After living for many years in big cities like São Paulo and New York, I thought I would never get used to a calm and low-key lifestyle. But I was quite wrong. After living for five years in Portugal I now welcome the calm feeling I get from the small towns around the coast.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t just the sea and the beach that made me fall in love with this coastal Portuguese town. Cascais has a lot more to offer than just beautiful scenery and a laidback atmosphere.
Although Cascais is famous for the beautiful beaches, the town’s cultural life is alive and well. Within a three-mile radius, you can find a thriving cultural center and some beautiful buildings with exquisite architecture like Casa Sommer, Museu Conde de Castro Guimarães, Casa de São Bernardo, and Farol de Santa Marta.
When I need inspiration, I head off to the museum district that has quite an interesting range of cultural offers to get lost in—from modern art to beautiful buildings. Casa das Historias de Paula Rego has a modern art collection open to the public, and for just $6 you can spend your afternoon browsing Paula Rego’s private collection and interesting exhibits. Paula Rego is a renowned modernist Portuguese artist who has opened her collection for our benefit. I enjoy having a lunch break at their restaurant and can have a hearty salad or sandwich for under $10. If I feel especially inspired, I’ll get a glass of white wine for $3.
I like to take a break from my cultural tours at Hifen, a trendy bar with a stunning view of Cascais bay. I sit by the window, order a glass of Portuguese vinho verde (literally green wine, which means a young wine) for $4 and lose myself to the view of the ocean, the fishermen’s boats, and people walking up and down the street. I can easily say that it’s one of my favorite places to watch life go by.
Just a few blocks down from the coastline, at Mercado de Cascais, I buy fresh produce, fruit, and vegetables every Monday and Wednesday. There is also a fish market with the catch of the day that just could not be fresher. It comes straight from the sea, which you can tell by the shining scales of the local fish. It’s almost impossible not to be inspired by the produce and go straight home to prepare a delicious meal. If I’m not in the mood or I’m feeling too lazy to cook, I’ll head off to the Marisco na Praça. The seafood is displayed on crushed ice, so I pick whatever I feel like eating: small, medium, or large sized shrimp, crabs, or some other types of seafood that only Portugal offers. They weigh what I chose and in a few minutes there’s a delicious platter of seafood to be devoured. A meal for two, with wine, dessert, and coffee will cost about $30.
Grocery shopping is convenient and practical: You can choose to shop at a big supermarket (just about half a mile away), or many small mom-and-pop neighborhood stores. It all depends on what you want to buy and the experience you want to have. Of course, you can also buy your groceries online and they will be delivered to your doorstep for a $6 fee.
Cascais is only 18 miles from the center of Lisbon and, on the highway, it takes about half an hour to get there. You can drive or take the train that many of the people who live in Cascais use to commute to Lisbon. Living so close to a larger city and having the sea coast as a permanent view seems to me that is the ultimate definition of the “best of both worlds.”