Traveling through Portugal is one of the top things that I recommend that anyone does if they are looking for an immersive travel experience in Portugal. On my first time in Portugal, I decided to take a multi-city trip starting by spending a few days in Lisbon and then for my next stop, I ventured for a stay in Cascais, Portugal.
Though many people tend to simply take day trips into Cascais from Lisbon, I decided to try something different and spend time in the Cascais / Sintra region. The experience is on that gave us a way to see a different look into the traditional life of Portugal and a way to experience the luxury of the country while staying in the region.
Cascais is a hidden coastal gem and fishing village nestled along the dazzling shores of Portugal. While in the city, you can venture to the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean while also taking the time to explore palaces in Sintra. The city of Cascais is one of the most inviting places I have visited in my life, and the immersive experience that you have allows you to enter into a world of endless beauty, right history, and laid-back charm.
In this blog post, I’ll share with you my experience traveling through Cascais, Portugal and provide you with an itinerary on how to explore Cascais day by day filled with amazing experiences, delectable food, and and overall trip that you will remember for years to come.
BEST TIME TO VISIT Cascais
The weather in Cascais is known to be beautiful almost all year around. And from talking to locals in the area, heavy storms are not typical (except for when we went), though, like any mountainous area, the mountains can get a little gray. So, you’ll probably want to aim for a time of year where it’s not too busy so that you’re not stuck waiting in many lines and can enjoy Cascais and Sintra to the fullest. Like most places, summer in Cascais can get very busy. So if you’re looking for the best time to go where the weather is great, the temperatures are warm but not too hot, and you can see all the various flowers in full bloom, you’ll want to head to Cascais in late Spring or early Summer.
GETTING TO Cascais, Portugal
Whether you are traveling from another city or landed at Lisbon airport and head straight into Cascais, getting to Cascais is quite easy. From Lisbon to Cascais, you can opt to drive and take a little drive by the area where you can get some James Bond history, if you have a rental, or take the train. The train is probably the most efficient way to get into Cascais from Lisbon since you can grab a train and take the 30 minute ride along the scenic coastline right into Cascais. The train leaves from Lisbon every 10 minutes, and all you simply have to do is purchase a ticket ahead of time or at the train station and take the ride.
If you’re coming from another city that is not near Cascais, you can either opt to fly from the local airport to Lisbon to train into Cascais or take a bus ride. For example, if you are coming from Porto to Cascais, you can either catch the bus at the bus station and take a three hour bus ride to Cascais from Porto, or you can take a one hour flight from the Porto airport to the Lisbon airport, and then take the train. It all depends the time you have in the day and your budget.
GETTING AROUND Cascais
When you’re in the areas where you are looking to explore such as Cascais city center or in and around Sintra, you can get to many places simply by walking. But if you are looking to explore various towns and areas throughout the day, there are various rideshare offerings along with private transfers that you can set up ahead of time. If you plan to take tours to specific areas, consider booking a tour that provides a transfer from the hotel. We did many of our tours with tour guides that pick up their clients from the hotel and take them around for the day. Otherwise, using Uber or Bolt are great rideshare options to get to places that you can walk around in once you’re there.
WHERE TO Stay IN CASCAIS PORTUGAL
During our stay in Cascais, we had the priviledge of staying at Penha Long Resort – a Ritz Carlton Resort. This marvelous resort is nestled right admits lush greenery and picturesque landscapes which means that when staying here, you are staying a magical place that will make you feel as if you are staying in one of the castles in Sintra. Penha Longa Resort dates back to the 14th century when it originally was a monastery, so during your stay, expect to see aspects that date back in time paired with the modernity and luxury of today.
Within the resort, you’ll find luxurious accommodations designed to offer guests the utmost comfort and luxury. Between lavish suites and exquisite villas, you’ll find yourself feeling like you’re royalty just like we did. For our stay, we stayed in one of the Cascais Suites – which there were only two during the time of our stay. The suite provided a dress area right upon entering with two very spacious closets; a bathroom with a double vanity, massive soaking tub, and rain shower; a king size bed that was plush and lush; a sitting area with a comfortable velvet couch; and a terrace with a magnificent view of the mountains and the monastery across the way.
When staying here, I didn’t want to leave which is not something that I can say for all of the hotels that I have visited in my travels. Not only was the room amazing, the property itself was fit for just staying day in and day out. One property, you’ll find a variety of restaurants including LAB, Arola, Spices, and more along with bars, entertainment, a Kid’s Club, two pools, a vast playground, and the monastery which is meant to be explored.
