Cascais Car Hire
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Cascais is a historic town and premier holiday resort on Portugal’s Atlantic coast just to the west of the capital, Lisbon. It’s within the Lisbon District, on part of what is known as the Portuguese Riviera. The Cascais municipality is one of the wealthiest in Portugal and on the Iberian Peninsula, with accompanying house prices and quality-of-life ranking. Long associated with fishing, it was first popularized as a holiday retreat by King Luís I of Portugal and family, when they started vacationing there in the 1870s. Nowadays, Cascais is better known for hosting the America’s Cup yacht race and other sailing, surfing and windsurfing events. The casino in Estoril was the reputed inspiration for Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, the first James Bond story, and the Hotel Palacio was later to feature in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Today’s visitors come to enjoy golden sands, wild mountains and Portuguese charm. Cascais was the 2018 European Youth Capital too, so it’s hardly sleepy!
While the history of modern Cascais began with the aforementioned royal endorsement, Cascais was previously a maritime port, fish salting post, and defensive station against invaders traversing the Tagus (Tejo) Estuary, the gateway to the city of Lisbon. It was also an agricultural centre, producing wine, cereals, olive oil, and fruits. The area has been inhabited since the late Palaeolithic period, as shown by remnants recovered at Tires and elsewhere. The Romans also lived here, influencing place names and leaving ruins which can still be seen all over Portugal, as did the Moorish conquerors, among others. From the 12th Century onwards it grew in size and stature, becoming an important fish production centre for Lisbon in the 13th Century.
While Portugal is generally cheaper in general than other European countries, the Lisbon district in which Cascais sits is not cheap ̶ avoid obvious tourist traps to save your wallet (and blushes). Enjoy will find the best car rental prices for you, stress-free ̶ hiring a Renault Twingo or other mini-size car starts at €17 a day in off-peak season, a compact-size Citroën C4 Cactus (seats 5) starts from €24 a day, while a spacious Vauxhall/Opel Insignia (standard-size saloon which seats 5 comfortably) is just €35 a day! Pre-book your hire car with Enjoy for peace of mind so you can explore Cascais and Portugal by air-conditioned, independent travel – but first, here’s a bit more on this historic holiday haven.
- About Cascais:
- Airports and Access: the closest airport to Cascais is Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS), also known simply as Lisbon Airport or Portela Airport, an international airport located 7 km northeast from the city centre of Lisbon. A record 31 million passengers transited here in 2019, and it is operating at capacity. There are big expansion plans for the existing airport and the building of a new one at Montijo, 30 km by road from Lisbon.
- Famous Cascais: Portugal’s famous persons include Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, Vasco De Gama, Magellan, Christopher Columbus, Bartolomeu Dias, while Cascais is associated with resident and controversial artist, Paula Rego.
There have been humans in Portugal and Cascais for millennia, and waves of conquest, religion and immigration have shaped the culture, people, cuisine and landscape. It was in the Neolithic period that permanent settlements became established here, with the settlers using natural caves and grottoes to deposit their dead. The Romans established villa settlements here such as São Domingos de Rana and Chaneca, and influenced place names (as did the Moors). Renaissance Portugal became a global maritime Empire with Cascais as one of its strategic ports, fortified by Cascais Castle.
While its history is filled with maritime industry, Roman archaeology, and Muslim heritage, today Cascais sits on the ‘Portuguese Riviera’, an area to the west of Lisbon that includes Sintra, Estoril, and Cascais and is known for quality of life, rich visitors and glorious sands. Cascais has become one of the most visited spots in Portugal, resulting in a tourist tax being levied in 2017. Surrounded by popular beaches like Guincho Beach, it has the lush Sintra Mountains to the north, dramatic cliffs in the west, and a number of top golf courses nearby, not to mention the Parque National de Sintra-Cascais on its doorstep.
