Just outside Lisbon, Cascais is one of Portugal's first holiday destinations. King Luis was one of the town's earliest tourists circa 1870. He popped down from Lisbon for the sunshine and sea of its three beautiful golden bays and no doubt sampled the best places to stay in Cascais. The Atlantic may be bracing, but then, as now, the seafood is fresh and excellent, the sunshine is generous, and there's plenty of beauty to appreciate after you've taken your dip.
What has changed since Luis' patronage in the 1870s is that what was once a mere village has chichi-ed up into a really sophisticated little town. Built around an imposing fortress, the historic centre was much augmented by this royal interest. There's lovelier architecture than you'd expect in a fishing village. A greater number of museums and excellent restaurants.
It's a cliche, but Cascais really does have something for everyone. There are a number of small, interesting museums, a shiny new marina, the famous windblown beach of Guincho and several world class golf courses.
Cascais is a good size for exploring on foot. Though the cobbled streets of the historic centre do have an upwards slant.
One of the first places to explore, after the beaches, should be the Palacio de Conde de Casteo Guimaraes, home to a vast collection of books - around 25,000 - some of them extremely rare.
If you have an afternoon spare you could visit the pre-historic finds of the Grutas de Alparaia, which are a series of caves running under Cascais only discovered in the 19th Century. Or you could visit the bijou Museu do Mar, which tells the story of Cascais as a fishing village.
On the weekends this is a busy town, with crowds flocking out from Lisbon. The corso is where to head for a lively night out.
There are a couple of famous spots just outside Cascais.
⁃ Estoril, with its popular casino, once famed for being full of spies, including Ian Fleming. Whose fictitious 'Casino Royal' is based on Estoril Casino. You can walk around the headland to Estoril from Cascais along a charming beachfront esplanade, past rows of restaurants, cafes and bars.
⁃ Just out of Cascais is the Boca do Inferno, a rocky outcrop jutting into the sea, which booms and sprays like the 'mouth of hell' when a big wave hits it.
⁃ If you're a windsurfer you probably already know about the winds of Guincho. This breezy beach is 5kms out of Cascais, on a cycle and pedestrian route running along the sea. The Boca de Inferno is about half way.
If you want to see a bit more of the local area hire a bike. You can do this for free, as long as you have ID, but if you want something more reliable it's pretty cheap to hire privately.
An historic mansion in a sleepy fishing village. Elegant rooms have chandeliers, silky fabrics, and sophisticated furnishings, some have private balconies. Charming inner courtyard and luscious gardens. Close to sailing, sightseeing, and wine tasting.
This hotel definitely does not betray its name. Its cutting edge design - clean lines and white everything - make this a very trendy spot to stay. Stunning infinity pool (almost touching the sea) and excellent fusion restaurant. A hit for for the young and hip, honeymooners or not.
Luxury chic hotel on the beach. Beautifully decorated rooms and suites in pastels with sea views, private balconies, and marble bathrooms. Excellent pool and restaurant, and access to the beach. Perfect for an active beach holiday for families or couples.
A Five Star hotel on the beach front. Beautiful rooms and suites have stone floors, elegant furnishings, and lots of space. Michelin star restaurant, terraces, pools, perfect views. Access to all water sports. Romantic, family friendly, beachy.
The Pousada de Cascais - Citadel Historic Hotel and Art District is set within a 16th century fortress in this seaside town. A mini city within itself, this luxurious, beautifully designed hotel comes with chic spa, stunning rooms and six galleries showing the work of resident and visiting artists.