Travel // Cascais, Portugal, part one {AD with Visit Cascais}

May 16, 2019

AD, this is not a paid partnership but we were hosted with Visit Cascais for our trip and activities provided in exchange for this feature, we paid for our flights and everything else. All opinions are 100% my own // Ah, Cascais. That gorgeous little fishing town around the coast from Lisbon that we’ve basically referenced all of our other European trips against since our first visit. Two years ago we booked a trip to Lisbon {remember these posts?} and it was in the mid 30s temperature wise for our stay so our Airbnb host suggested we take the train to Cascais for the day to escape the city heat and hit the beach. We took her advice and it turned out to truly make the trip, we loved it so much that we hauled our suitcases there with us just to spend a few more hours there on our last day!

Ever since then, we’ve vowed to return and actually stay in Cascais this time, it’s so well located that you get that beach holiday feel as well as being able to visit Lisbon easily for the day if you wish and there’s Sintra just above in the mountains. So when the Visit Cascais tourist board asked if we’d be interested in a press trip to revisit the area, we of course jumped at the chance and booked flights for last weekend.

May is technically still early in the season but Lisbon and this coastline is known as Europe’s sunniest and it’s often over 20c even in February here! We flew late on the Saturday night and woke up to bright sunshine, itching to go and explore.

First up, where to stay;

As it was busy for the bank holiday and our stay was arranged fairly last minute, the hotels we had preferred were fully booked {The Oitavos and Real Villa Italia}. So we picked Pergola House, a traditional style guest house smack bang in the middle of town situated in a really beautiful bougainvillea covered old Portuguese house with a stunning courtyard to eat breakfast in the mornings and where you can drink complimentary port in the evenings. It wasn’t our usual style at all, but the staff were charming, it had a full breakfast everyday and as I said, the location was perfect.

There’s also some Airbnb options to be found and for families, look up the famous Martinhal resort just along the coast along with golf resorts nearby.

How to get there;

Lisbon airport is the closest airport, we flew with Easyjet but there's also Ryanair and TAP depending on which airport you're flying from in the UK. From the airport, Uber is pretty cheap in Portugal so if there's a few of you travelling, this would probably be the easiest/cheapest option. It's about a half an hour drive from the airport. Or, if you're on a budget, there's public transport from Lisbon airport to Lisbon {with the aerobus or train} and then you can get the train to Cascais cheaply and easily {which we did last time}, this will probably take about an hour and a half total though.

What to do // 

Cascais has a rich history as being a traditional and charming, yet also now high end, Portuguese fishing town just around the coast from Lisbon. Historically, Cascais was the summer retreat of Portuguese royalty, and European Kings and Queens used it as a safe retreat during the War. These days, it's well known as a popular holiday destination, complete with beaches, a gorgeous harbour and ornate 19th century mansions and villas.

The beaches are a huge draw here, sheltered little sandy bays scattered along the coast towards Estoril, with such clear water. It was heaven waking up last Sunday morning and walking along to scenes like these.

Some are quieter whereas others, with umbrellas and sun loungers you can hire, get packed with locals at weekends especially. There's a gorgeous walk you can do all along the coast towards Estoril, past all the little beach bars, gelato shops and restaurants.

I think this is my favourite view with the bougainvillea framing the boats. {walk around the coast from the harbour towards Estoril and you'll find this little spot along one of the narrow streets}.

Palm trees and blue skies. My kind of town. {California or Cascais, we joked!}

Tiled coloured traditional pretty buildings galore in the old town. It's worth getting up early for a quiet wander through these streets and little alleyways. 

All those walls made for the perfect bump backdrops.

Such a charming little place. Around by the main beach, and just before you reach the marina, you'll find this tiled square. I think it's one of my favourite spots in Cascais.

It's a sizeable town, with little back streets filled with buzzy shops, bars and restaurants.

On Saturdays there’s a farmers market you shouldn’t miss. Unfortunately our flight didn’t get in until after it had finished on this trip but we stumbled across it on our first visit when I saw a lady carrying a huge beautiful basket of hydrangeas and I had to find out where they were from!

Portugal is known for its seafood and Cascais is probably one of the best places you could eat it with lots of local fishermen and a sea filled with fresh catch. We ate at both O Pescador, after seeing it rammed with Portuguese on Sunday lunchtime and shared a delicious seafood ‘paella’ - the Portuguese don’t pretend to do paella in the way the Spanish would, with so much lobster we couldn’t finish it all - that’s NEVER happened to us before! And at Reserva da Villa good for drinks on the terrace overlooking the sea or a fancier dinner {in this stylish blue room - everything was painted in the same hue from the ceiling to the chairs!}. Book in advance as it’s popular. 

On our previous visit we also ate at Mar do Inferno just around the coast, maybe a 20 minute nice walk, and were so impressed with the seafood there too. Gelato wise, there’s two branches of the famed Santini with queues often out the door and by the beach, Artisani with a huge range of flavours.

The marina is well worth a wander around, filled with boats big and small, next to an old 15th century fort. The original citadel walls that guarded the town once upon a time.

If you’re into museums there are several. Including the famed Santa Marta lighthouse in this view you might have seen of Cascais before, a striking landmark surrounded by an almost turquoise sea at the base.

Cycle to Guincho, the famous surfing beach on the Atlantic that reminded us of Australia.

On the Sunday morning we were met by Wolf Ride Tours who took us on a guided bike tour up to Guincho Beach. Cascais town actually have free bike rentals in town that you can rent for just a deposit, but we were grateful for the use of electric bikes on this trip as although it’s a completely flat route along the coast, it was into the wind and I definitely found it a little tougher at almost 8 months pregnant! So the electric bikes felt revolutionary to us. The cycle path runs the whole way along the coast, past the famous Cascais lighthouse, past Boca de inferno - which means ‘mouth of hell’ to do with the strong waves and rock formation on the coast, and then up to Guincho. It’s about a 10km round trip. Guincho beach is sunning, surrounded by sand dunes and a popular surf and wind sport spot. There’s a gorgeous little woodland behind the dunes where families often have picnics or light camp fires, we were set up with a picnic here for an hour or so before we had a walk along the beach and then returned to Cascais. - crazy story, this boardwalk normally goes all the way to the beach and I’d seen some really cool photos of it on Instagram, but sometimes the sand completely submerges part of it!

After our bike ride, we were happy to spend some time on the beach. There are several to choose between, all calm little bays, some more natural and others, as you walk towards Estoril, with beach umbrellas to rent and beach bars/restaurants. 

We spent the next day in Sintra, another must visit, which I'll share in the next post. 
I think it’s the perfect base to visit so many amazing places, just a few Euro’s on the train to Lisbon for the day yet with plenty of beaches for that proper holiday feel.

A totally charming seaside town that we really love.

You can find more at Visit Cascais here.

Next up, our day in Sintra!

R <3 xx

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