Things to do in Cascais Portugal. Casa de Santa Maria and lighthouse.

This pretty coastal resort town is one of the easiest day trips from Lisbon and worth the 40-minute train ride from Cais do Sodré station. Once you step off the train, you’ll find lots of things to do in Cascais. You’ll emerge in the centre of Cascais old town, filled with patterned pavements, boutiques, cafés and a mixture of architectural styles dating back centuries.

Read my insider guide to find out what to do in Cascais, including museums, parks, arts and crafts, best Cascais beaches and natural wonders. I’ve also covered how to get to Cascais from Lisbon and, if you decide to spend a few days here, read my suggestions for the best places to stay in Cascais. 

Cascais as a relaxed summer resort

Cascais’ popularity as a summer resort town came about in the late 19th century when King Luís I made the citadel his summer residence. Wealthy Portuguese quickly flocked to build their own little palaces and mansions and in turn, road and rail connections between Cascais and Lisbon improved, as did the facilities within the town centre.

During the Second World War, Cascais and Estoril became a particularly pleasant safe haven for exiled European nobles and other wealthy families. It still attracts the moneyed crowd but has plenty to offer for all types of traveller and budget.

As well as an attractive cluster of streets and squares, museums, galleries, parks, gardens and markets, there are a range of beaches that appeal to different groups of people, from surfers to families.

Since there are so many things to do in Cascais, it’s understandably still a popular weekend destination for Lisboetas and attracts international visitors all year round. Read on to learn why you should visit Cascais.

What to do in Cascais: Museums and art galleries

Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães

Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães. Cidadela Arts District Cascais' strategic location at the mouth of the Tagus River earned it a fortress in the 15th century to prevent undesirables from reaching Lisbon. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to stop the Spanish from taking over in 1580. When the country was once more under Portuguese control, the structure was reinforced and enlarged to create a Renaissance citadel in the 17th century. The citadel is now used as a hotel and contemporary art venue.
Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães, Cascais

Without doubt, my favourite Cascais museum is Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães.

It’s actually a beautifully grand summer house with turrets and cloisters set in the equally pretty Marechal Carmona park (see below).

Built in 1900, following a design by Luigi Magnini, the imaginative and super-talented man responsible for the Neo-Manueline Buçaco Palace and the whimsical Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, it’s full of intricate architectural and decorative features and has an enviable private cove and sea views.

The period furnishings and decor allow you to imagine living in such a palace in the early 20th century. It also contains some important artworks. Open 10-1 pm and 2-5 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Museu da Vila (Town Hall)

Town hall, Cascais
Town hall, Cascais

A fascinating museum located in the town hall detailing the history of the area from Neolithic to the early twentieth century. The explanations, in English, paint a vivid picture of how Cascais developed and there are many well preserved artefacts, including these intriguing stone sandals.

Pair of limestone sandles found in a Necropolis, Museu da Vila, Cascais
Pair of limestone sandles found in a Necropolis, Museu da Vila, Cascais

To get a good insight into the museum take a look at this excellent interactive video.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 6 pm, closed Mondays. Admission is free.

Casa de Santa Maria and lighthouse

The Casa de Santa Maria, which is across the road from the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães, feels rather dull, although it has got some lovely tiles.

Decorative tiles and ceiling, Casa de Santa Maria, Cascais
Decorative tiles and ceiling, Casa de Santa Maria, Cascais

There is a lighthouse beyond the house but it was closed when we tried to visit.

Casa das Historias – Paula Rego

Mike has long admired Portuguese artist Paula Rego’s work so a visit to Casa das Historias was a must see on our Cascais itinerary.

The building itself is remarkable with its two red pyramids, designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Eduardo Souto de Moura.

Inside, the works on display change to reflect 50 years of Rego’s production through a selection of her paintings, drawings and etchings, complemented by works by other artists. Open 10-6 pm Tuesday to Sunday, €5.

Pyramids, Casa das Histórias, Paula Rego, one of many thing to do in Cascais
Pyramids, Casa das Histórias

Centro Cultural de Cascais

Set in an old convent with changing exhibitions ranging from contemporary to ancient art, there’s likely to be something of interest to you. 

The center is open 10-6 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is €5. There’s also a small auditorium hosting musical recitals. Check here for details.

