually happens in summertime, on Friday and Saturday nights and before holidays: a series of restaurants literally go out into the street and serve their customers at tables and chairs set on the road, closed off for the event. Here you can have Waka’s Peruvian-Japanese fusion, La Contessa’s tartars, carpaccios and piadina bread, Dom Diniz and Dona Francisca’s snacks, Rua’s drinks and Hamburgueria do Bairro’s burgers. The event pops up at bo fixed date in summertime at Rua Nova Alfarrobeira, Cascais. Learn more here: www.facebook.com/RuaCascais

linha de cascais
linha de cascais
Fotografia: Manuel Manso

26. Cascais is not all about Cascais

OK, let us explain. The Cascais Municipality has an area of 97.4 Km2, comprising four civil parishes (“freguesias”): Cascais and Estoril, Alcabideche, Carcavelos and Parede and São Domingos de Rana. Now, you really need to move in to get to know the whole municipality properly. But Time Out can help you with the briefest of description to the locations nearer the ocean - that is to say, those most deserving of a visit in the warm months. -Monte Estoril: Great houses, a garden beloved by locals and the Intercontinental - a hotel with an incredible bar and an equally impressive swimming pool. -Estoril: The summer's best club (Tamariz), the Cascais Line best pastry shop (Garrett), the best Chinese restaurant (Estoril Mandarim) and a fine beach with natural pools.-São João do Estoril: Appreciate the beautiful homes, sunbathe on the well-sheltered Azarujinha beach and have a bite at the Poça beach snack bar. -São Pedro do Estoril: It has a beach of the same name, beloved by families, and an outdoor cafe, whose garlic bread is very popular. -Parede: Contains a natural solarium named Bafureira beach, fine butterfly clams in the Eduardo das Conquilhas restaurant and some of the finest fabrics for making clothes in the Bispos store. -Carcavelos: An endless sand strip, perfect waves for learning to surf, great restaurants and a tea house where you will want to be even when the temperature goes above 40 degrees centigrade (it’s called A Chaleira).

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27. The visitors centre is also an arts and crafts store

Things to do Cascais

The Cascais Visitors Centre has a prize location, right next to the City Hall and the Town Museum; here you can get all the information you need about Cascais, but there are also other features that will keep you busy for a good half hour. First, since the centre belongs to the Cascais Tourism Association, there is a touchscreen where you can read about every one of its members. There are also several books about Cascais, and sofas where you can sit and read. The Centre is also the ticket office for several tours and shows; and it functions as a store as well, with an inventory of Portuguese items, such as Quinta do Pisão products, Minho region filigree earrings, Quebramar sweaters and DCK bathing suits.

28. Cascais is the 2018 European Youth Capital

What does that mean? It means a focus on youth through a series of events and projects aimed at them. One of its goals, according to the official website, is to raise awareness of “issues such as European citizenship, mobility, creativity, personal and social development”. In practice, it means events in sports, such as the Skate European Championship or Surf by Night, or the arts, such as the Muraliza street art project, the Musa Cascais Festival and others. Visit the site at http://www. cascais2018.eu to see the full program.

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Cidadela de Cascais
Cidadela de Cascais
©Carlos Luis MC da Cruz

29. The summer home of Portuguese kings is open to the public

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Cascais

Previously a fishing town, the fate of Cascais changed in 1870 when King D. Luís decided to turn the Cascais Citadel Palace into his summer home. After many years of abandonment, in 2004 the Museum of the Presidency of the Republic launched a restoration, and the palace is now used to house the President’s guests. Some of its rooms, splendidly recuperated, are open to the public: the main hall, the Arabic room and a stunning closed balcony, with a grand view of the Bay.

30. The perfect view that will make a great memento

If you read this far, you’re truly interested in discovering the town - good for you. Let’s offer you a small gift then, by telling you where you can find the finest view in Cascais. It’s in Rua Fernandes Thomás, a street linking the Bay of Cascais to the tip of the “Paredão”, a sort of gorgeous panoramic balcony, where you can gaze at (and covet) the boats and the houses along the shore.

Discover Cascais

farol de santa marta
©Jaime Silva

A quick history of Cascais

Travel

Cascais has a way to conquer it's visitors. Either for all the amazing things to do, the incredible food, with delicious fish restaurants and seats where you can soak up the sun, free attractions or it's beautiful beaches. If, like us, you've fallen in love with this town, get to know it better with a quick look at it's history.

Hífen
Fotografia: Manuel Manso

The best restaurants in Cascais

Restaurants

Restaurants with signature dishes, some world cuisine and fish, lots and lots of fish. Regardless of what you're in the mood for, one of these tables will surely have you sorted. It wasn't an easy task to narrow down a list of our top 15 restaurants. Cascais has a great number of dining spots, but we promise you will not be disappointed by any of these. That’s a Time Out guarantee. In no particular order, here are the best restaurants in Cascais well worth every cent.

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parque marchal carmona
Fotografia: Inês Calado Rosa

Free things to do in Cascais

Things to do

Let's be honest here. There is nothing better than being able to head out town without breaking bank. So don't worry too much about setting budgets yet, there are many ways of exploring the city without spending one euro. It seems that the best things in life actually do come free - in Cascais at least they do. Whether it be going to museums or enjoying beautiful landscapes. There is a bit for everyone.

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