There are several ways to tackle visiting Portugal and no matter how long you plan to stay, it will be difficult to see everything that you want to see. You may want to break up your trip into sections and visit certain areas at a time.
If you’re flying into Lisbon, I suggest starting in Cascais when planning a road trip heading North to Porto or Douro Valley.
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Starting in Cascais is a refreshing place to begin if you’re worried about finding your bearings amidst the bustling energy of Lisbon. The terrain is a little less strenuous for walking as well. The overall pace is slower and good for settling into your new surroundings.
While it is true that many people speak English, don’t be surprised if you meet someone that doesn’t. Learning a few phrases in Portuguese really is worth it. I recommend Practice Portuguese.
Getting From Lisbon Airport to Cascais
Portugal has plenty of good transportation options if you want to avoid renting a car. You can get to Cascais by
- Metro + train + bus,
- a private transfer,
- taxi, or
- rideshare (Uber or Bolt).
A rental car will be the fastest (30 to 40 minutes) and the expense varies depending on your plans. Recommended rental car companies for fair rates that include insurance are Sixt and Europcar.
A taxi will be the most expensive at upwards of 75 Euros one way.
A private transfer can run from $30 – 60 for a group.
The cheapest option would be public transportation via the metro to the train that goes to Cascais. A Lisboa card would be advised if you plan to use the metro/train/bus frequently. It includes some free attractions and rides on the train, metro, and bus. It can be purchased for 24 hour periods up to 72 hours and also gives discounts on some additional popular attractions.
Where to Stay in Cascais
It can be hard to find hotel accommodations for more than 3 people in one room, therefore you might want to look for a villa in Cascais. There are quite a few resorts to choose from that can accommodate families.
Martinhal Cascais is a 5-Star Luxury Resort designed with families in mind offering suites, hotel rooms, bunk beds, and 2 bedroom villas. Additional amenities include a kids clubhouse, children’s playgrounds, kids activities and clubs, 2 restaurants, a lounge bar, spa, and bike rentals. Rates start at $400+ per night.
Sheraton Cascais Resort is a 5-Star Resort that offers hotel rooms and up to 3 Bedroom villas. 2+ Bedroom suites can start at $350+ night and you may even be able to find dates when Marriott rewards can be used as well. Amenities on site include activities for kids, spa, restaurant, bicycle rentals, complimentary on-site parking, valet, and an electric car charging station.
Vila Bucuda is a 4-Star Resort offering studios to 3 Bedroom villas. Amenities on site include a mini-market, cafeteria, laundry, restaurant, kids care, and a children’s park. Spring rates start as low as $121/nt.
Onyria Quinta da Marinha is a 5-Star Resort with villas, spa and a golf course. Spring rates for rooms start at $130/nt. This turned out to be an excellent choice for our stay, very clean and comfortable.
These resorts offer complimentary parking and are very close to the shore which makes them a great choice for families exploring by car. They are a little further from the center of Cascais where more shopping and restaurants are but it is only a 10 – 20 minute drive away.
What to Do in Cascais
Cascais is a place where you might not “want TO DO anything” except walk along the shoreline and take in the views and that is perfectly fine. There are a number of beaches and activities to enjoy as well as the historic fort. This list is intended for nature loving walkers who want to be near the water.
If you start at the Northern Beaches and drive South on Guincho Road (EN247), you’ll be able to continue along Av. Rei Humberto II de Italia until you reach the turn off as it is a one way street going south. You’ll find spots for parking as you get close to Boca do Inferno although during busy times parking can be very difficult. This is a great spot to park and rent a bike or walk.
While most of these scenic spots are free to view, there may be limited and paid parking expected along the way. Off peak season and timing is the best way to ensure access so plan accordingly.
Scenic Spots and Beaches starting from the Northern End
Praia do Guincho – FREE beach access. Paid Parking.
Known as a surfer’s beach for surfing, windsurfing, and kite surfing. It is also part of a hiking route into the mountains in one direction and a cycle path leading into Cascais in the other direction. This beach is also known for its 1969 appearance in the James Bond film “Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” and it still looks the same today.
For a unique treat, stop at Fortaleza do Guincho for the night to stay in a 5* hotel with its own Michelin restaurant and rooms overlooking the beach. This is a real gem with its 17th century preserved interiors. Children are welcome to stay here and the hotel even has bike rentals for exploring together.
