Once a small fisherman village Cascais developed into a popular holiday destination over the past few decades featuring a charming old town and some of the best beaches in the area. In this guide I introduce you to the must visits and best things to do in Cascais, Portugal.
Cascais is a coastal city, located just a 30 minute drive away from Lisbon. Ever since it has been the place where Portuguese royalty would spend their summer holiday and with that attract many members of Portuguese nobility over time.
I was living in Cascais for altogether 6 months to combine working with surfing and used it as a base to explore the area just outside of Lisbon. In order to explore the town and its sights a 2-3 day stay is ideal. My personal recommendations help you to make the best out of your time. Use the following navigation to jump to the things to do in Cascais you are most interested in:
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1. Sights & Things to do in Cascais
Due to its history you can find a variety of sights and things to do in Cascais. This seaside town offers a range of activities for nature lovers as well as history buffs. On top of that most of the sights are in walking distance to each other.
a) Old town & harbour
Let’s start off with the city center. As mentioned before the portuguese royal family made Cascais their seaside residence every September since the 1870s – with that they attracted many members of Portuguese nobility over time. Nowadays that wealth can be seen in all the beautiful architecture throughout the city.
My tip would be to to start your walk at the old town hall (directly next to the Hotel Baia) and explore the numerous narrow streets in the neighborhood. Right opposite of the Hotel Baia you can find a small fishing harbour where you can watch the local fisherman bringing in their catch of the day.
b) Citadel & Marina
When you walk south from the town hall alongside the water you get to the citadel of Cascais which is overlooking the city. This fortress was built between the 15th and 17th centuries as part of a fortification system to protect Lisbon and got later transformed into the summer residence of the royal family. Up until today the citadel is being used occasionally to host official receptions for international state guests.
After extensive renovation works have been carried out the majority of the citadel has been transformed into a museum and houses now also a hotel as well as an Arts Centre (Cidadela Arts District) which is open to visitors. If you want to learn more about the Portuguese history and the royal family the museum is the right place to do so.
Directly beneath the citadel you can find the marina with a small selection of restaurants and cafés.
c) Farol de Santa Marta & Promenade
The Farol de Santa Marta was build in 1868 replacing the Fort of Santa Marta which was considered to be no longer militarily necessary. Nowadays the combination of the small lighthouse and the bay in front of it boosts one of the most popular photo spots. You can learn more about lighthouses in Portugal in the related museum.
The Farol de Santa Marta is also the starting point of a promenade which stretches over 9km until it reaches the Beach of Guincho – a perfect chance for a long walk or a bike ride!
d) Boca do Inferno
One of the most popular things to do in Cascais can also be found along the promenade. Boca do Inferno is a sea arch and cliff formation where you can watch the power of the elements.
On days with big waves you can witness the water shooting through the sea arch from the viewing platform which is located right in front and is totally free of charge.
e) Casa & Farol da Guia
Casa da Guia is situated on a cliff, right next to the Lighthouse Farol da Guia. The areal is a popular meeting point for locals as you can find a number of nice restaurants with great views, a sunset bar and some small shops on the property.
Apart from that this is the place where you can get the best Açaí Bowls in town (see my recommendations for Cafés) – best to enjoy while strolling along the cliff.
f) Cresmina Dunes
Right next to Guincho you can find the Cresmina Dune which extends over 66 hectares as part of a whole dune system on the edge of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. To explore the dunes you can use the footpath which was built on wooden planks. The whole park is admission free.
At the upper end of the dunes you can find a visitor center which also houses a small Café with a beautiful terrace. Parking spaces are available right at the visitor center as well as at the bottom end at the Cresmina Beach.
g) Guincho (Beach)
From all the beaches Cascais has to offer, this natural beach stands out and is often regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the region. Reason being is the previous mentioned dune system and its status as a natural park which prohibits construction projects in this area.
The location of this wide beach is truly picturesque – right in front of the mountains of Sintra and the cliffs of Cabo da Roca. This is also the reason why Guincho is my favorite surf spot on days with no wind (which is rare). You can find more infos about surfing & surf schools in the next section (2e).