CASCAIS PORTUGAL 3-DAY ITINERARY
TAKE A WALKING TOUR AROUND CASCAIS CITY CENTER
Cascais city center can easily be defined as a place where the past gracefully intertwines with modern life. It’s an amazing place where travelers are welcome to explore the charming streets and become immersed in the local culture. If it is your first time in Cascais, then you’ll want to start your journey here. Cascais city center is filled with historical landmarks, great restaurants, museums, shops, and an array of activities. When we arrived in Cascais city center, we knew that this was a place where we would be spending a lot of time and a place where anyone in the area could spend the entire day just wandering around finding different things to do, such as some of the top things to do below.
VISIT CASA DE SANTA MARIA & THE SANTA MARIA LIGHTHOUSE MUSEUM
In Cascais, Portugal, there are two very well known places that everyone should visit – the Casa de Santa Maria and the Santa Maria Lighthouse. You’ll find both of these historical landmarks right next to each other on the scenic coastline of the town. The Casa de Santa Maria is a stately mansion that contains a rich history and intriguing architecture. You’ll need a ticket to enter, but once you’re in, you’ll be able to dive deep into the art, furniture, ceramics, and the beautiful tiles found in the house. Also, don’t miss out on taking in the view on the terrace right along the waters.
Adjacent to the mansion is the Santa Maria Lighthouse. Originally built in the 19th century, the lighthouse is a great place to visit if you not only want to learn more about the maritime history of the area but also to get another great view. You can climb up the spiral staircase to get the breathtaking view of the city and the Atlantic Ocean, and also don’t forget to stop by the local café that is right near the lighthouse. This café serves great espresso, coffee, tea and midday drinks while also functioning as a broadcast location for a local radio station.
STOP BY THE BOCA DO INFERNO VIEWPOINT
A short walk away from the Casa de Santa Maria is the Boca do Inferno viewpoint – which many love to visit while they are in Cascais. Translating to ‘Mouth of Hell” this natural wander showcases a striking sea cave formation where waves crash against cliffs creating a mesmerizing display of foam and spray. You’ll see quiet a few people along this viewpoint taking in the sites, and if you are looking for a the most stunning view of this viewpoint, makes sure to come back as the sun sets to see the view with a golden glow.
WALK THROUGH THE MUSEU CONDES DE CASTRO GUIMARÃES
Another mansion that you must visit while in Cascais, Portugal is the Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum. When you walk into this museum, it’s like walking into a fairytale castle while also giving you a glimpse into the lifee and culture of the former owners. Outside of the mansion, you’ll find an immaculate courtyard, a small chapel, and beautiful fountain. This museum does require tickets for entry, but it is well worth it. The curated exhibits showcase a diverse collection of artifacts, arts, rare books, and historical documents. And don’t forget to look up in some the the various rooms of the home to see the beautifully designed ceilings that was a favorite for me during our visit.
LUNCH AT CANTINA CLANDESTINA
Right on what the locals call “yellow street”, you’ll find this quaint restaurant – Cantina Clandestina – serving some of the most delicious food in the area. The restaurant with seating both inside and outside serves a variety of local dishes that can meet anyone’s palate and food preference. You’ll find that the menu is filled with plates that offer a fusion of flavors alongside Portugese timeless classics with a little twist. Having lunch here paired with a midday cocktail or wine, you’ll feel like you stopped in for a clandestine rendezvous where flavors, ambiance and exceptional service merge to create an unforgettable culinary experience.
GRAB GELATO AT SANTINI ICE CREAM
After your midday meal, head around the way and find Santini – a popular place to grab delicious gelato. Make sure you head in there right after lunch and aim to beat the crowds since later in the evening, you’ll often find the line for gelato is out the door. As you head in, take a look at the variety of flavors on the board and prepare to try to figure out your favorite. But don’t worry about having to just choose one, because you do have the option to enjoy more than one flavor on your cone or cup. We opted for the two flavors on one cone and I have to say that the gelato was lifechanging.
RELAX AT THE BEACH
Around Cascais, you’ll find a coastline with an array of stunning beaches – each with it’s own charm and allure. For a relaxing afternoon, grab your beach bag and head to one of the pristine beaches of the area. As a note, all of the beaches do not have loungers, but you’ll see that many of the locals simply bring their towels and lay along the sand. In the area, you’ll find beaches such as Praia da Rainha, which is a beach surrounded by picturesque cliffs, Praia de Carvavelos, which is a surfer hotspot, and Praia da Duquesa which provides tranquility and seclusion. There are a variety of beaches in the area for your enjoyment for a relaxing afternoon.
