The drive along the twisty road from Cabo da Roca to Cascais is a real treat. The route is quite elevated in places, so there are some awesome views to be enjoyed along the way. The road eventually meets the rugged coastline and the sand dunes of Praia do Guincho. As soon as sea level is reached, the landscape naturally flattens out as the road tightly hugs the coastline towards Cascais.
Along this route there are stunning seascapes as well as incredible views back towards the Sintra Mountains. It’s easy to see why this area is often referred to as the ‘Portuguese Riviera’ and how it has become one of the most desirable regions on the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
We’ve all undoubtedly seen images of freakishly beautiful beaches, glorious vineyards and divine sunsets in glossy holiday brochures. It’s sometimes tempting to think that such images are a bit too good to be true? Until, that is, we actually arrive in Portugal and witness them for ourselves.
The coastal road into Cascais yields some of those perfect holiday brochure scenes. There are all manner of photo opportunities along this stretch of coastline. Images that might easily convince any would-be traveller that Portugal is indeed a wonderful destination. The beaches really are superb, often with trendy seaside restaurants and bars flanked by gently swaying palm trees. All this before we even reach Cascais itself.
Approaching Cascais, it becomes increasingly evident that this really is a sought-after location. There are lots of luxurious seafront villas complete with immaculate lawns, lush floral gardens and some superb looking infinity pools. Some of these properties can be hired on Airbnb (or similar). They’re dotted amidst rows of highly exclusive gated mansions, some of which are hidden away behind ornate boundary walls or beautifully manicured floral hedges.
It’s easy to tell that Cascais is occupied by some very proud inhabitants. No stone has been left unturned to create an image of near perfection wherever you look. It’s just so remarkably well kept. Every small shop and every large apartment block is whitewashed to glowing perfection. Even the intricate wave-patterned cobbled pavements are a sight to behold. Not only are these cobbled paved areas a testament to the skill of those who so painstakingly created them but they are also a credit to those who now keep them so fastidiously clean and tidy. In addition, every green area is ablaze with fragrant floral arrangements flanked by shady palms and cooling fountains. Some call this region the ‘California of Europe’ and it’s easy to see why.
It’s quite a task to adequately convey what a truly splendid place Cascais really is. But it really is a town that has something to please everyone’s eye whether for it’s beautiful old buildings clinging onto the rocky shoreline, or whether it’s the picturesque ‘biscuit tin’ view of the blue and white striped Santa Marta Lighthouse. Some may well appreciate Cascais for its impressive marina whilst others might prefer to spend their downtime simply lapping up the sun-drenched delights of the magnificent beach which lies within a stones throw of Cascais’ excellent amenities. This is not a town that will leave anyone wanting for anything.
So, Cascais seems to have it all. The picture postcard backdrops, the pretty beaches, the epic bars, lovely cafés as well as an endless choice of excellent hotels and classy restaurants to suit every conceivable taste. You can literally feast on whatever takes your fancy in glorious Cascais. Choose from good old English favorites or perhaps you’d prefer a spot of French gourmet dining? You might even care to indulge in some authentic Italian fayre or choose to spice up your evening with a zingy Indian curry? You name it. It’s all available in Cascais along with all the traditional Portuguese culinary favorites to boot.
And if all that’s not enough, there’s an absolute labyrinth of brightly lit streets to wander around. They offer late evening shopping and a great place to enjoy that all-important after dinner stroll. Maybe even indulge in a little nightcap to finish off a perfect day?
The shops, the market stalls and the cafes will stay open as long as there are people around enjoying a taste of Cascais hospitality.
I never tire of Cascais and I’m always reluctant to leave. But the delights of the Avenida Marginal (the coastal road towards Lisbon) are inspiration enough for me to get back onto those open roads.
Heading eastbound, along the rugged coast road (N6), there are yet more stunning beaches such as Praia de Carcavelos which lies at the mouth of the River Tagus. The glistening aqua marine waters and the epic views across toward Almada provide a truly stunning backdrop from the palm tree lined highway which gradually snakes its way back towards the many delights of the Portuguese capital.
Back in Lisbon, why not take a stroll along some of Lisbon’s amazing riverside walkways, between Ponte 25 de Abril and the Belém Tower perhaps.
The bridge is itself an incredible sight and an impressive feat of engineering but I find walking beneath it quite an unnerving experience. That’s because the bridge behaves like a huge booming instrument that resonates with a permanent and distinctive “humm” - like a massive swarm of giant bees. This happens as hundreds of tyres roll along metal grids on the roadway above.
The Avenida Marginal runs along roughly the same route as the Lisbon to Cascais railway (Linha de Cascais). The aged British-built trains (built by Cravens of Sheffield in the 1950’s) provide a regular and affordable service. I said ‘aged’ because the electric rolling stock could be described as having quite a ‘classic’ (but classy) look about them. A bit of shabby chic perhaps? As dusk falls over Lisboa, the dimly lit carriages clatter by as the old trains hoot away into the twilight, leaving a quiet air of wistful contemplation as they melt away into the distance.
With Ponte 25 de Abril in the background and the enormous Cristo Rei monument towering above Almada on the other side of the Tagus, there is a definite hint of the new world right here in the old world. The very place from where intrepid sailors set off on their fabled voyages of discovery and adventure.
Because of the bridge, I can see how easy it has been for writers to draw so many comparisons between Lisbon and San Francisco, with just a hint of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer going on over in Almada.
Altogether, these are locations that simply cannot fail to impress even the most world-weary traveller. Whether bathed in the mid-day Portuguese sunshine or masterfully floodlit in spangled glory, these great Lisbon vistas will become forever etched into the hearts and souls of all who come to experience them. Of that, there is very little doubt.