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Cascais, Portugal, has been called “the French Riviera without the crowds,” “the Hamptons of Portugal” and “the Malibu of Lisbon,” among other nicknames.
Located along the coast and about 20 miles west of Lisbon, the town has been a beach retreat for the well-to-do since King Luis set up his summer residency here in the 1800s. Grand remnants of the past commingle with modern creative energy and an undeniable vacation-town casualness.
EatIn Portugal, it can be difficult to find a fine-dining experience that considers those who don’t eat fish or meat, but oceanfront The Mix — located at Farol Hotel — offers a varied menu, complete with icons that alert diners to common allergens. As a vegetarian, I enjoyed a healthy amount of choice. For example, complementing my black-truffle-oil-spiked asparagus and mushroom risotto was a crescent-shaped quinoa salad dotted — just so — with edamame, macadamia nuts, microgreens, pickled onions and beets.
My partner took advantage of Cascais’ origins as a fisherman’s town and enjoyed a flaky catch of the day paired with vegetables loosely layered over one another like splashes of color in an abstract painting. The artful food works well with the restaurant’s chic decor, which includes jellyfish-like chandeliers, ghost chairs and ocean views.
SleepPerhaps no property so perfectly captures Cascais' old-meets-new allure as Farol Hotel, a member of Design Hotels. Perched above the rocky Atlantic coast in a remodeled 19th-century mansion, the property is filled with unexpected pieces of edgy modern art (from an armchair featuring the screen-printed face of actress Marilyn Monroe to a mini-sculpture of a naked woman donning a bunny mask).
Each of the 33 guestrooms is unique, though the in-room aesthetic tends to be more understated — particularly in the stunning sea-view guestrooms, some of which offer 180-degree ocean views and fully retractable windows. (Indeed, my guestroom — with three walls of retractable windows — felt like one large oceanfront balcony.) The breezy, hip ambiance can also be enjoyed at the hotel’s Bar Farol and its two restaurants: Sushi Design, which takes advantage of the copious seafood on offer, and The Mix, which features upscale Mediterranean-inspired eats.
PlayCascais’ coastline has plenty to see by bike or on foot. Start the journey at Boca do Inferno, a particularly rocky portion of the coastline, where fishermen and visitors alike congregate to reap the benefits of the waves that crash there (the current delivers a copious amount of fish and is a beautiful spectacle).
From here, walk 1 mile east along the boardwalk to soak in the sounds and sights of the sea until reaching the center of town, which is home to several beaches, restaurants, shops and modern and historic architecture. The blend of the historic with the modern can be enjoyed at the marina, which butts up against the old walls of the former Cidadela de Cascais, as well as at Pestana Cidadela Cascais, a property set within the citadel’s Art District. Take a walk here to enjoy the contrast between old architecture and contemporary, unique sculptures, such as oversize binoculars and a giant face made of sculpted resin.