A short train ride along the shore from Lisbon's Cais do Sodré station leads to Cascais, a formerly quaint fishing village that became (along with neighboring Estoril) a popular resort favored by European nobility and kings in the early 20th century. Today, it's a colorful cosmopolitan town with elegant pedestrian streets, luxuriant villas, fashionable shops, restaurants and bars.
Elements of its fishing village roots can still be felt at the lively fish auction that takes place every afternoon by the main beach and its brightly painted fishing boats, and the story of old Cascais is told by old photographs, paintings, and other items at the small "Museu do Mar" (Museum of the Sea).
To appreciate the domestic ambience of the aristocracy in the 18th and 19th centuries, visit the Castro Guimarães Museum, housed in a mansion that once belonged to the Counts of Castro Guimarães. It overlooks the sea and is surrounded by a vast garden. Inside, many of its rooms have been preserved just as the last residents left them, showcasing a collection of decorative art made up of a wealth of artifacts in gold and silver, ceramics, sculpture, and fine furniture. There is also a library with over 25,000 volumes, which can be consulted by researchers and students.
Behind it, across the garden, is the Paula Rego Museum, in a modern building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Eduardo Souto Moura. Inside, it presents some of the renowned Portuguese artist's best work.
In the pretty pedestrian streets paved with blocks recreating wave patterns in the center of town are good restaurants, bars, and shops, and the Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, decorated with paintings by the 17th-century artist Josefa de Obidos.
A 20-minute walk along the coastal road leads to an outstanding sight, Boca do Inferno ("Mouth of Hell"). High waves crash into gigantic caves carved out of the rock by the sea, causing an awe-inspiring noise that may explain the name given to the site and why Aleister Crowley chose it to fake his own death in 1930.
The best beach nearby (reached by bus from outside the train station every one or two hours) is the magnificent sandy beach of Guincho. Backed by dunes and with some of the best rollers in Europe, it's a true paradise for surfers. The water is clean, and the Atlantic waves pound onto the sand even on the calmest of days, which is why World Surfing Championships have taken place here. Terrace-restaurants overlook the beach and surrounding coastline.
Back in the old town center, a waterfront boardwalk connects Cascais to Estoril (a stroll between the two towns is recommended), just the right place to end your day before heading back to the capital.
If you wish to stay by the beach in Cascais and take day trips to Lisbon instead, take a look at your choice of hotels in town.
Some historians speculate that a navigator from Cascais, Afonso Sanches, accidentally discovered America in 1482, ten years before Christopher Columbus. On his return from this previously unknown land, Sanches and his near-death crew stopped at Columbus' house in the Portuguese island of Madeira. It's believed that Columbus got his hands on Sanches' nautical diary, learning of his discovery and repeating the trip ten years later.
If you want to wake up by the beach instead of in the city, check out the available hotels in Cascais »
Don't want to miss the best of Cascais and the Lisbon coast? Go on a tour »
Trains depart from Lisbon's Cais do Sodré station to Cascais around every 20 minutes. Cascais is the last stop, and it takes about 40 minutes to reach. You can take the train for free with the Lisboa Card.
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