I am going to go ahead and state the obvious: travelling has taken quite a turn this year. For the ones privileged enough to travel at all, it´s mostly meant shorter and more local getaways. It´s meant rediscovering their areas, or at most their countries, and while I understand some feel constrained by this, I think (re)discovering one´s roots is quite magical. So this pandemic´s first travel article had to be about a place very dear to me, the little coquette town of Cascais – one of the first places I ever discovered in Portugal.
Cascais is some 30 km away from Lisbon so by taking any train from Cais do Sodre, you´ll get to Cascais in 40 minutes tops. It will cost you 2,25€ one way. Both Cascais and Cais do Sodre are end of the line so any train you get in should take you to your respective destination. You can easily spend a day in Cascais, or just make it your starting point for a trip further west – to Boca do Inferno, Cabo da Roca and then back through Sintra. Las week I chose to spend a day there and blog about my ideal route through this idyllic town. So here´s where to go if you find yourself arriving at Cascais´ train station:
- Grab a Strawberry Ice Cream at Santini
First thing´s first. Santini is perhaps the most famous ice cream franchise in Portugal, with a history of over 70 years. Coming from notorious and visionary Italian ice cream makers, Santini is the product of Atillio Santini, whose great-grandfather had opened the first ice cream store in Viena. Atillio opened the first Santini in 1949 in Estoril, but my personal favourite remains the Cascais one in Avenida Valbom. Do yourself a favour and choose a strawberry scoop, it´s their speciality! Get it to go and continue your journey to the first beach on my list.
Dip Your Feet in the Water on the Praia da Rainha
Praia da Rainha is two minutes away from Santini and one of the first beaches I discovered in Cascais – that I keep coming back to. It is tiny, well protected from the notorious Portuguese wind and amateur sailers love to anchor their boats in front of it, giving both them and you a very nice view. I personally also love to rent a chaise-longue and an umbrella for 10€ and soak in the sun for a few hours. However, further down this list I´ll tell you about an even more hidden beach which is a nice, yet wild alternative. If you prefer wild and hidden, stay on Praia da Rainha just for a quick dip of your feet and maybe a sangria or two at the bar overlooking it and continue walking (and reading).
Walk Down the Rua da Saudade
Adjacent to the Rainha beach you´ll find Rua da Saudade. The street is special firstly because of its name (definition according to Wikipedia: saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again.). It´s a simple, yet special cobblestone street, with light coloured houses, bright coloured flowers, a gated church yard and a house of palm trees and will connect you to the the Passeio de Dom Luís, by the seaside. Rua da Saudade was also home to Romanian writer Mircea Eliade and that makes it even more magical in my eyes. So as you head out of the beach, walk downtown through Rua da Saudade instead of taking the more busy Rua Frederico Arouca.
- Grab a Bite and a Cocktail at Reserva da Vila
A charming restaurant with a delightful view to the water, Reserva da Vila has both inside and outside tables and serves good food and even better cocktails. With blue interiors, it´s a perfect extension of the Cascais blue sky and water. It´s currently only open from 1pm to 10pm so it should be a nice lunch spot.
- Marvel at the Calçada Portuguesa as You Walk Towards the Museu da Vila
The Portuguese are notorious for their white and black lime cobblestone sidewalks – the calçada Portuguesa. Depending on your shoes they might be a nightmare to walk on, but they are gorgeous to look at. I find the one in Cascais´s city centre (particularly the one in Praça 5 de Outubro) especially beautiful. So as you descend from your lunch at Reserva da Vila or from Rua da Saudade, walk the cobblestone until the Praça 5 de Outubro where you can admire the beautiful Museu da Vila building as well as a gorgeous white church.
- Walk Towards the Fort and Make Your Way Up to the Praia Santa Marta
Next, walk up Avenida Dom Carlos I all the way to the fort, continue straight, take left at the roundabout, walk past the beautiful chapel of São Sebastião, until reaching a little bridge over a stream of water. There are stairs to climb down on both sides of the bridge so you can descend to the wild beach of Santa Marta. On the left side of the bridge the beach is wilder with rocks and a view over part of the port and the Lighthouse Museum of Santa Marta. On the right side of the bridge, the beach is sandy and your view will be one of Cascais´ many castles, the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães. Either side is nice, as long as you go there at high tide, otherwise you will find the little water that will be there full of algae. Should this beach be too wild for you, just descend back to either Praia da Rainha or to one of the bigger beaches next to the train station, like Praia da Conceição or Praia da Duquesa.
- Treat Yourself to a Sushi Dinner in Estoril
As the sun starts setting, you´re probably gonna start thinking about dinner. But since I don´t eat dinner in Cascais much, I will instead recommend you hop on the train and ride till São Pedro de Estoril (a few minutes ride) and visit the restaurant Água da cascata vai correndo na ribeira e acaba no mar. Yes, that is their real name. They have delicious healthy food and amazing sushi, a gorgeous jungle like interior and great music. It´s closed on Mondays, but open otherwise from 12:30 – 15:00 and from 19:30 – 24:00. Head back to Lisbon with a full belly, tanned skin and great memories. Note: Should you go to Cascais by car and have greater mobility, I´d suggest Furnas do Guincho for a nice Portuguese dinner with a sea view instead.
Whether you´re thinking of making this trip during this pandemic, responsibly wearing a mask and keeping your distance, or when hopefully all of this is over, I hope you enjoy this little day trip as much as I enjoy all my visits to Cascais. As an extra, I´d like to list another couple of items I really love in Cascais, should you want to walk around some more and explore the city: the carousel in R. Visc. Luz 21, 2750-285 Cascais (quite whimsical and dreamy to look at as you´re enjoying a Santini ice cream), the colourful villas in Avenida Valbom, the Cascais port and the Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição dos Inocentes (a beautifully simple church by the beach).
I´d love to hear about your favourite spots in Cascais in the comments!