Cascais – Once the preferred destination of European aristocracy:
Cascais, like many coastal Portuguese towns, was once a traditional fishing village. It enjoyed a period of growth in the 14th century when boats on their way to Lisbon would stop here. Being a major stop-off point for the Lisbon bound boats Cascais became a very busy port at that time.
Cascais’ Royal Residents
Cascais transformed into a fashional summer resort in the second half of the 19th century when bathing in the sea became a popular activity. When the King of Portugal, Dom Luís I, converted the Fortaleza da Cidadela into the summer residence of the Portuguese monarchy in 1870, many of the noble families followed suit.
They built palaces and extremely beautiful villas along the beach and in the town, where they would spend the hot summer months. With the wealthy and nobility moving into the region, the face of Cascais was completely transformed away from that of a fishing village. The fashionable seaside resort of Cascais was the preferred destination of European aristocracy for more than a century.
Present Day Cascais
These days Cascais attracts a mix of local and expat residents, weekenders from Lisbon, overseas tourists, surfers and the yachting set. A recently constructed marina makes the town perfect for those who want to go sailing. The region has a mild climate, with calm seas and sandy beaches.
Unlike areas of the Algarve, Cascais hasn’t lost its character. The town itself has a rich architectural heritage, including the famous miniature palaces. The old town centre, with its winding pedestrianised streets, provides the perfect setting to explore the town on foot. There are many shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes scattered around town, including the Santini ice cream parlour, considered one of the best in Portugal.
Things to See and Do In and Around Cascais
The beaches continue to be one of Cascais’ greatest attractions, and you can choose from those in the town’s sheltered bay or venture a little further away in the area around Guincho. Guincho itself is already becoming part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, where excellent conditions exist for surfing and windsurfing.
Apart from its famous beaches, Guincho also has a number of golf courses.
The Boca do Inferno (” Mouth of Hell”), is about 3 km west where the sea rushes into clefts and caves in the rocks, making a booming sound and sending up spectacular sprays, like a blowhole.
Close to Cascais, you can visit the Serra de Sintra mountain range and the town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with beautiful landscape and unique architectural styles.
Lisbon is within easy reach of Cascais and the capital offers many leisure options. Closer still is Estoril with its famous hotels and Europe’s largest casino, for those who enjoy a little wager.
If you are in Lisbon, you can take a day trip to Cascais and Sintra and enjoy the views of the Estoril Coast along the way.