2. Guided Tours
Besides the popular things to do in Cascais you should also consider a few day trips or choose some fun activities which make it worth to extend your stay in the area. Most of the following recommendations require a rental car (best to rent at the Lisbon airport) but I also list alternative tour options which include transportation.
a) Hike to Santuario da Peninha
To see the area from above you should go for a hike to the Santuario da Peninha which is located on top of a rocky outcrop and offers the best panorama in all of Cascais. Originally this sanctuary was planed as a smaller version of the Pena Palace but was never finished due to the dead of the owner António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro who also built the famous Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra.
To get to the Santuario da Peninha you can drive all the way up to a parking space which is located just a 5 Minute walk below the Sanctuary or you park your car further down in order to start a proper hike. I recommend using the AllTrails App for your hikes & bike tours in this area. I put together my favorite routes in this list available.
b) Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is just around the corner and considered to be one of the more popular sights around Cascais. The cape with its lighthouse is not only impressive it is also the westernmost point of mainland Portugal, of continental Europe and of the Eurasian land mass.
A trip to Cabo da Roca can be easily combined with other things to do in Cascais and Sintra by booking a day tour from Lisbon. The following packages offer some great combinations of sights:
- Overview of combined Tours starting in Lisbon (via GetYourGuide)
c) Hike to Praia da Ursa
Praia da Ursa is located right around the corner from the lighthouse of Cabo da Roca. To get to this secluded beach I recommend bringing proper shoes as you need to follow a partially steep trail for about 45 minutes.
My recommendation is to come here during the golden hour just make sure to head back up before it’s dark! Also for this hike you can use the AllTrails App to navigate . The starting point of the hike is the parking space of Cabo da Roca.
d) Roadtrip to Azenhas do Mar
If you rent a car you should definitely consider doing a small roadtrip to visit all the highlights along the coast in the area. Starting in Cascais you should add Praia Pequena and finally Azenhas do Mar to the list on top of the previous mentioned spots.
Azenhas do Mar is a small coastal village which is located on a cliff above a tiny beach which even has a natural swimming pool (only visible during low tide). The unique setting makes up for an impressive photo, especially during sunset – the best spot is the recently reconstructed viewing platform which also has plenty of parking spots available.
e) Learn Surfing
As mentioned in the beginning I'm coming every year to Cascais to surf. The beaches and conditions in this area are ideal for beginners as well as intermediates and pros. Currently the best Portuguese surfers are coming from this area and can be found surfing the local spots on a regular base when not competing.
Option A: Surf Camp
If you want to learn how to surf I recommend booking a multi day stay in a surf camp. This way you can make the most out of your time: be active in the water every day, explore Cascais/Sintra and join in activities with like-minded people in the surf camp (Yoga, Barbecue, Day Tours). I can highly recommend the 4 and 7 day packages of my friends from “Surf Cascais” in their beautiful Surf Villa. The package includes accommodation, surf courses, equipment, transfers, breakfast and even yoga sessions as well as video coaching.
The Surf Villa is located in Murches, just about 8min outside of Cascais (4€ UBER ride from the center). You'll be picked up and transferred to the villa for all your surf sessions. In Murches you can find a few restaurants, a bakery and a mini market. You can use cheap Bolt and UBER rides to get to Cascais, Cabo da Roca or even Sintra. In matters of room options you can choose between spacious dorms as well as cozy private rooms with bathroom ensuite.
- SurfCascais – Surf & Stay (choose between packages that offer either 1x or 2x daily surf session)
Option B – Surf Lessons or Surf Guiding
If you prefer to stay in a Hotel, Hostel or an apartment in Cascais (check (5) for my recommendations) you can also book the daily surf lessons including all equipment needed, so you only need to show up at the beach at a certain time. Depending on the weather and surf conditions you'll be either surfing in Carcavelos or Guincho. Each surf lesson last 2h and you can choose between group and private lessons.
If you are already an intermediate or advanced surfer you can also book a private Surf Guiding where you'll be picked up in the Cascais area, including transfers and equipment. This individual package is a tailor made Surf Coaching experience where you can choose from a wider range of surf spots, depending on your level and preferences.
- SurfCascais – Surf School (Surf Lessons & Surf Guiding packages)
When talking about things to do in Cascais the local cuisine is just as important. During my time in Cascais I focussed mainly on restaurants who offer typical regional dishes. In the following list you'll find only restaurants that I'd rate at least with 4/5 stars.
a) A Nova Estrella
Located in a side street this family run restaurant offers the best value for money as far as typical Portuguese cuisine goes. The food is delicious, the service very friendly and the interior is truly unique. One of my favorite restaurants in Cascais!