Forte de Crismina
A degraded fort built in 1762 at the time of Portugal’s entry into the Seven Years’ War.
In November, the wind whips around you as you hear the waves crash thunderously. You’ll have a range of feelings swirling about you from chills to being awestruck and it may even feel a bit ominous as well. It’s anything but a calm sight during the winter and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Farol do Cabo Raso
I read a review where someone said they made a rather long and uneventful walk from the more populated end in Cascais to this spot. Don’t walk it unless you really want to walk all that way. I love walking but most places rarely have long walks that are “eventful”.
I prefer a long walk to be peaceful and in good company. The sound of the ocean coupled with a sunny day is plenty for me, even in the cold.
While you can certainly walk and bike, driving this itinerary and pulling over at spots like this is what it’s all about. There’s no grand entry to see, you just pull off the main drive at a small gravel road with some crater sized potholes to maneuver. You will doubt yourself but see a few others and figure it must be okay.
It’s a lighthouse with its signature bright red tower inside an old fort. It may seem the same as all the others but the views are different. Stop, breathe, and take it all in. This is why you’re here, to bear witness to the beauty of the land.
You are standing at one of the farthest western land reaches of Portugal into the Atlantic Ocean and it’s been welcoming monstrous waves right here for a long time, unbothered, just like it is today.
Forte de São Jorge de Oitavos
This fort houses an engaging military collection in its museum with minimal entry costs.
Guia Lighthouse – Farol da Guia
Portugal’s first lighthouse was completed in 1761, after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which damaged the original tower that illuminated the area since 1523.
Boca do Inferno
The most unique piece of this journey is right here. Hand crafted by nature, Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) is a sea arch and cliff left after the sea cave collapsed. The waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash with full force on the base of this arch, at times forcing eruptions of water and mist up into the air with every roar.
It is not uncommon to see locals fishing on the cliff’s edges, tourists should probably heed the warnings which are very clear about the dangers.
You can walk to this point from the center of town in about 20 – 30 minutes. If you walk here, don’t expect to find a taxi but you may be able to get a local rideshare through Uber or Bolt.
During normal hours, expect to see a few of the market stalls selling tourist gifts. This is probably one of the best spots to find a good value if this is what you are seeking.
If you’ve been driving, this is also a good point to park and walk the rest of the way as there isn’t any parking after this.
Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum
Tickets are €5 and include admission to Casa de Santa Maria next door.
Built in 1868, the lighthouse was added to the 17th century fort. Casa de Santa Maria is a house built in 1902 that was once a luxurious private residence and contains 17th century Azujelo tiles (iconic blue and white tiles) salvaged from an old chapel. In addition, there is a small beach (Praia de Santa Marta) formed by the inlet with access to the crystal clear waters.
A stay at Farol Hotel will give you easy access to the Museum Corridor of Cascais with sea or garden view rooms and suites. And if a stay is not in the cards, you can always visit for Happy Hour Specials with sunset views or enjoy the Afternoon Tea experience offered daily. For as little as 15€, you can enjoy tea and scones or opt for a choice of teas, herbal infusions, sandwiches, and pastries for 25€+.
Condes De Castro Guimarães Museum
A Gothic Revival Castle built between 1897 and 1900 that houses an impressive art collection, a library of 25,000 books including a 1505 manuscript documenting pre-Earthquake Lisbon, and a collection of Indo-Portuguese furniture.
Mirador Casa de Santa Maria
Beautiful lookout over the Santa Marta inlet as you get closer to the end of the drive at Marina and Citadel.
As your walk or ride finalizes at the corner of Av. Rei Humberto and Av. Dom Carlos I, you’ll arrive at the Citadel of Cascais and continue further along the oceanfront passing by beaches (Praia da Ribeira) into the center.
Families will also notice a nearby playground and parks perfect for the kids to have their needed moments as well.
Additional beach spots in this area are Praia da Rainha and Praia da Duquesa. The nearby streets have plenty of options for food and drinks. If you are looking for a reasonably priced vegan option, try Roots Cafe as they have something for everyone including pizza, vegan sandwiches and vegan burgers.
If you start this drive/walk with the sunrise, you still have a full afternoon and evening for exploring more in Cascais.
Tried it? Let us know in the comments what worked for you or hidden gems you found along the way!