The region surrounding the grand port town of Cascais offers many superb day trips, including historic towns, natural scenery and, of course, Lisbon just half an hour away by train.
As a relatively small country with high quality roads, Portugal can be explored quite easily by rental car, and good public transport links make it easy to get to attractions closer by. I’ve already covered things you might want to do in Cascais itself, but if you have a bit of extra time, the following are easy excursions to do from Cascais.
Surf, swim or sunbathe at Carcavelos
Possibly the most popular surfing beach near Lisbon, Carcavelos is easily accessed from the town’s train station and on smaller-wave days is great for beginners. Carcavelos is just a 10-minute train ride from Cascais and has many surf rental shops, but if you have a car or don’t mind a longer journey, you could consider going to Costa da Caparica (which involves crossing the River Tagus) or Ericeira, both famous for their consistent Atlantic swell. The only downside is that Carcavelos can get very crowded, so for a lesser-known spot with a consistent reef break, consider getting off the train at São Pedro do Estoril and going to the small beach there instead. So common is surfing here that some carriages on the Lisbon-Cascais trains even have a designated section for those carrying surfboards, so you can bring your own (or one you’ve already rented) without a hitch.
Visit the Pena Palace, Sintra
The charmingly colourful 19th-century Pena Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is accessible via car or bus from Cascais, and is one of the most striking buildings in the vicinity. Sintra alone is worth the visit, with its botanical gardens, museums, and pretty town centre. If you have time, visit the grand Palace of Sintra, and make time for a stop by Fábrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa, which since 1756 has been the place to buy famous pastries called queijada de Sintra. Finally, if you’re not done visiting impressive buildings, you can see the medieval Castle of the Moors nearby – it might even be worth taking two days to see all that Sintra has to offer.
Spend a day in Lisbon
The most obvious place to go from Cascais is Lisbon, the capital city just 35 minutes away by train. Explore Lisbon’s charming cobbled streets, enjoy a pastel de nata (custard tart), ride the iconic Tram 28E, or go to one of its many miradouros (viewpoints) – there’s far too much to do to list it all here, but those who are new to the city might want to start with the historic Baixa and Alfama districts. The train to Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon – which leaves every 20 minutes from Cascais, its terminus – meanders along the coast and gets you straight into the city centre, but you could also get off at an earlier stop such as Belem or Alcantara to explore other parts of the city. Lisbon is a great city for walking in, or you can hire one of the many e-bikes or e-scooters dotted around (like Bolt, Bird or Lime) to help you up those infamous steep hills.
Walk, run or mountain bike in the hills around Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon)
If you’ve got the means to hire a car, then this opens up many more possibilities for getting to secluded hiking areas. Consider driving to Lagoa Azul and going for a walk, run, or mountain bike among the hills, then take a dip in the lake afterwards. Check out some trail suggestions here.
Stroll along the seafront at Estoril
Just a little further east than Cascais is the town of Estoril, and it’s easily reachable on the main train line between Cascais and Lisbon. Consider a stroll along the seafront, where there’s a continuous walkway by the sea all the way. Explore the craggy coast with fine sandy beaches, rent a surfboard, or just enjoy the cafés and local seafood restaurants along the promenade.
Watch the giant waves at Nazaré
If you’ve seen the recent HBO series The 100 Foot Wave, in which surfers with seemingly no psychological fear mechanism scale building-sized waves, then Nazaré will need no introduction. Big wave season – consisting of huge swells coming across the Atlantic generated in part by hurricanes in the Caribbean – roughly spans November to March, so it’s unlikely to reach its peak during the summer when many people visit Portugal. Yet even outside of that window you can still get a sense of the magnitude of Nazaré on its most impressive days. The size and sweep of Praia do Norte are hard to comprehend from photographs alone, and the village of Nazaré itself – once just a tiny fishing port with an interesting matrifocal (women-led) societal structure – is worth a stroll around too. Nazaré can be reached by car in less than 90 minutes from Cascais, and there are regular public buses from Lisbon. And if you’re really keen, check the website for big wave alerts.
Walk along the historic castle walls at Óbidos
One of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal”, the castle at Óbidos is special for the fact that it is possible to walk all the way around its walls, offering a vertigo-inducing but fantastic view of the tiny city. Exploring these historic streets won’t take you long, but it’s just an hour or so drive from Cascais, so well worth going for a half-day trip.
This post was originally published on FIPP.com.