Cascais - The Charm of the Atlantic Coast
Located in the Lisbon Coast, Cascais boasts a perfect location, just two steps away from the capital city and its international airport and other must-sees locations such as Sintra (UNESCO Heritage Site), Ericeira (World Surfing Reserve) and Mafra (the Portuguese Versailles).
With its mild year-round climate, the Portuguese Riviera (as the region is known) offers a surprising variety of landscapes and attractions, combining a wide range of offers in a unique destination. From pure leisure to business, golf, sun, sea and water sports, it simply has it all and offers a new definition of the concepts of eco- and activity based tourism.
The Royal Historic Past of Cascais
While celebrating more than 650 years as town, Cascais boasts more than 90 years of history in the development of tourism in Portugal, having started all those years ago as an important sun and beach destination of international repute.
The richness of Cascais heritage reflects its Royal historic past. To walk around the region is to have the sensation of living in another time, to belong to another world. Since the end of the eighteenth century the region staged many important episodes of the Portuguese history as Cascais was chosen by the Portuguese Royal Family to become its summer residence. By that time medical doctors from several countries of Europe had advocated the
therapeutical advantages of sea baths, seaside season became a social event and the region transformed itself in a fashionable seaside resort.
Upgrading the area’s luxury and tradition, to the Portuguese Riviera came members of the European high society, such as exiled kings, writers, famous artists and bankers during the Second World War. It also became the main destination for british, japanese and german spies, like the british spy and writer Ian Fleming. Inspired by the region’s glamour and the life of the famous spy Dusan Popov Ian Fleming created one of the most popular characters of the movie industry: James Bond.
Cascais is still glamorous today, modern as well as quiet. For years it has become one of the favorite residences of the upper class of capital Lisbon and many foreign residents in Portugal. Elegant buildings, with its own architecture abound together with mansions and luxury homes.
A wide range of historical buildings and sites of cultural interest
Cascais cultural sites comprises a set of museum units and interpretive centres, named as Museum Quarter, whose different themes go beyond the representation of the territory and the historical municipal heritage through the presentation of collections ranging from the history of art and decorative arts, to natural history, terrestrial and underwater archaeology, marine ethnology, Portuguese music, to military history and science and technology.
The “Condes de Castro Guimarães” Museum, one of the landmarks of Cascais, is housed in the Palace of the Counts of Castro Guimarães, a beautiful mock-Gothic building in an inlet by the sea. Inaugurated in 1931 it is the oldest museum of Cascais and a remarkable piece of romantic architecture. Without forgetting the link with the sea and its activities, Cascais hosts at the Sea Museum an exhibit focused on maritime ethnography as well as several other rooms dedicated underwater archaeology and to the history and experiences of the fishing community of Cascais.
Also related to the sea, the Santa Marta Lighthouse museum gathers representative pieces that illustrate its activity whilst it was a lighthouse, featuring a series of optical devices from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as an audiovisual centre where a multilingual documentary about the lighthouses of Portugal is exhibited. At a national and international contemporary art level Cascais hosts the “Casa das Histórias - Paula Rego” Museum (Paula Rego House of Stories) that has as its mission the knowledge and enjoyment of the works by Paula Rego and her artistic connections.
This museum, designed by the architect Eduardo Souto de Moura (awarded with Pritzker prize), is a space filled with "fun, unpretentious, alive, full of joy and lots of mischief", seeks to strengthen not only the fabric of Portuguese museums for contemporary art but also to fit into the international art circuit and its audiences by providing a cultural service of excellence, through the rotating exhibit of the collection, a dynamic educational service and diverse parallel programming.
Modern art also invaded all the spaces of the five star hotel “Pousada da Cidadela” and the Citadel that surrounds it. The Citadel Art District is the first European project to link a hotel to an art district as well as the first Raw Art gallery in the country. At the Citadel Art District one can find artists working in six open studios (set up in the former military buildings) or in any location inside the Pousada da Cidadela.
To accompany visitors and help them better understand the meaning of the art on display, the Pousada has an Art Concierge who provides all explanations about the artists, the pieces, the locations and the exhibitions.
Still on a cultural level, the region has so much to offer that only the most detailed programme could give a proper idea of everything that’s going on.
The annual events calendar includes art exhibitions, jazz festivals, classical music, dance, sailing championships, tennis, golf, surf, classic car exhibition, horse jumping show, handicraft and gastronomy fairs.
Concerning gastronomy, the visitor can choose from an enormous range of possibilities that include some of the region’s most typical dishes, most notably the freshest possible fish and seafood, stewed lobster, sea bass, bream and the famous Cascais sole.
Sports & Nature
The region is also popular for its excellent natural conditions and facilities for all types of sport, from the most extreme such as paragliding, delta wing gliding, rock climbing, to the more traditional kind of sport like horse riding, polo, tennis, all kinds of sailing and motor racing at the famous Estoril Race Track. The coastline is the ideal setting for water sports such as: sailing, windsurfing, surfing, kite surfing and water skiing, which are some of the many sports that can be practiced along our coast. Cascais is always a milestone in the main national and international Surfing circuits. The best waves, the best athletes and the best competitions take place here.
Cascais has also been the setting for some of the most important sailing events in the world and has a natural link with Nautical Sports. Sailing is a regional tradition, with the Cascais Marina as its main location.
Cascais Marina has an excellent location and a service area available for customers. It offers a wide range of maintenance services which are carried out by qualified and officially certified staff.
Golf is also one of the most popular sports, with its seven golf courses awarded by IAGTO as the best Golf Destination in Europe, all set in prime locations with the most modern facilities and infra-structure.
