Captivating Cascais

Always have a Plan B…

Soooo, at the end of last week’s blog I promised pictures of the Palácio e Jardins do Marquês de Pombal. Won and I got up Tuesday morning and got ourselves ready. We took Sweet Pea for an extended walk to tire her out and dropped her back at home. Before we left, I made sure I had both the fully-charged extended battery AND the cord to connect it to my phone (groan). We entered the address of the palace into our navigation app and off we went! It was a beautiful day, sunny, clear and 22C (72F). We got there with no problem and upon arrival, BAM! This is what greeted us…

Nooo! The ENTIRE building was shrouded in netting and covered in scaffolding. Talk about a let down. It looked like the gardens were open, but I was so disappointed, we both agreed that seeing the palace would have to be rescheduled after all the work was completed. Boo hoo. On the plus side, it should look great when we return so my expectations are going to be sky high when that happens.

As we drove back toward home along the coast, we decided to stop for lunch at the Cascais Marina and figure out what to do next. The marina is lovely with loads of restaurants all bustling again now that most of the pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted. It sits right next to a 15th century citadel and has views of Baía de Cascais (a fun beach area nestled near the center of town). And then it hit me…d’uh…why don’t I write about Cascais?!

I have been thinking about doing a post dedicated to the neighboring town of Cascais for sometime, but I keep pushing it to the bottom of the list. Not because it isn’t interesting or beautiful, but more likely because it is literally within walking distance and is practically a part of our daily lives. This means I struggle to focus on what to write about. I suffer from I-know-too-much syndrome (even though I’m hardly an expert on the city). I know just enough to make it challenging, so I have decided to focus on what I love about Cascais.

But before we jump into that, the first thing you should know is how to pronounce it. Many people use a French pronunciation saying, cass-kigh, like “high,” which is wrong. The Portuguese pronunciation is more like “kush-guy-zsh” (kush, like ‘hush’).

(Remember to use the plus and minus symbols in the upper right hand corner of the map to zoom in and out.)

Cascais is an easy 35 minute drive along the coast from Lisbon. Won and I take the coastal route nearly every time we drive into Lisbon as opposed to taking the faster A5 highway inland because it is so pretty. There is a direct train between the Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon and the terminus point in Cascais. And, the train runs along the coastline so you get to see views of the water during most of the ride. Cascais is also located right next to Sintra making it a great spot to use a base to explore that area too.

Of course the history of Cascais is fascinating. Very early on, the town was seen as a strategic post in the defense of Lisbon due to its location at the mouth of the Tejo (Tagus) estuary. However, the medieval fortress was inadequate to repel invasions, and in 1580 Spanish troops took the village during the conflict that led to the union of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns. After that, modifications were made to enlarge and strengthen the fortress.

Over time, the citadel, gradually decayed until King Luís I decided to establish a summer residence in Cascais. From 1870 to 1908, the Portuguese royal family stayed in Cascais to enjoy the sea, turning the quiet fishing village into a cosmopolitan address. Thanks to King Luís, the citadel was equipped with the country’s very first electric lights in 1878.

Today the citadel is a cultural and artistic center with bookstores, outdoor sculptures, a flower shop, offices, art galleries, a church, and a swanky hotel.

It is a lovely walk between the marina and the historic downtown along the side of the citadel.

The downtown area is super cute with many pedestrian-only streets lined with shops and restaurants. The museum of Cascais is right there too.

Cascais also has several parks, one of which is in the downtown area. It has the cutest merry-go-round and a great place sip an espresso and watch the people go by.

From the intimate to the expansive, Parque Marechal Carmona has wide lawns, herbaceous and shrub beds, and a forest with large trees and paths with a touch of romanticism. The park also includes lakes, a picnic area, and a field for traditional games. The Municipal Children’s and Youth Library is also located there. The space also has a playground, which is divided into three areas and adapted to children’s age groups. Every Saturday the park hosts the Cascais Biological Market, where you can find certified organic products, fruits, vegetables, jams, and sweets.