Guide to Cascais
Either side of Cascais are two very different coastlines: the calm and tranquil beaches of the Costa da Estoril, and, to the north, the wild and untamed beaches of the Serra de Sintra, popular with surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers. The Costa da Estoril coastline extends westwards from Cascais towards Lisbon, and is typified by golden sands, calm sea, and excellent tourist facilities like shops, restaurants, and bars. Much of the Serra de Sintra coastline lies within the protected Sintra-Cascais National Park and there’s almost no tourist development, just wild and stunning beaches.
Cascais is steeped in history, as told through its historical monuments and buildings, and there’s plenty for the many visitors who throng the streets and squares here. Among Portuguese Cascais is known as a weekend getaway for the uber-rich whose massive houses line the coast. Despite this and the high tourist numbers the town never feels cramped. There are the traditional cosy restaurants set in whitewashed, pastel-coloured buildings and charming tiny houses on cobbled streets, but there are also safe, clean beaches with good facilities (not to mention the surfing).
Sports and Pastimes
Cascais has more than enough to entertain active visitors. If you’re staying anywhere on the Portuguese coast then watersports are a must! Learn to surf, windsurf, kitesurf, paddle board or sail, hire a fishing boat or guided yacht cruise for a day, then there’s dolphin watching, rock climbing, mountain biking and even Segway nature tours, not to mention you’re in one of Europe’s top golf centres! There are tennis and motorcycling events held in the city and sailing competitions in the marina and estuary, while the Estoril race track was a Formula One staple for years. If all that just sounds exhausting, how about a nice Thai massage?
What to do in Cascais?
Cascais is a beautiful holiday destination, whether you’re staying around the town or getting out and about. And Portugal isn’t a big country, with most places being reachable in a few hours.
Cascais old town dates from the 17th Century and is full of maritime and martial reminders of past glories. The Largo de Camões is the town’s central square and a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike – start there and spread out. Don’t miss the Museum Quarter (which has four art galleries and eight museums) the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (featuring nave paintings by Josefa de Óbidos, a 17th-Century artist who was notable for her artistic achievement in a male-dominated world) or the Fortress Nossa Senhora da Luz.
Apart from golf of course, Cascais is probably best known for sailing and surfing, and for its 650-berth marina. The America’s Cup, the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships, and the coast’s general fame as a surfer’s paradise have all contributed to Cascais’ modern position as a destination for all things aqua.
Party time and family fun
Cascais has plenty of nightlife to match its daytime buzz. From rooftop bars overlooking the marina to beach bars, jazz clubs, nightclubs and more, there are plenty of places to unwind with a cold one.
Eating out in Cascais
Cascais has eateries to suit any palette or budget, although it’s best to avoid overpriced tourist traps. Here are a few of Cascais’ best restaurants and cafes:
First on our list features on the Michelin Guide 2020 ̶ Cantinho do Avillez on Rua da Palmeira. Simple and unpretentious good cooking is the focus here, with traditional and contemporary cuisine and the odd fusion dish.
Mar do Inferno is located near the famous Boca do Inferno and also features in the Michelin Guide 2020. There’s a large food display cabinet, live lobster tanks, and a glass-fronted wine cellar. Traditional cooking is the heart of the cuisine here, with fish and seafood sold by the weight.
Family and budget-friendly
Cafe Galeria House of Wonders (Largo Misericordia) is touted as the best vegetarian restaurant in town, with excellent mezze-style food and a superb rooftop bar with views over Cascais. It’s better for lunch than dinner with a family.
A Nova Estrela on Rua do Poco Novo has glam, chintzy decor, a nice atmosphere, and an excellent but budget-friendly menu. Don't expect any frills, but instead enjoy some simple and wonderful home-cooked Portuguese food.
The North African influence lives on in Tuareg Al-Andalus, a living homage and carpet-covered taste of Morocco. Smokers enjoy the shisha or hookah, which is filled with aromatic tobacco and enjoyed through long mouthpieces. Find it on R. José Elias Garcia in Parede.
Transport in Cascais
The closest airport to Cascais is Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS), also known as Lisbon Airport or Portela Airport. It’s an international airport located 7 km northeast from Lisbon city centre-basically, it’s in the city. Enjoy partners not only with trusted global brands like Avis, Hertz, Sixt, Enterprise, Thrifty and Dollar (and others) in Cascais, but we also work with established local companies with the local know-how to deliver stress-free car hire.