Proof of its importance the region offers a golf passport that entitles the golfers to play on a selection of 3/5 golf courses for an established selling price.
In addition to all these facilities, the region is also blessed with magnificent protected areas. It is rare to find, anywhere in the world, a natural park so close to a capital city. The Sintra Cascais Natural Park has managed to preserve everything in this westernmost part of Continental Europe, at least as far as nature is concerned, despite humanity having left its mark over the centuries.
The park features an amazing diversity of landscapes – dunes, forests, lagoons, a rugged stretch of tall, prominent cliffs interspersed with bays and welcoming beaches. The imposing Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of both the Serra de Sintra and the whole area classified by UNESCO as a unique cultural landscape and a place of world heritage. With such a rich and varied fauna and flora, the park is the perfect place for a long walk in calm and peaceful surroundings, as well as all the other eco-tourism activities popular today.
Visitors can have an idea of the richness of this natural park exploring the almost 4 kilometre-long path of Pisão Nature Park.
The Pisão Nature Park lays in a valley connecting the Cascais low lands and the mountains of Sintra. It has a total area of 380 hectares entirely included in the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais. Engaged in agricultural activity, it has a heritage of great ecological, cultural and historical importance.
Sintra Cascais Natural Park also hosts a theme park in accordance with the scout/guide spirit called Pedra Amarela Campo Base. This space serves as a starting point for several sports and nature activities within the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais such as slide, tree climbing (canopy adventure), rock climbing, rappel and orienteering among many others.
Nearby, the majestic Tapada de Mafra is a must-see attraction for visitors. Wolves, foxes, genets and a great variety of birds such as the rare Bonelli eagle can also be found living there in complete freedom. Totally enclosed, the Tapada is excellent for photography, orienteering exercises, archery, horse-riding, mountain biking and chariot riding.
There’s a wide selection of hotels available. From the most traditional to the most romantic, either boutique or self-catering, historical or modern, the offer is extensive and thorough, which fits a region where tourism prevails all-year-round without the mass gatherings but genuinely integrated in the local community.
Its hospitality, ease of communication, Portuguese cuisine, and environment makes any visitor feel at home.
Despite its exclusive ambience Cascais has continuously offered extremely competitive services to the international market, with an excellent price/quality ratio and a high level of added value for those who seek professionalism and a warm welcome.
Companies from around the world choose the region for their seminars and conferences due to the region’s long experience in organizing all kinds of events.
One of the most modern in Europe, the Estoril Congress Centre enables the region to compete in the fast-growing business tourism market.
The Estoril Congress Center has also achieved the prestigious Green Globe Benchmarked status under the internationally recognized Green Globe certification program. This programme recognises Estoril Congress Center’s commitment to operating to the world’s highest environmental standard. In response to the global climate crisis, Estoril Congress Center has thus committed to a vision of operating a meeting facility with zero emissions and zero waste.
All Within Easy Reach
Therefore, it’s true to say that Cascais main strengths lie, fundamentally, in the rich combination of its natural characteristics, high-quality facilities and professional services.
Today, having adapted itself to the demands and modern profile of the 21st century tourist, it offers a full package of attractions and services, including those most in demand in international markets.
Cascais, as you can see, is a place brimming with life, a great diversity of attractions and experiences packed into a relatively small area but unparalleled in terms of nature, culture and heritage.
Cascais is part of one of the safest countries in the world with more than 300 days of sun per year, with warm and friendly people.
Cascais, the best place to live one day or a lifetime!
Top things to do
Cascais Museum Quarter
The Cascais Municipal Council and the D. Luís I Foundation created a new concept in culture in Cascais: THE MUSEUM QUARTER. Included in a widespread geographical area in the Cascais municipality, the Quarter comprises different kinds of cultural venues, each of which remains true to its own identity but, when grouped together, represent memory, tradition and heritage.
However, they do not do so in a static way.
There are two types of white-sand and transparent-water beaches in the region. Two feet away from the promenade you will find the cosmopolitan beaches embraced by coves and surrounded by elegant houses, small palaces, and terrace bars. If you walk a bit longer, you will end up on beaches in the middle of the natural park, where you will find cliffs, protected dunes, and energy-filled and iodine-rich waters. Whether you are a fan of pleasant idleness or wind and board sports, you will certainly find your beach.
Estoril Congress Center
Opened in 2001 and winner of the “Excellency in innovation and Architecture Quality Prize” and “Best Tourism Development”, the Estoril Congress Center is located on a very prominent tourist site known as the Lisbon Coast, next to the famous Casino, granted with the surrounding gardens and sea views and a a 25km drive from Lisbon airport.
Cascais has exceptional weather and the sun does not take a vacation. Due to these conditions, there are several sports that attract athletes from all over the world. Sailing is part of a local tradition and it counts on a wide and modern marina and nautical club. The wind and undulation on the coast invite you to surf, windsurf, kitesurf, SUP, and bodyboard. The golf courses in this region are among the very best in Europe. The different forest tracks welcome pedestrians and horse riders as well as those searching for adventure sports.
Cascais-Sintra Natural Park
Unusually close to a major city like Lisbon, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park has managed to preserve throughout the territory surrounding the westernmost point of continental Europe and to coexist harmoniously nature and human presence, that, so near the capital, would inevitably make itself felt.
In its territory, the park presents a stunning diversity of environments and landscapes, including sand dunes, forests, lakes, a rugged coastline where high cliffs are interspersed with lovely beaches, the imposing and Cabo da Roca, in the center, the magnificent Serra de Sintra and the entire area classified by UNESCO as a cultural landscape heritage of mankind.