By Manfred Schraepler de Devise
Manfred Schraepler de Devise and his family moved from London to the Portuguese coastal town of Cascais, west of Lisbon, in 2017. He works for a Luxembourg-based asset manager investing in renewable energy.
Cascais began as a traditional fishing port. But in the 19th century, Portugal’s King Luís I added a touch of glamour by taking up residence in the town each September.
Today, Cascais feels more like an elegant version of St Tropez, with 19th-century villas covered in azulejos, and bougainvillea draping over the garden walls. There is an emphasis on outdoor living for most of the year, especially cycling, running or golf, while the short winter months are rather windy and humid.
With the help of some smart tax and legal incentives, Portugal has become the “hottest property market” in western Europe, according to one report. A local broker told me recently that in the past five years the prices of prime properties in some areas of Cascais have doubled — and in some cases have risen even more — reflecting previous undervaluation but also how desirable the town has become as a place to live.
Cascais attracts an international crowd seeking an outstanding quality of life. We have many Brazilian friends and neighbours, for example, who have recently moved to the town, sheltering from the insecurity in their country. Cascais Marina is reminiscent of the Rio de Janeiro yacht club in Botafogo.
A typical Saturday starts with a road-bike trip along the Atlantic coast to spots such as Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. We then head as a family for brunch at the Duna da Cresmina coffee shop, where we enjoy fantastic views, often followed by a trip to our local surfing spot, Guincho Beach.
Coffee is a Portuguese institution and can be as cheap as €0.50, if you avoid the tourist spots. My favourite place for a coffee break when cycling is the Refúgio do Ciclista, which nestles on Penedo, a hill famous with cyclists.
Another perfect day trip is to any of the historical palaces in Sintra, or the stunning Renaissance Quinta da Bacalhoa in Azeitão, also famous for its wine.
We love escaping to Lisbon, which is a 30-minute motorway drive away in the evening. It has great restaurants and clubs, with new openings almost weekly, it seems. The gastronomic scene along the Lisbon-Cascais coast road is extremely rich: you can choose between the traditional fish of Monte Mar or fare from groundbreaking international chefs such as Eneko Atxa at Eneko Lisboa.
If you are moving to the area, the main decision you will need to make is whether to live in central Lisbon and have a more urban, busy lifestyle, or go west and be closer to nature and live in a bigger house with a garden and maybe a pool. If you have children, the decision should be driven primarily by your school run.
We live near Quinta da Marinha in Cascais and our children go to St Julian’s in Carcavelos, which is about 25 minutes by car and is, in our view, the best and most traditional British school in the area. There are other excellent international schools between Cascais, Oeiras and Sintra, but the inflow of expats means very long waiting lists, though a personal recommendation by existing parents goes a long way.
We feel we have picked the right place and love its proximity to beaches and the centre of Cascais. There are plenty of outdoor after-school activities within walking distance: our children have their riding classes at the Cascais Riding Club and play tennis at Duna Country Club.
Choosing the right location is important as you can get caught in traffic during rush hour. Avoid going to Lisbon from Cascais between 7am and 9am or leaving Lisbon between 5pm and 7pm.
Of course, house prices are always higher nearer the coast — but do mind the forceful Atlantic winds.
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Photographs: Getty Images; Alamy