If you venture just beyond the main part of downtown, you will find loads of great restaurants to tempt you and charming streets to explore.

Due to royal interest, Cascais became the go-to place to be. Many noble families followed King Luís’ lead and built impressive mansions in an eclectic style commonly referred to as summer architecture. Some of these homes can still be seen in the area and a few have been turned into museums. Here are two magnificent examples.

Another thing I love about Cascais are the wonderful beaches. Cascais is home to 17 beaches, which are a major draw for both residents and visitors.

Some of the beaches hug the edges of the populated area of Cascais and others are further up the coastline where there are no homes nearby. Some have sandy beaches and some have seawalls and ocean pools that fill and empty with the tides. Those nearest to town are reached via the paredão (pedestrian seawall). Most of the beaches have ice cream kiosks, restaurants and/or bars to keep folks happy and entertained. Clearly there is something for everyone!

Here are some images of Praia de Guincho (Guincho Beach), which is pronounced gheen-shoo with a hard “g” sound. I’ve also included a video I took when we were there on March 1 to give you a feel for this awesome beach where it seems there is someone surfing everyday of the week.

And, if all that wasn’t enough, we recently discovered Casa de Guia, pronounced kaza de guy-ah. Located on two hectares of land by the sea, the old Quinta dos Condes de Alcáçovas, has been transformed into a cornucopia of restaurants, cafes and shops. The magnificent views can be admired from any number of terraces, walkways, gardens or the open-air amphitheater. The original house, built over a number of years and finally completed in 1912, was renovated in 1999 to preserve its grandeur and is now a lovely restaurant and museum. We’ve been there during the day to shop and dine, and at night to dine and drink.

Egad…I’ve been at this for far too long and I’m long overdue for my typical, self-imposed publishing deadline of 5PM local time. Unfortunately, I could go on and on. See? This is why I’ve been stalling on making this the topic of one of my posts. There is so much more I didn’t even cover, but I have to stop sometime.

I hope you enjoyed learning what I love most about Cascais and that you will add it to your list of places to see when you visit. I’m confident you will enjoy every minute!

Until then, please, stay safe, stay healthy and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Captivating Cascais

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful report on Cascais. We are trying to visit soon to investigate where to live and the town is high on our list. We’re coming from the States and have an elementary school aged child and I know there are a lot of international schools nearby. Do you find the area of Cascais and Estoril to be a nice mix of Portugese and immigrants? The pictures are lovely!

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    1. I’m delighted you enjoyed this post! Where are you coming from? We’re also from the US. Cascais and Estoril are exactly that…a great mix of expats and Portuguese. You’ll love it here. Let me know if you have any other questions. I’d be happy to help if possible.

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      1. Thanks Beth for the offer to help! We’re coming from Des Moines so needless to say the weather in Cascais is a top driver of our move. Most of our adult lives were spent in Denver so we’re desperate to find a place with more sunshine. I’ve binged on your blog and love that you provide details around costs and daily living. Our focus is to find the best school and comfortable place to live. We have lots to purge and organize but I can tell it’s worth it because the butterflies in my stomach tell me I’m pushing myself outside my comfort zone which is a good thing.

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      2. I can relate! We are originally from California, but lived in New Jersey for nearly 8 years before moving here. I’m happy to know the information I have provided in my blog has been of value to you. This type of transition is a big move, but patience, perseverance, preparedness, and planning will get you through it all in good shape. Unfortunately, the one area I don’t have any experience in are schools since my son is an adult. If you aren’t already on it, join the Facebook group called ‘Expats Cascais’ (Julie Buck is the administrator). I have seen many posts regarding schools and activities for school-age children. I think you can also use the search function to sort prior posts on a specific topic. It may be helpful. Best of luck with everything and feel free to stay in touch.

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