Cascais, Lisbon Coast, Portugal
Cascais is a coastal town west of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast. Originally a small fishing village, by the 14th century it had started to expand outside the walls of the castle. The great earthquake in 1755 destroyed most of the village but over time it was restored again and in fact became the summer residence for the royal family. Because Portugal remained neutral throughout World War II Cascais became home to many exiled European royal families, and today it is a very popular destination for the jet set.
Many fortresses were built along this stretch of coastline to protect it from invasion by the Spanish. The Cidadela de Cascais was one such construction. The Santo Antonio’s Tower was a watchtower that looked over the town, and was cleverly disguised by its colour which blended in with the coast line. It consisted of four buildings, a central park, and a cistern. During the 19th century King Luis 1 turned the Citadel into his summer residence, and since then it has been converted into the Pousada de Cascais (Cidadela Historic Hotel & Art District). This luxury hotel has beautifully retained the building’s heritage, and its superb accommodation includes a restaurant, bars, art shop, indoor pool, and wellness centre. Being located close to the centre of town and the beaches, it is an ideal place to base yourself during your stay.
There are two museums in town which you might like to visit; the Portuguese Music Museum and the Museum of the Sea. There is also the Cultural Centre of Cascais which was originally a fine palace during the 19th century and hosts exhibitions and concerts. If you are interested in art from the 16th to the 20th centuries, the Chapel of Saint Sebastian has an excellent exhibit. It is also famous for its huge tile collection.
There are regular trains to Cascais from Lisbon and its large harbour accommodates many impressive yachts. For those who are interested in sailing the Cascais Naval Club based here has a sailing school where important sailors including the Portuguese Olympic team have learned their skills.
Cascais has several lovely beaches offering many water sports such as surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kite-surfing. One of its biggest attractions along the coast is the Boca do Inferno which is a natural rock formation carved out by the crashing waves of the sea. The noise from the waves makes quite a roar in the hallows of this unusual formation.
Other sports available are tennis and golf, with a number of great golf courses right on the door step. Beyond Cascais there are also several day trips you can enjoy such as the beautiful town of Sintra to the north, or to the east is the glamorous seaside resort town of Estoril.
August is one of the best times to visit Cascais as this is when they host 'the Sea’s Festival'. The festival dates back to the 15th century and was started as thanks to their patron saints for protecting their fishermen. The parade of saints starts in the streets and then each statue is loaded on to a separate boat. It is quite a spectacle and will certainly add a colourful dimension to your holiday.