Cascais is a beautiful and authentic small fishing village which has become a relaxed but elegant tourist destination. Cascais is also a perfect location, wherefrom to visit two must-see places in Portugal - Sintra and Cabo da Roca.
Published on 9/22/2019. Updated on 1/12/2020. Text and photos by Tero Auralinna.
This is the first story of three story serie about traveling in Portugal. This post offers my experiences and must-see places I have discovered in Cascais and Sintra.
I have visited Portugal two times and I have started both of my trips from this coastal town called Cascais. Cascais is a good place to start a holiday and relax a couple of days before heading to the more vibrant Lisbon.
Cascais is also a good spot for a day trip from Lisbon if you don’t want to stay a night there or you are on a shorter vacation. But if you have time I would recommend to spend at least a couple of days there.
Cascais is a beautiful and authentic small fishing village which has become a quite relaxed but elegant tourist destination. Municipality of Cascais is one of the wealthiest areas in Portugal. Cascais area also has been referred to as Portuguese Riviera. The town is full of restaurants, bars, terraces, small shops, alluring streets, lots of coastal vibes, and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Cascais is a very restful place. You won't find constant parties or heavily drunk party people from there.
Fishing boats at Cascais.
Cascais is also a perfect location, wherefrom to visit Sintra, UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe mainland.
The easiest way to travel to Cascais is by train (Linha de Cascais) from Lisbon Cais do Sodré train station. The journey takes about 40 minutes and one-way costs a couple of euros.
You’ll find many smaller picturesque, golden sand beaches which are located within walking distance from Cascais. Unfortunately, due to size and perfect location, they are usually quite crowded. All of these beaches have great facilities and a possibility for beach activities.
Crystal clear water at Cascais beaches: Praia da Conceição and Praia da Duquesa.
Carcavelos beach (Praia de Carcavelos) is a much bigger beach and one of the most popular beaches in the Lisbon area. But you need to take a train from Cascais to access it.
Guincho beach (Praia do Guincho) is a wild and rugged beach about 7km from Cascais. This is said to be one of the best surfing locations of the Lisbon region. You can access Guincho by bus from the Cascais bus station.
Check out this more detailed guide to Cascais beaches.
Must thing to do in Cascais is an about three kilometers scenic walk route from Cascais to Estoril via beach promenade. Cascais beaches are next to this route. There are also restaurants, bars, and terraces along the way.
Boca do Inferno is an open cave on seaside cliffs. Seawater strikes into the open cave which has a natural arch over it.
There is a lookout at Boca do Inferno where you can see the cave.
Boca do Inferno is best to experience just before the sun goes down. In addition to scenic views, you can watch local fishermen there. This is a perfect couple of kilometers long evening walk along the coast from the Cascais center.
Boca do Inferno cave
Cabo da Roca is one of my favorite places in Portugal. Views from the cliffs are amazing and it’s the westernmost point of Europe continent. There is a lighthouse which stands 150 meters above the Atlantic Ocean.
Height of the cliffs at Cabo da Roca is over 100 meters.
Cabo da Roca usually is a quite windy place so be prepared. Also, a fog might limit visibility in some days. This would be an amazing place on sunset. Unfortunately, public transportation timetable doesn’t align with that plan so you will need different transportation.
Monument at Cabo da Roca
You can access Cabo da Roca easily from Cascais main bus terminal by Scotturb bus 403. The journey takes about 30 minutes. This same bus continues to Sintra which takes about one hour. So it’s possible to combine a trip to Cabo da Roca and Sintra quite easily. Though there is so much to see in Sintra so make your plan carefully.
There is a cafe and parking space if you are planning to arrive by car.
Sintra is a popular tourist destination which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's famous from its picturesque and romanticist architecture and for its multiple historic palaces, castles, and gardens.
Sintra could be a separate blog posting because there is so much to see. But here are some highlights I can recommend.
That 15 euros daily tourist ticket option is very handy because you can use it to enter and leave Sintra and also use it without any limits on Sintra bus routes.
You can also reach Sintra from Lisbon by train.
Map of Sintra.
You can do a day trip to Sintra but if you want to experience more I would recommend staying one night. In one day you have time to visit a couple of places and walk around in the old town.
Because most of the places in Sintra are very popular at least on a peak season, I would recommend getting there as early as possible when it’s less crowded. Two days would be great for little more relaxed wandering around Sintra. There are so many places that one day is not enough if you want to see it all.
For some places in Sintra, you can buy tickets beforehand online. I really recommend this approach because there will be long queues. If you have a ticket, there is one queue less to wait. You also get a small 5% discount when buying tickets online.
From Pena Palace to Castle of the Moors or another way around the walking distance is really short. So don’t bother to wait for a bus, just walk.
Awesome views from the Castle of the Moors. Sintra National Palace at the front. Quinta da Regaleira can be seen on the left.
I really can’t recommend coming by own car. Roads are narrow and parking space is really limited. So come by train or bus and use the local bus to access places you want to visit.
You can use 434 and 435 tourist buses to travel around Sintra. Also, taxi or tuk-tuk is an option. You can also walk to destinations but be aware that this takes some time and there are steep hills.
Food options for attractions are not very well so it’s recommended to plan your visit so you can have lunch or dinner in the old town which is full of restaurants.
The Pena Palace is a colorful romanticism style of architecture castle on top of the hill with great views. Its architecture is mixing different styles. It’s one of the finest tourist attractions in Portugal so expect there to be an incredible amount of other visitors.
Pena Palace in the fog.
If you are planning to visit the palace inside prepare to wait a couple of hours in a queue before entering. You can also buy a ticket to the terrace & park areas only. There is a separate entrance to the terrace. So if you are planning this option, skip the huge line and just walk into the terrace area.
The courtyard at the Pena Palace's cloister.
The Castle of the Moors is a magnificent medieval fortress on top of the hill surrounded by really dense forest.
The dense forest around the Castle of the Moors. You can also hike to the castle through the forestry route.
The views from here are spectacular. Basically, the castle consists of one fortress wall and a couple of towers but this is still one of the greatest castles I have been.
Foggy views from the Castle of the Moors. On good weather, the views are amazing.
Quinta da Regaleira seems to be an amazing place to visit. Unfortunately, the ticket queue in the afternoon was so long that after walking around, visiting Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors, we couldn't do it anymore. You can’t buy tickets beforehand to Quinta da Regaleira.
Quinta da Regaleira garden is a wonderful and mysterious place with hidden tunnels, small ponds, caves, and spiral-shaped Initiation Well.
If you are wondering where to stay in Cascais I can recommend Villa Vasco da Gama. This is a nice small guest house near the center of Cascais. It's within walking distance from every important attraction in Cascais and has charming and stylish rooms.
You'll find a big grocery store (Pingo Doce) from CascaisVilla Shopping Center near the train station. There are mini-markets everywhere, but the selection is quite limited and prices are higher. The location of the main bus terminal is also next to this shopping center.
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