Monday – Saturday from 12:00 – 22:00h
In the center of Cascais
Rua do Poço Novo 205 b, 2750-467 Cascais, Portugal
b) O Cantinho da Belinha
This cozy traditional Portuguese restaurant is a true gem for seafood lovers. In order to get a table here you need to come early or reserve in advance – but the food is worth all the efforts!
Tuesday – Sunday from 12:00 – 23:00 Uhr
Around the corner from the citadel
Av. Vasco da Gama 133, 2750-509 Cascais, Portugal
c) Quinta do Farta Pão
Even though the Quinta do Farta Pão is a bit pricey and located outside of Cascais the dishes here are definitely worth the trip. On top of that the attentive service and the typical interior provide an authentic experience. I highly recommend trying the Tornedó c/ Cogumelos (steak with mushrooms)!
Tuesday – Sunday from 12:00 – 16:00h and from 19:00 – 22:30h
Estr. Malveira da Serra, 2755-162 Cascais, Portugal
d) Páteo do Petisco
Petiscos are small typical Portuguese dishes similar to Tapas in Spain. At Páteo do Petisco you'll find a wide range of delicious options to pick from – a popular go to place by locals for a reason.
I recommend coming during lunchtime or shortly after, if you want to come for dinner a reservation is recommended.
daily from 12:00 – 23:00h
Tv. Amoreiras 5, 2750-739 Cascais, Portugal
e) House of Wonders
If you are in search of good vegan and vegetarian food options the House of Wonders is your go to place in Cascais. A good friend of mine has been a chef here and some of her tasty creations can still be found on the menu.
Besides the food the place itself is worth a visit as it features a big terrace and a rooftop area. The only drawback are the prices which are sligthly higher than other restaurants in the region.
daily from 10:00 – 23:00h
In the center of Cascais
R. da Misericórdia 53, 2750-642 Cascais, Portugal
There is a strong connection between Portugal and Brazil – not only historically but also in matters of food. If you are up for a culinary trip to Brazil you should pay a visit to Taba.
This small and cozy Restaurant is located on the outskirts of Cascais and therefore more of an insider tip. Due to its proximity to the Surf Villa of Surf Cascais I've been a regular and can highly recommend trying the Feijoada!
Monday 12:00 – 15:00h & 18:00 – 22:00h
Tuesday 12:00 – 15:00h & 18:00 – 22:00h
Wednesday 12:00 – 15:00h & 18:00 – 22:00 Uhr
Thursday 12:00 – 15:00h & 18:00 – 22:00h
Friday 12:00 – 15:00h & 18:00 – 22:00h
Saturday 12:00 – 22:00h
Sunday 12:00 – 22:00h
Estr. Malveira da Serra 1680, 2750-337 Aldeia de Juzo, Portugal
g) Hamburgueria do Bairro
As the name suggests this last recommendation of mine is a burger place. Sometimes it's nice to have a change, right? Especially when it is about burgers like the ones you get to enjoy here for very budget friendly prices.
daily 12:00 – 00:00h
R. Alexandre Herculano 11, 2750-284 Cascais, Portugal
h) Soya Noodlebar
Up for some Asian cuisine? With a wide range of Thai and Vietnamese dishes the Soya Noodlebar is the place to go. I tried the Pad Thai and the Pho and can only recommend to stop by if you fancy a noodle dish!
daily 12:00 – 23:00h (23:30 on Saturday & Sunday)
R. Alexandre Herculano 115, 2750-284 Cascais, Portugal
4. Cafés & Ice cream
In need of a break from all the things to do in Cascais? These places are perfect for a little snack to make up your mind which sights to visit next.
Panisol is a small bakery chain with shops in and around Cascais. Besides bread you'll find a good selection of pastries and snack as well as good coffee for a small budget.
My personal go to combination is a Pastel de Nata accompanied by a Galão (Portuguese version of caffè latte).
daily 07:00 – 19:00h, Sunday 08:00 – 19:00h
R. Frederico Arouca 23, 2750-642 Cascais, Portugal
If you like ice cream you'll fall in love with Santini. This ice cream parlour is a true institution in the greater Lisbon area with roots reaching all the way back to 1949.
Some locals even state that the ice cream here is the best in all of Portugal. Now it's on you to judge if that is true or not. When you stop by make sure to try the coconut ice cream!