Cidadela Arts District

Statue of King Dom Carlos I stands outside the Cidadela de Cascais
Statue of King Dom Carlos I stands outside the Cidadela de Cascais

Cascais’ strategic location at the mouth of the Tagus River earned it a fortress in the 15th century to prevent undesirables from reaching Lisbon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the Spanish from taking over in 1580.

The Renaissance citadel that stands in its place now is a luxury hotel and a contemporary art venue.

Sculpture in foreground, galleries along courtyard. Cidadela Arts District, Cascais
Cidadela Arts District, Cascais

There are plenty of small galleries to wander into with other sculptures dotted around the open courtyard.

If you can try to get a tour of the royal presidential palace. Guided tours for the general public only take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and these are subject to change due to the president’s agenda for the day. Times and ticket prices can be found here.

Where to buy arts and crafts in Cascais and Estoril

You’ll find a cluster of boutiques and gift shops selling quality Portuguese arts and crafts around Largo da Assunção including the colourful and eclectic Ceramicarte.

While you’re in this square, pop into the church of Our Lady of Assumption to see some of Josefa de Óbidos‘s paintings. She was a remarkable 17th Portuguese painter at a time when few female artists were active or recognised.

If you happen to be in the Cascais area in July or August, make the 3 km journey to Estoril for FIARTIL, the annual handicrafts fair in front of the Estoril exhibition and conference centre. More than just a place to buy unique souvenirs, there’s live music and plenty of Portuguese food to enjoy.

House of Wonders is a treat for both the eye and the taste buds. Spread over 3 floors, 4 if you count the rooftop terrace, this is a kaleidoscope of colours and vegetarian, vegan and raw food served amid pieces of art and ceramics, many of which are for sale. Open everyday 8 am to 11 pm.

House of Wonders, Cascais
House of Wonders, Cascais

Things to do in Cascais: Relax in pretty Marechal Carmona Park

This gorgeous green park is a lovely place to relax in the shade of giant palm trees or other foliage. Children (and big kids like me) love the duck pond and there are plenty of sculptures scattered around the park.

There are even some chickens, which apparently don’t like being caught out in the rain. When I was there one April, a brief shower sent them scuttling for cover under a picnic bench.

Next to the Castro Guimarães museum (see above), accessed via the park, you’ll find a rather cute chapel dedicated to St. Sebastian.

Sculpture fountain, Parque Marechal Carmona, Cascais
Sculpture fountain, Parque Marechal Carmona, Cascais

Beaches in Cascais – choose one to suit you

Wooden huts, hotel and big wheel at Praia da Ribeira, Cascais
Praia da Ribeira, Cascais

You’ll pass a string of relatively sheltered beaches on the Lisbon coast as you head towards Cascais.

Tip: If you want to combine time on the sand with a stroll around Cascais, take the train from Lisbon and get off one stop before the end of the line at Monte Estoril. Walk under the train tracks, turn right and hey presto, you’re on the beach (Praia das Moitas) in less than 5 minutes.

It’s not the best beach in Cascais but in summer months, you’re more likely to find space to lay your towel here than the smaller patches of sand closer to the old town.

To walk to Cascais from Praia das Moitas, simply follow the esplanade past the seawater swimming pool and around an old palace to the prettier but even busier beaches of Duquesa, Conceição and Rainha.

Tip: If you’re only interested in beach time, you don’t even need to go all the way to Cascais – the best beach on the Estoril-Cascais coastline is Carcavelos, a 20-minute train ride from Cais do Sodré plus a 700 metre walk from the station.

Praia Tamariz is literally just below the train station at Estoril and still within walking distance of Cascais.

Purple ferns in foreground at Praia da Rainha, Cascais
Praia da Rainha, Cascais

For wilder beaches, head along the coastline from Cascais Marina towards Guincho and the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park to find some wonderful beaches within just a few kilometres of Cascais.

BVariety of boats moored at Cascais Marina
Boats moored at Cascais Marina

You may want to take advantage of the cheap bikes (BiCas) for hire at strategic points around Cascais but get there early and bring a lock and ID. Failing that, there are at least two paid bike rental services in the old town.