Buses and Trains
Generally, public transport everywhere in Portugal is safe, clean, cheap, and efficient. Typically, buses are air-conditioned and reliable. SCOTTURB is the main local bus provider, and there’s a circular route starting and ending at Cascais railway station called the BusCas (427). As elsewhere in Europe, Saturday afternoons and all day Sundays/holidays have much-reduced services. Trains from Cascais are similar – safe, cheap and reliable, and Cascais railway station has local, regional and national connections.
Driving Around Cascais:
Portugal’s roads are much like those in neighbouring European countries: varying in size and quality and full of ‘enthusiastic’ (too fast) driving. However, Portugal is a developed country with equivalent infrastructure, so it’s perfectly comfortable to explore by car. However, don’t forget that cities in this region were built hundreds of years ago and so the roads can be very small – consider a smaller hire car for nipping about town and country and in and out of parking spaces (which can be tight). There’s some exhilarating driving in this compact corner of Europe ̶ here are a few of our favourite drives from Cascais:
Estoril Ocean Drive is a route that traditionally begins in Lisbon, but you can start your route in Cascais. First, as it’s on your doorstep, take the N6 to Boca do Inferno, the natural rock cave and portal set in stunning cliffs. Then take the N247 around the coast to beautiful Guincho Beach, described as one of the finest in the Lisbon area. After a bit of sun, sea and sand, continue north inland along the N247 to Malveria Da Serra, where you should turn west toward Cabo da Roca, stopping to visit Capela De Nossa Senhora de Peninha (look out for designated parking, which is a bit further past the chapel). Cabo da Roca is Europe’s most westerly point, with lighthouse, seating and viewing area.
Sintra's wild, lush beauty, its ancient castle, its status as the first centre of European Romantic architecture and its collection of historic palaces have made it a UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape, and it is probably why Lord Byron called it ‘a glorious Eden’. There are too many places of interest to list here, suffice to say that because huge numbers of tourists visit Sintra annually there are some extortionate prices and tourist-traps in the centre of town ̶ venture further to find out where the locals eat (or see below!). Parking in Sintra is by pay-and-display machine, although there’s free parking at Sintra Parking (Av. Dr. Álvaro de Vasconcelos 13), Estacionamento Largo (Praça Dom Fernando II 11), and P1N (Av. Mário Firmino Miguel).
Évora is under two hours’ drive east of Cascais, in the Alentejo region. Best visited in spring when the flowers are blooming, the old centre has World Heritage Site status and Évora is said to house some of the whole country’s finest visitor sites. The iconic Roman Temple, the 12th-Century Sé, and the Museu de Évora are just a few of the must-see sights here. Taking the A5 from Cascais to Lisbon and then onto the A2 south, you can cross the Tagus Estuary via the Ponte 25 de Abril over to Almada, or via the magnificent Vasco de Gama bridge (at 12.3 km it’s the longest in the EU and second longest in Europe) to Montijo on the A12. Both routes reconnect with what becomes the A6 through to Évora.
Explore the Tagus Estuary further, to the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural do Estuário do Tejo). Set your destination to EVOA, the birdwatching centre with friendly and knowledgeable staff located in Vila Franca de Xira. There’s a lovely long walk through the reservoir from where you can see marsh harriers, hen harriers and waterfowl, among other species. It’s great for kids and there’s a pristine café in the visitor centre.
Drive on the right-hand side of the road in Cascais. The speed limits are 120 km/h (74.5 mph) on the motorway, 100 km/h (60 mph) on expressways, 90 km/h (50mph) on other roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas.
Drivers must carry an international driving licence, passport, insurance documents, MOT certificate if the car is more than three years old, and car hire documents.
Speed traps are the norm, so don’t be tempted to speed (even though the locals probably will!).
Using your phone while driving is illegal, and drink-driving is strictly prohibited.
Be aware of the possibility of rock falls and other road hazards like single-track roads.