Cascais' main square, Praça 5 de Outubro
Cascais’ main attraction is its number of sandy beaches, which are some of the finest in the Lisbon region. But the town is also home to historic mansions which are now museums, and the old center itself is charming enough for a day trip from Lisbon. Almost everything that there is to see and do is within walking distance, and even those staying for a few days will never run out of things to experience. There are all types of activities, from water sports to cultural attractions, nearby and in the surroundings.
The Beaches and the Forts
Fort in Carcavelos Beach
Most beaches are within walking distance of the center, and offer golden sand, a clean and calm sea, and oceanfront bars, cafés and restaurants. They’re suitable for families with children, and for people of all ages. Many are overlooked by fortresses, which were built in the 1600s down the entire coast between Lisbon and Cascais. They protected Lisbon’s harbor, and currently stand restored or in different states of disrepair, but all are fine examples of military architecture. To choose the best beach for you, take a look at the Cascais beaches guide.
If the sun is not shining, or if you like a good dose of culture, head to the Museum Quarter, which is a cluster of museums covering different themes. Two of them would be worth a visit for their buildings alone -- the Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum and the Paula Rego Museum -- one a wonderful example of romantic architecture, and the other a notable example of contemporary architecture.
The Old Town
Largo Luís de Camões
Mixing old fishermen’s houses and aristocratic mansions, the old center of Cascais has a certain Mediterranean atmosphere, and is a delightful place for a stroll. Most of it is pedestrianized, and is lined with boutiques, cafés and restaurants with outdoor seating. The main pedestrian street is Rua Frederico Arouca, with a very Portuguese wave-patterned pavement. It starts by the beach of Praia da Rainha, and ends by one of the town’s main streets, Alameda dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra, which is lined with palm trees and several restaurants. Behind it is Largo Luís de Camões, a small, attractive square with even more places to eat and drink, and just a few feet from there is the main square, Praça 5 de Outubro. It’s home to the Town Hall and the tourist office, and opens to Praia da Ribeira, which is also known as Fishermen’s Beach.
From there you may walk east to the oceanfront promenade that leads to several beaches, starting with the popular Praia da Conceição, or continue to the west to visit the main cultural attractions. There’s the citadel and the town’s main church (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção), and the Museum Quarter mentioned above, which includes the charming Casa de Santa Maria and the landmark lighthouse of Santa Marta.