Bikes for hire. BiCas bikes, Cascais
BiCas bikes, Cascais

To see the coastline and beaches from a different perspective, you could take a 2 or 4-hour sailing tour from Cascais Marina that goes all the way to Cabo da Roca headland. 

Or, for the more active, paddle along the Lisbon coastline in a kayak.

Wonders of nature at Boca do Inferno – Hell’s Mouth

The curious blowhole in the rocky coastline between Cascais and Guincho is about 2 km from the town centre and therefore walkable, depending on the weather.

Be warned, this is a popular stop for tour buses so souvenir stalls and cafés make the most of the passing trade.

To see the magnificent force of nature as the waves rush through the cave to swirl and pound against the rocks, follow the walkway along the rocks to the viewing platform.

Golf around Cascais

For anyone who enjoys golf, Cascais offers some excellent courses in gorgeous locations. Since becoming one of Portugal’s most fashionable resorts, Cascais boasts some of the best golf facilities in Portugal.   

How to get from Lisbon to Cascais

The train from Lisbon to Cascais only takes 40 minutes but if you’re a little short on time you could combine a stop in Cascais on a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra. If you’re travelling by car the journey time is approximately 25 minutes.

If you’re coming straight from Lisbon airport to Cascais, book an airport transfer ahead of time with this Private transfer to Cascais/Estoril from Lisbon airport.

Thinking of where to stay in Cascais? Then read my article on the 10 Best Cascais Hotels, Guesthouses and Apartments.

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Jetty with boats, street and lighthouse. The pretty coastal town of Cascais is a definite must-see, especially if you're visiting Lisbon, which is just 40 minutes away by train. Cascais boasts gorgeous patterned pavements, boutiques, cafés and an eclectic mix of architectural styles dating back centuries. Read on for my detailed insider guide, including museums, parks arts and crafts, beaches and natural wonders...and the best places to stay!
Cascais, Portugal – Best things to do
Lighthouse and dishes of food. The stunning coastal town of Cascais is just a 40-minute train journey from Lisbon, Portugal, and well worth a day trip. But with its natural wonders - including beautiful beaches - and its wealth of fascinating art, varied architecture and (of course) delicious food, you'll want to spend more time there, so be sure to check out my great accommodation tips!
What to see and do in Cascais, near Lisbon, Portugal.
Statue in town square. The lovely coastal town of Cascais is only a 40-minute train journey from Lisbon, Portugal, and well worth a day trip. But with its natural wonders - including stunning beaches - and its amazing art, you'll want to spend more time there, so be sure to check out these great accommodation tips!
Things to do in Cascais


  1. How would a visit to Cascais in the month of February? Like cultural exhibits. Would we be better off in Lisbon?

    1. Author

      Lisbon is bigger so will have more going on but you could stay in Cascais and take the train if you don’t want to actually stay overnight in Lisbon.

  2. Hi Julie,
    I like your website. I’m also a travel agent in US and in July flying to London on 4th, with my 5 yr old daughter for big trip before Kindergarten, for 3 days and then going to Portugal for 3 weeks first visiting for three days in Porto, 1night in Aveiro, 1-2 nights in Coimbra, day trip to Sintra and then stay 2 nights in Cascais (I was here in Jan 2017 for 3 days and Loved it! :-), then 3 days in Lisbon. I was thinking of driving to Faro then Sevilla and Merida to see ruins and back to Porto to return car, I heard I cannot return car to Lisbon instead of Porto.
    My question do you think it’s okay not to prebook each hotel? Say arrive in Lisbon and find 3 star hotel for 1-2 nights same for smaller towns along the way?

    1. Author

      Hi Mark, July is peak season and accommodation is already limited in availability. I would not leave it up to chance, especially with a young child in tow. Re the car rental, you can usually have a different drop off location but check the insurance details carefully. If you intend to drive in another country, you may need extra insurance which can be quite costly.

  3. We will be visiting Cascais for a couple of nights on our way south in our caravan, thank you for giving me some ideas on what there is to see there, We are also stopping in Porto for a week, so if you have any tips where the go and what to see would be great

  4. I’ve always wanted to visit Cascais, Julie. Great information. 🙂

    1. Author

      Having just been back there, I’d recommend allowing enough time to do some walks in the Sintra-Cascais natural park, too. I think you’d love it, Jo.

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.