Visiting Paço de Arcos
A hidden Portuguese gem on the coast – for now
There’s a local train that runs from Cascais to Lisbon (stopping along the way at São Pedro do Estoril station, our stop) and we take this train frequently to shop or dine in Cascais or Lisbon, or to check out areas along the central coast of Portugal. A recent trip took us to Paço de Arcos (pronounced pasu darcous), a hidden gem (but maybe not for long), right along the coastline.
The name is derived from Palácio dos Arcos (Arcos means arches), a palace built in the 15th century overlooking the expansive Tagus River and located at the entrance to the section of the town now known as the historic village. It is said that from the balconies of this palace, King Manuel I watched Vasco da Gama’s Portuguese caravels leave for India.
The palace is now a hotel which opened in 2013 after extensive renovation. Some of the architecture and opulence of the palace can still be seen inside the main building of the hotel.
Just behind the main building and hidden away from view, a visitor can find a set of tall arched gates leading to the Jardim Palácio dos Arcos. This is a restored public garden that was once part of a much larger parcel of land used by palace royalty and guests to demonstrate their hunting skills.
Modern extensions of the hotel sit along the perimeter of the garden but are mostly obstructed from view by lush landscape.
The gardens are a quiet and peaceful place for reflection or a relaxing walk, with sculptures, trees, flowers, and stunning views of the Tagus, where one can sit on stone benches and watch sail boats leisurely glide across the water.
Leaving the hotel grounds, you walk right back in time down two or three narrow cobbled streets and colorful buildings, many of which are undergoing renovation.
There are a few shops and several excellent restaurants and cafes including Casa Da Dízima, a Michelin Star restaurant. Just around the corner from the hotel we had lunch at Patio Antico and sat on a cozy terrace.
We split a (huge) and delicious calzone accompanied by some white Portuguese table wine.
Walking away from the historic village, there’s an eclectic mix of old and new in the rest of the town. The main street retains some of the old charm and a public park along the main street offers a long stretch of boardwalk along the Tagus as well as a beach. A major highway runs through the town just outside of the train station.
Outside of the historic village, Paço de Arcos is home to Quinta da Fonte, one of Europe’s largest office parks. Companies including Hewlett-Packard, Electrolux and Proctor & Gamble have offices in this complex. There are many buildings just outside of the historic area that are being renovated and converted into apartments and condos.
How long will this little historic village stay quaint? I’m not sure. In a few years or less, I have a feeling that this little hidden gem might become better known, so if you plan to visit, now may be the time.
If you go, the Cascais to Lisbon line (linha) takes you to the Paço de Arcos station where a 5-minute walk heading towards the river will bring you to this quaint section of town. If you’re coming from Lisbon, it will take about 15 minutes. From Cascais, it’s about the same amount of time.
Until next time…