Wednesday to Sunday 14:00 – 23:00h
Av. Valbom 28F, 2750-508 Cascais, Portugal
c) Friends Açaí (Casa da Guia)
Ice cream? Is there also a healthier version of this? Sure thing! For a while now Açaí Bowls are a thing in Portugal – a semi-frozen mass made out of berries that are regarded as a super food.
The Açaí Bowls you can get next to Casa da Guia are known to be the best in the area. But please consider: if you like it to be truly healthy you should order it with fruits only and leave out the sweet toppings (granola, honey and sweet condensed milk).
daily from 10:00 – 21:00h
Avenida nossa senhora do cabo , 101 quiosque, 5D, 2750-374 Cascais, Portugal
5. Where to stay in Cascais
Following I want to share my personal recommendations regarding accommodation besides all the things to do in Cascais before. Due to the fact that I stayed for a long period I have several options for different budgets:
a) Surf Cascais (Surf Villa, Budget / B&B) – my choice
As previously mentioned I've been a guest of the Surf Cascais Surf Villa for several months. There are several reasons why I keep coming back: beside the surf courses the villa with its pool and garden offers the perfect setting for a holiday where one can combine surfing with relaxation. The atmosphere in the villa is great for solo travelers as well as couples and small groups with regular dinner events, Yoga classes, BBQs and joint activities.
Located in a village just outside of Cascais it is the perfect base to explore most of the things to do in Cascais and Sintra along the coast as you avoid going through the city traffic. Apart from modern dorms you can also choose to stay in Private Rooms with bathroom ensuite (up to 3 people). If you want to be more flexible throughout your stay you should consider renting a car in Lisbon to explore the area properly – however all transfers from and to the villa for the surf classes are included in your stay and UBER is fairly cheap in Portugal too. All packages include a solid breakfast every day, even before the sunrise surf session to ensure you don't have to surf with an empty stomach.
NEW: since 2021 you also have the option to rent a fully equipped apartment which is located close to Casa da Guia. Beach transfers for the surf classes and to the villa are included in the price.
b) Nice Way Cascais (Hostel, Budget)
As one of the first Hostels in Cascais the Nice Way Hostel quickly became the most popular place to stay for budget travelers and even worked together with Surf Cascais for the first few years. This Hostel is the perfect pick for travelers of all sorts and offers a bigger capacity.
The Nice Way is located in the center of Cascais (10min walk from the train station) and offers dorms as well as private rooms. You can add breakfast for a small additional fee to your stay.
c) Kavia Hotel (*** Hotel, mid-range)
The modern Kavia Hotel just opened its doors in 2021 and is located right in the old town of Cascais. I stayed in one of their double rooms shortly after the opening of the Hotel and was quite impressed by the cleanliness as well as the price-ratio which is very good for this part of town.
Located in the heart of town, it's easy to get to all the sights as well as most of the restaurants mentioned in this guide. Only the breakfast is a bit to basic for my taste.
d) LEGASEA Guesthouse (Boutique Hotel, mid-range)
If you prefer a little bit more comfort and privacy this modern guesthouse could be the perfect place for you. Located in the old town of Cascais the Legasea offers beautifully decorated, modern rooms and a great breakfast selection.
The ideal choice for couples and families who want to spend a few relaxed days in the city!
e) Hotel Miragem (***** Hotel, Luxury & Spa)
If you want to treat yourself to a combination of sea view, infinity pool, spa, a selection of restaurants and spacious rooms the Hotel Miragem is the right place for you. You can choose from a range of room categories – all of them include a rich breakfast buffet.
Altogether the Hotel Miragem offers everything needed for an unforgettable stay – a perfect gift for a romantic getaway!
My Video featuring all mentioned things to do in Cascais
As for Lisbon I also produced a video in Cascais which features all the things to do in Cascais I discussed in this guide:
Any things to do in Cascais, Portugal you'd like to add?
I wrote this Cascais travel guide based on my own travel experience. If you have been to Cascais as well and you have something to add to this list of things to do in Cascais please feel free to leave a comment below. In case you liked the guide and found it helpful, I would appreciate if you could share it with your friends or link to it from your homepage!
Disclosure: This post contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels – therefore I can highly recommend them. By using these links you won’t pay any additional fees! All recommendations, tips, opinions, and ironic remarks are, as always, my own.