Looking through the guide books the coastal towns of Cascais and Estoril always rank among the top day trips from Lisbon. Commuter rail from Lisbon to both towns is efficient and inexpensive. We love beach towns so it was a simple decision for us to make a trip to the coast.
These two towns, along with Sintra, make up what is often referred to as the Portuguese Riviera due to their similarities to the more famous Italian and French locales. It is known as a luxury resort area and has long been associated with the wealthy and famous of Portugal.
Getting there is easy from Lisbon. A train runs every half hour from Cais de Sodre station which costs just €1.80 each way with a rechargeable transit card. The train is clean and comfortable and passes through the picturesque coastal suburbs to the west of Lisbon. It takes just 45 minutes to reach the last stop at Cascais, or you can get off along the way at various stops in Estoril.
We chose to get off at the last stop in Cascais and began our wanderings there. It is good to go early and you will find the town quiet and the benches overlooking the ocean practically empty. We know, it is Portugal but there is a MacDonald’s close to the station where you can find clean washrooms and very good coffee to go for €0.75. We are always looking for little ways to cut costs.
From the station you can choose to go towards the main Cascais beach and downtown which affords wonderful views to the 15th Century Cidadela de Cascais atop the hill. The port offices are housed in a magnificent building as well.
We liked the harbour as it houses not only a massive marina but is also a working fishing port. You can wander to the end of the pier for good views and watch the fishermen landing their catch or repairing their gear.
There is a scenic boardwalk up a moderate hill towards the fort and marina. The views are incredible in every direction, the atmosphere is very Mediterranean and it feels like you could be on the set of a James Bond movie but more on that shortly.
As you stroll along the fort walls and pass the marina you can pick which yacht looks just right for your next nautical adventure. There is a decidedly upscale feel to the whole marina area but it is very pleasant, accessible and a stunning backdrop for a walk or to stop and relax for a while.
Further still you reach Santa Marta Lighthouse and museum which was built in 1868. If you have time you may wish to walk further along the beautiful cliff top sidewalk to Boca do Inferno where there is an interesting cliff formation. We didn’t go that far but found many spots where we could walk out to the cliffs.
On the way back into the main part of town is the beautiful Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes. The museum was closed for lunch when we were there but we enjoyed a picnic in the inviting Marechal Carmona park and gardens and were entertained by peacocks, roosters, chickens, pigeons and wild birds.
We are certain that all of these areas are likely very busy during the summer months and may not be as relaxing and inviting as we make it sound, but there certainly seems to be plenty of space and more than enough Portuguese atmosphere to go around.
Back in the town again the boardwalk which extends to Estoril is great for strolling, jogging, biking, sitting or just watching the waves, sailboats and people. Hotels and upscale buildings line the hills across the street and the boardwalk has a great selection of restaurants, cafes and ice cream stalls. The prices are on the high side but you are paying for the location, views and setting. We checked the prices at a few and main courses ran from €12 and up.
There are several sandy beaches along the boardwalk which stretches for around 4 kms. When we were there on two separate days in October there were many people enjoying the sun, several playing in the waves and a few actually swimming. The water was cool but great for wading barefoot along the waters edge.
The services along the boardwalk are really good. Several free washrooms, drinking water fountains, sand washing stations, a bike path, outdoor exercise equipment and ample seating are available. Steps onto the beaches are wide and not too steep. We have seen pictures of the beaches in the summer months when they are entirely covered with loungers and umbrellas so clearly the off season is more relaxed.
Fishermen cast from the finger piers along the way, shorebirds chase crustaceans in the tidal pools at the waters edge, and cruise ships and yachts glide by offshore. Combine this with the palm trees lining the boardwalk and the stately homes and you can easily pass several hours along this stretch.
The train stations in Estoril are easily accessible from the boardwalk and you can purchase tickets at any one or use your transit card to catch the next train. The frequent and dependable service makes it easy to match to your own schedule and pace.
While in Estoril you can make the short walk through a pleasant park to the Casino Estoril which was the inspiration for Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale. The exterior wasn’t what we were expecting but it is apparently extravagant inside.
So this is definitely worthwhile for a day trip from Lisbon. You can do it inexpensively, as we did, and just buy a €1 beer from a mini mercado and picnic in the park or along the beach. Or you can splurge a little and have a seafood meal at one of the numerous excellent looking restaurants.
Whatever your preference there is certainly more than enough to do for a very pleasant day by the coast. On a sunny day in October with a light breeze carrying the smell of the Atlantic Ocean it couldn’t have been better for us!