Best seafood and a cool jazz festival – no wonder Cascais is a hot spot for celebs
With its sandy beaches, areas of natural beauty plus historic squares and houses decorated with beautiful tilework façades, it’s no wonder Cascais is dubbed the “Charm of the Atlantic Coast”.
It’s situated on the Portuguese Riviera, and is only 30 minutes from Lisbon. Cascais is still very much a working port and you’ll see fishing nets and lobster pots stacked up on the jetty and a thriving fish market. There’s also a swish marina with gleaming yachts and elegant shops.
To the west of Cascais, you can marvel at Boca do Inferno, an amazing sea arch and cliff formation where the waves crash in dramatically during winter storms and the water erupts upwards like a volcano, giving the name the Mouth of Hell.
Blessed with pleasant temperatures, it’s a magnet for wealthy celebrities and politicians. Football legend Cristiano Ronaldo is building a £17 million family home here. Golfers, too, are drawn to the area’s impressive greens. With its A-list approval in mind, OK! took a visit to Cascais…
Stay in style
Located near the historic town centre and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Vila Galé Cascais, available on booking.com, made a brilliant holiday base. The hotel has 233 rooms and suites decked out in calm, neutral shades. There’s a restaurant with a show cooking station, two bars and a Satsanga Wellness centre. Outside, there are pools, gardens and a children’s play area.
When we managed to tear ourselves away from the sunlounger, we took a stroll to the old town, along cobbled streets to the main shopping street Rua Direita, where there are boutiques, pastry shops, cafés, handicrafts and ceramics.
If you're after somewhere slightly different, try Hotel Cascais Miragem on hotels.com or Eurostars Cascais on booking.com.
In full swing
While local activities on offer include e-biking, kite surfing and paddleboarding, we were most excited to take our first ever golf lesson at Quinta da Marinha Golf Club. On the basis of being good at crazy golf as a teen, we were mildly confident that our first foray into proper golf wouldn’t be a fresh air shot. And to our relief, it wasn’t! With some expert tuition, the ball was flying into the air for quite some distance. The fact a small boy was hitting it further counted for nothing!
Away from the driving range, we indulged in a more sedate pastime, sailing in a newly restored galleon. While we didn’t spot any dolphins en route, the relaxing trip was pure joy.
Hook, line and sinker
Cascais was traditionally a fishing village, so it’s no surprise that fresh fish and seafood are high on the menu – think grilled sardines and plump, juicy prawns. At Lota da Esquina, the chef gives traditional Portuguese gastronomy a modern twist. As fish is our go-to when dining out, a seafood platter made up of shrimps, oysters, razor clams, crab and marinated scallops, really hit the spot.
Over at Marisco na Praça at the marina, we sampled an aperitif of sangria while being bathed in early evening sunshine. Then it was time for some succulent jumbo prawns, clams and crab followed by Portuguese salt cod. The cod is dried and salted so it has a firmer texture and saltier taste. palatial setting
A 20-minute drive away from Cascais lies the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sintra, a hilly, fairy tale spot which was given the name ‘Glorious Eden’ by poet Lord Byron. There, we headed for the Palace and Gardens of Monserrate. In 1863, British merchant and art collector Francis Cook built the enchanting palace which combines Gothic, Indian and Moorish influences. The grounds were also transformed into one of Portugal’s finest botanical gardens. We loved the Japanese garden of camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and bamboo.
Back in the centre of Sintra, in the shadow of the National Palace, we lunched at Café Paris, devouring homemade bread, cheese and olives then delicious sea bass, finishing off with scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream.
All that jazz
On Saturday night, we headed to a gig at the Hipódromo Manuel Possolo. The Cascais Cool Jazz Festival returned this year for its 18th outing and it’s as cool as ever. In a natural setting of parkland this is an upmarket festival where families gather for picnics and more seasoned festival-goers chill to jazz vibes. During July, headliners included Norah Jones and Lionel Richie.
Our Saturday night headliner was the iconic Van Morrison, who performed jazz classics. With a voice that’s as strong as ever, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Afterwards, there was an 80s outdoor disco to dance the night away. A fabulous way to say goodbye to charming Cascais.
TAP has direct flights to 16 European countries from Lisbon and Porto, with 664 weekly flights to the UK and Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, Benelux, Germany, Austria, Nordic countries, Switzerland, Italy, France and Poland. With its hub at Lisbon airport, TAP also has air bridges to Porto, Funchal, Madrid and Paris, as well as daily flights to Faro and the Azores. See visitcascais.com and cooljazz.pt
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