Take a short train ride from Lisbon to Cascais on the Atlantic Ocean
Portugal’s capital has experienced quite a renaissance in recent years, and is now a very attractive city with plenty to offer the city-break tourist. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon enchants visitors with its pretty tiled buildings, intimate alleyways and an easy going charm that makes it a popular destination at any time of year.
Lisbon’s climate is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream and it enjoys mild winters and very warm summers. It’s a fascinating city to wander around – stroll down any street in Lisbon and you’re sure to find many surprises! Many of these surprises are foun on the buildings which are covered head to toe in decorative tiles known as Azulejos. These are a major part of Portuguese architecture and culture, often depicting narrative scenes.
The city has a number of green open spaces, so when the temperatures rise in midsummer there are plenty of places to go to cool off. One of these is the Lisbon Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botânico) which is a hidden gem. Although covering 10 acres, this enchanting botanical garden in the Principe Real district is almost invisible from the surrounding streets. Laid out between 1858 and 1873, it was once considered the best botanical garden in Southern Europe. Today, although showing some clear signs of neglect, it still has one of the largest collections of subtropical vegetation in Europe.
It is also remarkably easy to escape from the city completely. A short train ride along the coast from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré station leads to Cascais, formerly a quaint fishing village that became a popular resort with elegant pedestrian streets, luxuriant villas, fashionable shops, restaurants and bars. Elements of its fishing village roots can still be felt at the lively fish auction that takes place every afternoon by the main beach and its brightly painted fishing boats. You can find out more about old Cascais at the small “Museu do Mar” (Museum of the Sea). It’s also worth visiting the Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção which is decorated with paintings by the 17th-century artist Josefa de Obidos.
A 20-minute walk along the coast road leads to the Boca do Inferno (“Mouth of Hell”). High waves crash into gigantic caves carved out of the rock by the sea.
The best beach nearby is at Guincho. Backed by dunes and with some of the best surf in Europe, this beach can be reached by bus from outside Cascais railway station. Visitors can relax in one of the restaurants overlooking the beach and people-watch while enjoying a treat such as a Pastel de Nata, an egg-custard tart which originates from a shop in Belem on the outskirts of Lisbon.
From the centre of Cascais you can stroll along a waterfront boardwalk to the resort of Estoril from where you can also catch a train back to the capital.