Seaside Escape to Cascais Portugal

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Cascais is a quaint seaside town and historic fishing village located on the Portuguese Riviera. An easy day trip from Lisbon, Cascais is known for its dramatic rocky coastline, old world charm, and perfectly relaxed pace. Our visit to Cascais was one of the highlights of our trip to Portugal, as the beach is always calling our children’s names.

Although its history dates back to ancient times, Cascais first began to flourish in the 12th and 13th centuries. Cascais, named after its bountiful marine mollusks, became an important fishing village and port for maritime trade. It was also used as a strategic defensive post to protect the city of Lisbon. Over the years, the Cascais citadel was captured by the Spanish and the French, but ultimately abandoned and left to decay in the 18th century. It was not until King Louis I made Cascais his summer residence in the late 1800’s that the city transformed from a fishing village to a retreat for Portuguese royals. In the 20th century, Cascais became a rendezvous for spies trading secrets and a popular destination for exiled royal families due to its neutral stance during WWII. Today, Cascais is a popular seaside vacation spot for native Portuguese and international visitors alike.

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To get to Cascasis, take the suburban train from the Lisbon Cais do Sodré station to the end stop, Cascais Station. The journey by train takes an easy 40 minutes. You can use your reloadable Viva Viagem card , which can be purchased at any metro or train station. We found the viva viagem card the cheapest and most convenient way to pay for transportation around Lisbon.

After arriving in Cascais, we headed directly to the beach. Praia da Rainha is a small rocky cove just steps away from Cascais’ main square. At one time, this picturesque spot was Queen Dona Amelia’s private beach. She clearly had good taste. We too felt like royalty as we had the whole beach to ourselves. Early November mornings are luckily not the most popular for beachgoers. The kids had the best time running along the coast, flirting with the water’s edge. Inevitably, they were stripped down to their underwear, not a care in the world.

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After drying off and purchasing a new pair of “portuguese pants” (sweatpants in a size too small), we wandered into town. The kids had a little extra pep in their step as we meandered through the cobblestone streets, admiring the pastel colored buildings and charming cafes. We made our way to a sunny bench beside Praia dos Pescadores beach to watch the locals play beach soccer (footvolley) while we enjoyed our coffee and croissants.

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We were then ready to embark on our our mini adventure to Boca do Inferno, or “Hell’s Mouth”, a unique rock formation on the craggy cliffside just out of town. The coastal walk was truly breathtaking and took about 30 minutes from Praia dos Pescadores (give or take based on kid pace). We searched for “pirate ships” as we skipped past the Cascais marina and then took a turn through the Citadel Art District. We passed the most idyllic lighthouse and then a fine art museum housed in a regal looking former palace. The buildings eventually thinned out and all that was left was the naked coastline.

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There is an incredible bike path that my son loved using as a running track. I borrowed a drone photo so you can see just how spectacular the coastline is from above. Cycling from Cascais to Praia de Guincho beach is a 10km roundtrip trek on this very path with dramatic views and plenty of scenic stops. If you have more than a day to visit, renting bicycles as a family would be a really fun excursion.

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We arrived at Boca do Inferno and climbed down the cliffside to get a better view of the waves crashing through the natural cave. The higher the tide, the more dramatic the spray. Our kids of course transformed into overly confident rock climbers and were much more interested in the cliffs than the ocean waves.

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We purchased a few souvenirs from the market next to Boca do Inferno and headed back to town. We refueled with a truly spectacular lunch overlooking the water at Hífen and were enroute back to Lisbon with full bellies and fantastic new memories.

There is plenty more to see and do in Cascais, but we were quite happy with the slower pace and lack of agenda. If you have a car or don’t mind taking a taxi, I would recommend visiting Cabo do Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. For another fantastic day trip from Lisbon, check out my previous post on Sintra!

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