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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.
For a Mini Break
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.
- The Farol Design Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Cascais if you like cutting edge design and sleek, clean, white lines. The infinity pool almost touches the sea, the excellent restaurant is a hip fusion of things and the bar is all chrome and glass. It is ideally located if you want to be in the heart of things, and is a romantic, grown up option.
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.
- If you want to be right on the coastline the best place to stay in Cascais is the Hotel Albatroz. Sitting prettily on a cliff top between two sandy coves, you can't be closer to the ocean. As well as having one of the best spots in town, this hotel is quite beautiful, with stylish decor in a variety of styles. The restaurant is great, and there's a range of rooms and suites to choose from, some designed for families.
Best Hotels in Cascais
Casa da Pergola 10 rooms from $57Cascais
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.Value chicSailing - Bay of Cascais and Tagus river.Fishing - Excellent fishing nearby.Sights nearby - Well located for major sights.
Farol Design Hotel 33 rooms from $115Cascais
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.Swimming Pool - Infinity pool overlooking the sea.City Style - Truly hip.Local markets - Good for local colour.Designer - Uniquely designed interiors.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape
Hotel Albatroz 52 rooms from $120Cascais
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.Views - Wonderful sea viewsActive HolidayBeach LifeSights nearby - Sintra for the Pena Palace.Recommended by - I Escape
Fortaleza do Guincho 27 rooms from $125Cascais
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.Foodies - Michelin star chef.Views - Great views from hotelBeach Life5* Luxury - Very high service standards.Recommended by - Relais & Chateaux
Senhora da Guia 42 rooms from $141Cascais
Superb five-star hotel sitting right on the Atlantic Ocean. Luxury at every turn with splendid rooms, a deluxe spa and a stunning pool overlooking the bay. In the day explore the rich Moorish history of the area or just as easily unwind by the pool. A heavenly seaside oasis.Total relaxation - The ideal beachside retreat with Hammam, hot tub, massages and a salt-water pool nestled between Cascais and Guincho Beach.Romantic Break - Right on the Atlantic, it's soothing seaside atmosphere makes it perfect for a romantic holiday.Sights nearby - Castle lovers can visit the Pena National Palace, the Moors Castle and Sintra National Palace, all seven miles from the hotel.Fishing - Deep sea fishing trips can be organised by the hotel.
Pousada de Cascais 126 rooms from $157Cascais
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.Suites - Eighteen contemporary and minimalist suites some with sea view or direct access to the spa or the internal courtyardsRestaurant - Two restaurants, Taberna da Praca serves Portuguese cuisine and Maris Stella serves locally caught seafoodArtworks - Art exhibitions and open studios are scattered throughout the PousadaSpa - Magic Spa signature face and body treatments
The Oitavos 142 rooms from $214Cascais
A stunning, five-star hotel set amidst the rolling dune landscape of Cascais. The elegant and coastal cool suites offer spectacular views over this four-hundred-acre estate. Brimming with all the creature comforts of a top class hotel, it's perfect for a relaxing, romantic break. Bliss.Romantic Break - This enchanting coastal property oozes romance from every pore, perfect for a relaxing break by the sea.Local exploring - Nestled into Sintra National Park, it's perfect for exploring the surrounding beauty of the area.Sights nearby - History lovers will enjoy visiting Pena National Palace and Sintra National Palace, both seven miles from the hotel.Great walks - Make the most of the beautiful walking through the surrounding national park.Recommended by - Tablet
Martinhal Cascais 84 rooms from $405Cascais (Quinta da Marinha)
A trendy resort that perfectly combines style and a family friendly attitude. Chic rooms are simple in design with floor to ceiling windows and private balconies. Numerous eateries will provide options for all. A spoiling spa also offers family packages. Endless activities in-house and out. Superb.Families - Designed with families in mind. A playground, kids club and numerous in-house activities will keep little ones entertained.Total relaxation - With an excellent spa and laid back atmosphere this is a resort for completely chilling out.Sights nearby - Make a trip to UNESCO-listed Sintra with its 19th-century Romantic architecture, castles and palaces.Local markets - Be sure to visit the vibrant Cascais market running on Wednesdays and Saturdays.Recommended by - I Escape