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A Guide To Coastal Town Of Cascais, Portugal

May 2, 2018

Lifestyle | by Baldwin Ho

Hollywood and artists, in general, have long taken inspiration from the picturesque region of Cascais in Portugal and it’s easy to see why on our recent visit to examine what this fantastic region has to offer for the discerning traveller. Glamourous locations, stunning areas of natural beauty, Cascais has it all and it is only a short transfer from Lisbon airport.

There is no shortage of luxury 5-star hotels on the Portuguese coastline and one of the best is The Grande Real Villa Itália Hotel & Spa, which is the former residence of the last king of Italy, Humberto II. Rooms range from 387sq ft to a majestic 753 sq ft for suites and all have a fantastic garden or sea views.

Hotels don’t get 5 stars without offering the most up-to-date state of the art luxury facilities and here they have 10 treatment rooms in their spa, thalassotherapy circuit, relaxation areas, sauna, Turkish bath, and gym. Highly recommended is their real relaxation massage with basil as the essential oils help to combat mental tiredness and help with skin toning. For those staying during the weekend and want to experience a broad spectrum of local flavours, then their seaside brunch is a must-try affair.

However, there are plenty of culinary offerings in the surrounding area for those of different budgets and taste. Octopus is a local obsession for the Portuguese and is equivalent to roast chicken for the British and there are local, independent family-run restaurants that offer a taste of this delicacy such as Polvo Vadio; but be aware, every course served might be of the eight-armed mollusc (apart from desserts). Maria Pia is a less restrictive modern seafood restaurant with a great number of options on offer and fantastic views of the marina.

My personal favourite would be The Mix at Farol Hotel where you can observe world-class modern artwork and dine on some of the most innovative Mediterranean fusion cuisine in the country. Shrimps sautéed in chilli-infused olive oil anyone? Or ginger infused risotto with sautéed lobster?

If you are feeling rather James Bondesque then head to Hotel Palácio Estoril where Ian Fleming famously wrote Casino Royale inspired by the spies he met there during World War II and is also where On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed and you can still meet the bellboy from the 1969 film today, although the innocent brown hair has been replaced with a stylish grey. Here, they run cocktail masterclasses where you can learn to make the world-famous James Bond “Shaken, not stirred” martini.

A short trip to Sintra must also be high on the agenda where you can find the vividly designed Pena Palace. This architectural masterpiece is reputedly the inspiration for Walt Disney to create Cinderella’s Palace. This was a labour of love for King Ferdinand II, who was a German prince and brought his Bavarian influences into the creation of this outstanding structure which symbolised the best of Portuguese romanticism. The lush green forest that surrounds the palace is well worth a visit along with a guided tour of the interiors to find out the fascinating history behind the facade.

Finish your tour with a leisurely stroll through the back streets of Sintra old town, which has been a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1995. There are some very famous quaint shops such as Piriquita’s, that is still a family-run business creating traditional famous Portuguese pastry since 1862. Some of the recipes are a family secret such as the Travesseiro, which is a pastry stuffed with sweet eggs and a hint of almond, but no one knows the actual stuffing recipe apart from direct family.

There are plenty more that the region of Cascais offers from world-famous beaches with the ideal surfing conditions to a raft of museums that increasingly showcase Cascais as an artist hub for post-modern expressionism. Traditionally, people have visited Lisbon and gone for just a day trip to the region of Cascais, but with so much to offer, I would strongly suggest making Cascais you destination of choice for your next holiday.

For more information on Cascais, see here.

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