HAVE DINNER AT LAB BY SERGI AROLA
If you’re looking for a dinner experience like no other, you’ll need to have dinner at LAB by Sergi Arola. The restaurant is a combination science and culinary marvels that will have you so immersed in the entire experience that you’ll begin to forget about the rest of the world. Through the dining experience, you’ll taste a variety of different flavors presented in various different ways all with a meaning and thought process behind it. The entire dining experience is a journey and it’s one that you wont’ forget having once you leave. Make sure that when you arrive you come with an appetite since you’ll start in one place to try a variety of different bites and end at a completely different location tasting the final flavors of the evening paired with immaculate glasses of wine.
VISIT THE SINTRA PALACES
Right near Cascais is Sintra – a fairytale city that houses enchanting palaces that, when you visit, seem like you are stepping into a storybook. These palaces are nestled in the hills of the Sintra Mountains and showcase a captivating blend of architectural styles influenced from different times, regions, and cultures. While visiting, make sure to plan out what palaces that you want to visit ahead of time, so that you can purchase the tickets prior to arriving and skip the lines for tickets. It’s also advised to get there early when the crowd has not gathered yet and the line is quite shorter, but if you are joining on a preset tour, you may find yourself either amidst the crowd or already planning on beating it.
QUINTA DA REGALEIRA
Quinta da Regaleira is one of the Sintra palaces that many say is a must visit if you only have plans to visit one. It’s a large palace with gardens, chapels, fountains, statues and grottos surrounding the palace and adding symbolizing and enlightenment to the land. One of the main places to visit while at the palace is the Initiation Well. It’s a mesmerizing centerpiece where you start at the top of the tower and venture down to the bottom where you then explore underground tunnels before being reborn into the light. The journey down the well symbolizes walking through darkness and into enlightenment. It was quite amazing to explore the estate’s hidden tunnels, underground passes, and hidden chambers because you feel as if you have been privledged to the secrets of the grounds. And after you have taken the time to explore the gardens and the underground tunnels, you can venture into the palace itself to see the ornate details of the palace’s architecture and history.
Monserrate Palace stands as a breathtaking testament to the eclectic and exotic architectural styles that define the town’s cultural richness. This palace is also surrounded my magnificent gardens creating an ethereal and captivating atmosphere. Wandering through the palace itself, you’ll find opulent rooms adorned with intricate tile work, delicate stucco, and lavish motifs transporting you into a world of romance and splendor. While visiting, you’ll want to make sure to stop through the gardens and walk along the pathways to see the fountains and various plants. But if you’re looking for the view and the one place that many people want to visit, you’ll want to head into the palace and wander along the hallways to find the terrace overlooking the mountains.
One of the very popular palaces to visit is Pena Palace. You’ll often see pictures of this palace just from searching Sintra palaces or looking at where other travelers have visited when they went to Portugal. Pena Palace is places in a picturesque setting with panoramic vies of Sintra’s lush landscape. Inside the palace you can explore opulent chambers and various architectural styles showcasing Romantic and Moorish influences. The vibrant outside is matched by the decorative inside filled with exquisite furniture, beautiful tapestries, and elaborate chandeliers. Also, don’t forget to stop through and take a look at the palace’s stunning chapel.
WALK DOWNTOWN SINTRA
After you have explored the palaces, don’t just pack up and leave Sintra since there is so much more to explore. Instead, head into downtown Sintra and wander through the streets filled with colorful buildings, traditional shops, and bustling cafés and restaurants. You’ll fully feel like you are immersed in the local culture just by exploring the area, which is very easy to walk. Take a stop through the market square, Praça da República, which serves at the heart of downtown where there is much going on and much to see. Also, if you’re ready for another palace exploration, you can also tour through the National Palace of Sintra located near in the center. This is a great place to end your morning before lunch because right after your touring ends, you can venture right into one of the restaurants for lunch.
ENJOY LUNCH AT CAFE PARIS
Since you’re already in downtown Sintra, why not stop into one of the local restaurants for lunch. My recommendation is to head into Café Paris – a delightful café where not only will you find delicious food but also décor that makes you feel as if you are in a luxurious café during the bygone era of Europe. You have the option of being seated indoors or outdoor on the charming terrace which makes a great location to people watch as you enjoy your meal. After devouring your main course, make sure to get a cup of espresso paired with the delectable pastries that are offered and served at this restaurant.
VISIT THE MOST WESTERN POINT OF EUROPE – ROCA CAPE
Roca Cape, also known as Cabo da Roca, is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the coastal region of Cascais, Portugal. It’s a breathtaking wander with amazing views of the ocean, and it is known to be the westernmost point of continental Europe. Roca Cape holds a symbolic significance, offering those who visit a chance to stand at the edge of the continent and marvel at the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an awe-inspiriting location that gives views that you can’t find anywhere else. One of the more popular times to visit Cabo de Roca is during the golden hour when the sun sets over the horizon, painting the the sky with hues of orange and pink leaving what looks like a painting right in your natural view.
