With its sweeping idyllic vistas, history-steeped landmarks and divine culinary offerings, it doesn’t take long to realise exactly why Casicais, often referred to as the Portuguese Riviera, was often the getaway of choice among the country’s rich and royal.

Just a 45-minute train ride up the coast from Lisbon, a picturesque journey that packs in an abundance of cinematic views as it ventures along, getting to and from Cascais is straightforward and hassle-free.

Along with its popularity among Portuguese royalty, Cascais also served as the inspiration for Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale, and the very creation of 007 himself. How’s that for a claim to fame?

Where to eat

Nestled in the narrow winding alleys of the town’s centre is the famous Rua Amarela or ‘Yellow Street’, here you’ll be spoilt for choice with all kinds of enticing aromas wafting through the crowds.

Amongst it all is Cantina Clandestina, a buzzing little eatery on the corner of the stretch. The restaurant stems from a merging of Italian and Portuguese influences, with nods to both scattered throughout the menu.

A wonderfully fresh swordfish carpaccio was one of the standouts, as was the sumptuous 9-hour slow-cooked pork cheek, a dish we were assured was the restaurant’s most popular — it’s easy to see why. For lighter bites, the street food section of the menu offers grazing plates that make for perfect accompaniments to the equally impressive cocktail menu.

Just around the corner, La Contessa – Carpaccio House, which also beautifully fuses Portuguese and Italian cuisines, with splashing of Asian influence thrown in for good measure, has turned its namesake cuisine into an art form. Salmon, octopus, beef and veal are all sublimely served carpaccio style alongside invigorating ceviche and traditional piadinas (Italian flatbread sandwiches).

For something a little more extravagant, Lota de Esquina’s glorious dining space had us sold immediately. Set in a vast, historic auction building, the stunning surroundings provide an apt setting for the team’s mission ‘ to honour and reinvent the Portuguese gastronomic tradition and its influences on the world’.

Think elevated takes on staple seafood dishes that pair perfectly with whatever wine the expert team recommends. Trust them. You’re in very good hands.

Where to drink

Around the corner from Cantina Clandestina, you’ll find their sister venture, Mana. While sadly we didn’t have time to sample the food here, we did manage to work our way through a small segment of the impressive and innovative cocktail list. The Mana Sacana, the team’s take on spicy marg, is astonishingly good, and worryingly drinkable.

For something a little more hoppy, The Crafty Cellar is a great little hole in the wall with a handful of seats lined up along the street, and a large basement space downstairs. The menu features an eclectic mix, from seaweed ales and sharp sours to your more traditional lagers. An absolute must for beer lovers.

Covering both bases, Holy Wine, as the name not-so-subtly suggests, are excellent purveyors of all things grape. A cosy, warm glow coaxes you in from the charming little spot, where you can enjoy whatever red, white or orange they have open by the glass, with a wider selection of choices to tuck into by the bottle.

If you’re searching for somewhere with a little more mystique, then The Sinnerman Speakeasy is well worth the short trip out of town. Once you eventually find your way in — the entrance is more akin to an underground compound than a bar — you’re transported to an eclectic, 60s-style wonderland. Lashings of red velvet, weird and wonderful trinkets and mighty fine cocktails all combine for a wondrous, sense-stimulating experience.

Last, and most definitely not least. Once upon a time, Bar Estoril at the Hotel Palacio was said to be a key meeting place for spies during the World War II era. This rich history of espionage has much to answer for, with Ian Flemming, who was staying at the hotel at the time, penning his inaugural 007 tale, Casino Royale, right here. 

If such folklore alone isn’t enough to lure you in, then the combination of outstanding handcrafted cocktails should do the job. Get a Manhattan, maybe two, and enjoy what is, without an ounce of doubt, one of the most gorgeous drinking dens you could possibly find yourself in.

Where to stay

From grand hotels and elegant villas to budget-friendly luxury, there is no shortage of accommodation options to pick from when visiting Cascais.

Hotel Londres (from £55 per night): If you want premium comfort on a budget, then Hotel Londres is a fantastic option starting at a very reasonable £55 per night. Rooms are large, light and airy, and the outdoor pool area is a lovely spot to relax and unwind with a drink from the bar. 

Hotel Palacio (from £140 per night): If you do fancy following in the footsteps of Flemming, then rooms at the elegant Palacio can be booked from £140 per night. The hotel boasts an impressive wellness centre and spa, and keen golfers can take on 18 holes at the picturesque but challenging Estoril golf course. 

Villa Cascais (from £245 per night): A 19th-century aristocratic residence, overlooking the Bay of Cascais that has been reimagined as a beautiful boutique hotel, this is the perfect choice for those seeking opulence and luxury in the heart of Cascais.   

*Parts of this trip were arranged by the Cascais Tourism Board.

Bradley Lengden
Published on:
Fri 1 Mar 2024