Portugal is often overlooked and overshadowed by Spain, and this is quite a shame. Portugal has many things to offer. I had the opportunity to tour the country and I spent time in the capital city of Lisbon, Porto (the wine region), in Faro (the Southern part of the country known for its beaches), in Sintra, and in Cascais.
Out of all the above there’s two regions that to me were hands down above the rest and those were Cascais and Sintra. Both small cities are only 45 minutes away from Lisbon which makes them easily accessible.
I would devote more time to Sintra due to the myriad activities and castles to explore, but Cascais is also a must visit. Cascais is far less touristy, less costly, and offers a charming small town experience. How it manages to be so charming with a population of 200 000 is a mystery. The cobblestone streets and restaurants are a pleasure to stroll.
I stayed at the Pousada de Cascais hotel, a renovated historical hotel that is by the water. It’s as close as you can get to staying in a castle and the staff were friendly and accommodating. Best of all it was only a 5-minute walk to the historical downtown of Cascais.
You’re also minutes away from the must-see Santa Marta Lighthouse museum which is a shockingly photogenic lighthouse.
There’s also a handful of small beaches to visit but I was drawn away from them to enjoy the historical part of the city. I did find the beaches to be a bit crowded for my liking, but that’s me being spoiled from living on a beach.
What really stood out for me about Portugal was the friendliness of the people. The people were more down-to-earth and accepting of tourists than many other more popular countries in Europe. This was friendliness was especially apparent in Cascais. The small restaurants and cafes were all too happy to serve us and to answer any silly questions. The food was also divine. I would recommend Cascais for anyone who wants to visit a charming city that is not overrun with tourists. It’s well worth a one or two day visit.