EXPLORE THE MONESTARY AND GARDENS AT PENHA LONGA
Whether you’re staying at Penha Longa or not, you’ll want to stop through and visit the historical monetary and gardens of Penha Longa near Cascais, Portugal. The monetary and the grounds surrounding it are very popular to guests near and far for holding weddings because of the beauty and magic that it holds. While we stayed at the resort, we couldn’t help but take moments to just walk through the gardens and the monetary to see the various beauties and learn about the history of the grounds. The gardens not only offer an array of various flowers to sit among and just enjoy the outdoors, but the view of the mountains and surrounding buildings is one that you won’t find anywhere else. I often found myself grabbing a morning espresso and sitting out in the gardens just taking in the morning and finding a new sense of peace.
ENJOY DINNER AT SPICES
For a more relaxing dinner with great flavor, you’ll want to enjoy dinner at Spices, also located at Penha Longa Resort. This Michelin Star Asian-fusion restaurant offers two types of dining experiences. For a more casual experience, you are offered to sit in the casual dining area where you can order a variety of plates off the menu. Another option is to opt for the more intimate dining experience where you are escorted into an exclusive dining area where the options for your dinner are different than what is being offered to others. No matter what dining option you choose, you are guaranteed to have a great time with flavorful food that is made fresh to order right in the kitchen where you can also opt to sit at while the food is made in front of you. I, of course, recommend the sushi and to either sit right at the kitchen counter or at a table near the windows so that you can enjoy the view of the food or the view of the sunset.
TAKE A CLASSIC CAR TOUR THROUGH CASCAIS AND SINTRA
Another way to explore Cascais and Sintra is to take a classic car tour. Ahead of your trip to Cascais, Portugal, book a classic car tour to take you around the city to some of the popular places of the region. Even more, look deeper into what itineraries are offered as you may find yourself being taken to some of the more traditional villages and unique gems of the cities. Depending on the tour company that you decide to go with, you can find yourself choosing to ride in luxury in one of the great classic cars that are offered from their fleet. Some of the tours even offer a sidecar tour of the region where you can ride with the tour guide in a sidecar attached to a classic motorcycle.
EXPLORE AZENHAS DO MAR
One of the locations that you can visit on a classic car tour or whether you are just wandering around yourself is the traditional village Azenhas do Mar. This coast village is one that seems like it came out of a postcard. Tucked along the rugged cliffs of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park in Portugal, this hidden gem offers a delightful escape form the bustling tourist crowds. This village, with it’s name translating to “Watermills of the Sea” contains a natural infinity pool filled by the tides where you can go swimming while overlooking the ocean. Also in the area, you’ll find a restaurant that you can sit and look out at the ocean and in the evening take enjoyment in watching the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
HEAD TO AROLA FOR LUNCH
You can either choose to eat lunch at the restaurant right in Azenhas do Mar, if you are not on a scheduled tour, or head back to Penha Longa to enjoy lunch at Arola. Situated in the same location as LAB, you can take a seat to overlook the resort’s golf course while enjoying midday wine and a variety of different tapas including flavors that will blow your mind. Take advantage of this tapas style menu because it’ll allow you to try different flavors that you can share with who you are traveling with so you can get through the midday and still save room for dinner later in the evening.
TAKE A BOAT TRIP FROM THE CASCAIS MARINA
It’s evident that Cascais is a coastal area, so while in Cascais, Portugal, it becomes essential to take a boat trip. Embarking on a boat trip in Cascais promises an unforgettable journey that unveils the town’s coast treasures from a unique perspective. From the Cascais Marina, you’ll board your boat cruise where you’ll then take to the ocean to glide smoothly along the coastline to see iconic landmarks such as the Cascais Citadel and the Santa Marta Lighthouse from the ocean. If you get lucky, you may also see some playful dolphins who may swim by to say ‘hi’. Depending on your style of boating, you can opt for a leisurely cruise, a thrilling speedboat ride, or an adventurous sailing trip. Either way, you’re guaranteed a very great experience.
HAVE A SUNSET DINNER AT FORTALEZA DO GUINCHO
For dinner with a spectacular view, head to Fortaleza do Guincho. This restaurant perched on the cliffs overlooking the wild and mesmerizing Guincho Beach is a culinary gem that marries of the beauty of nature with food. This Michelin-starred restaurant offers a dining experience like no other. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by an elegant and intimate ambiance with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The menu is a celebration of Portugal’s coastal cuisine featuring fresh seafood caught daily and locally-sourced ingredients. As the day winds down, you’ll feel as if you are having dinner and show as you watch the sun set along the coastline creating colors and an ambiance that you’ll remember forever.
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I was hosted by Visit Cascais tourism board for this trip to Cascais, Portugal. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.