It was 02:30 in the morning when I dropped the anchor amongst other boats at the anchorage at Cascais. The night was dark; it was close to new moon, only the street lights from ashore, the navigation marks, some of the boats’ anchor lights and the instruments aided me to find the spot that had enough swinging room and depth under the keel to stay safe. I was arriving after a week sail from Spain; when everything was set the way I was happy with, I fell into bed and slept like a baby until the morning.
Past and current time
Cascais was a small fishing village outside of Lisbon, its history as a place used for settlement by people goes back to the Stone Age. It is an important stopping place for seafarers for centuries, because of its location, and the long and eventful maritime history of Portugal. Today it is built together with Lisbon the capital of Portugal, due to the fast urbanization process we can see everywhere around major cities. It didn’t take away the charm of this little seaside town though, if anything it made the place for a more desirable destination for tourist from abroad, around the world and also for people visiting or living in Lisbon. Its proximity to the city centre, connection with it by train, a major road (A5 motorway) and the coastal, scenic route provide easy way for a day break.
Where to stay
I have arrived on a boat and had the options to stay in the marina, which was built not so long ago, and is providing all the facilities visiting yachtsmen might need, or stay at the anchorage (sheltered from the prevailing northerly winds, but exposed to southerly and easterly winds). It was a nice calm day the next morning when I woke up, well rested and I decided to stay at the anchorage. It is free, there is fresh water tap on the wharf where you can tie up your dinghy when you go ashore, free Wi-Fi from the town, that is available everywhere, shops, restaurants all near by… I think I’ll stay here for awhile. If you are travelling on land, there are many options for accommodation from upmarket hotels to hostels.
What to do
Regattas and yacht races are being held in the Bay of Cascsis for more than a hundred year. There was a nearly one week long sailing competition organized on the week I arrived, the EGNOS 52 Super Series, Cascais Cup, which shows how important the sea and sailing for this area. It is fantastic to look at the magnificent racing machines for sailors and non-sailors too, as they are going around with incredible speed, manoeuvring dangerously close to each other. View the race from the high points of the town or from one of the sandy beaches just off the promenade in the town centre.
Water based activity
One of the many beaches is called Praia da Rainha (Rainha’s Beach) got its name from Queen Amélia (Rainha means Queen) who bathed here regularly when the Portuguese royal family holidayed in Cascais. Surrounded by cliffs, just at the end of one of the oldest street in the historic centre of Cascais, it is a beach not to be missed. Or choose the other one, right beside it, Praia da Conceiҫão which is one of the busiest beaches in the town, with its easy access, beach bar, live music and fantastic atmosphere. There are many more… You can try paddle boarding, surfing or windsurfing off the beaches, they all have favourable conditions for beginners and well practised as well, and they are guarded during the summer season and also equipped with first aid and medical post. Portugal is a famous surfing ground, the world record of surfing the biggest wave was set on the Portugal coast, but you don’t have to worry about huge waves, the beaches are calm and well sheltered, and if you prefer, you can just enjoy the sunshine with a cocktail in hand and admire the seascape.
Dining and shopping
However, Cascais is far from being only about the sea. The town is busy with life, live music every day at the main square just beside the Irish Pub, buskers on the twisty, old streets, restaurants and cafes in huge number, for fine dining or just a quick bite, and the inevitable souvenir shops. Tourists and locals mix in the crowd while going about their business providing the show for people watching, when you finally manage to pick your choice of place to sit down.
Art and history
Let’s start with the Cidadela de Cascais. The old fortress, with hundreds of years of history, which is standing on the right bank of the river Tagus and used to protect the waterway to Lisbon, these days has a more peaceful mission. It went through a redevelopment scheme and now is home of art exhibitions, studios, galleries, open workshops for artists, restaurant and hotel. For lovers of contemporary art it is a must to visit the place, open to the public all year round.
Only about two minutes walk from the Cidadela Art District you will find the next place of interest Centro Cultural de Cascais housing mostly modern visual art exhibitions. When you have finished, just follow the clearly sign posted directions and you will find the ‘Museu de Mar’ (closed on Mondays and holidays). Finds from shipwrecks, the life of the Portuguese fishermen, sea life of the North Atlantic ocean, fossils of ancient marine life-to mention just a few of the very interesting permanent exhibition. If you still have the stamina to soak up new information turn your attention from art and science to history, and visit the town museum on the main square, ‘Museu de Vila’ or the Santa Marta Light House and Museum. And while walking around in this picturesque village, pay attention to the architectural beauty of the old houses with their decorated facade and the often tiled walls giving that real Mediterranean feeling we all love.
You probably haven’t heard much about this seaside town before, but the locals are working very hard to change this. Cascais won the title of the European Youth Capital for the year of 2018. The title is given for one year and is a chance to the awarded town to show its relation to youths through politics, art, culture and development. Looking at the improvements and forward thinking attitude that is radiating from here, I think we will hear more about this place!
For more information: http://www.visitcascais.com
Anchoring at Cascais