There are many nice roads in the world. Not the least in the Lisbon area. But probably none of them is as diverse and interesting as the N6, or the Estrada Marginal: a coastal road of about 30 kilometers or 20 miles that connects Lisbon with Cascais.
Estrada Marginal: From Lisbon to Cascais
The Estrada Marginal (indicated on the traffic signs as the N6, sometimes on the maps also as EN6, the Estrada Nacional 6) runs westwards from Lisbon to Cascais, along the banks of the Tagus river and from Carcavelos along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The road is widely used by locals and commuters, because from Lisbon you can quickly get to the suburbs like Belém and Oeiras via the N6.
Highlights along the route
But why is this route so beautiful?
It starts in Lisbon itself, where you drive through the Belem district: enough to see here! On the way to Cascais you can see several beautiful beaches and the road winds up and down along the banks of the Tagus river. The views over the water are breathtaking!
You end in Cascais, the cosmopolitan fishing village of yesteryear on the Atlantic coast, now seemingly populated by the rich and famous.
Gonçalo’s Tip (37)
“As an avid motorcyclist, the Marginal is a perfect route for me to tour on a Sunday afternoon. The curves you encounter, the height differences and the amazing views are a guarantee for a fantastic ride along the coast! ”
Starting point: Cais do Sodré
The N6 starts at Cais do Sodré, the metro and train station where the train to Cascais also departs. That train follows roughly the same route as the Estrada Marginal. The road leads you past refurbished warehouses, wide squares and all kinds of museums, such as Museo Nacional de Arte Antigua.
After a while you will pass under the Ponte 25 de Abril. You are now in Belém, with its museums such as MAAT, the bakery Pasteís de Belém, the imposing Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the landmark Torre de Belém. This is often the busiest part of the route.
After a while, the Estrada Marginal leaves the city limits of Lisbon and you drive from one suburb to the other, all the time with the shimmering water of the Tagus to your left. In places like Oeiras you can easily make a stop at the beaches and parks along the way. Usually there is ample parking space, but don’t expect a very big parking lot.
At Carcavelos you leave the Tagus river behind while you drive on along the Atlantic coast. The area is slightly less built up here and you’ll start seeing more and more beaches. The seafaring history of Portugal is pretty clear here: after a splash in the sea water you can visit the 16th century São Julião da Barra fort.
There is no lack of beaches at Carcavelos anyway. You have the choice of many miles of sandy beaches, often with more than sufficient parking space and with great waves for surfing. Especially in summer you may experience some traffic jams at this point from people going to and from the beach.
The last stop along the Estrada Marginal before Cascais is Estoril, best known from the race track, the apartments with a sea view and the tennis tournament. After about 15 miles on the N6, the Estoril casino comes up. You can’t miss it, just look for the huge park with the fountains in front of it.
During the second world war the Estoril casino was populated by rich nobles, adventurers and spies from both sides. It inspired Ian Fleming, creator and author of the James Bond novels to write Casino Royale. If you fancy a bet then you’ve come to the right place.
End point: Cascais
After about 17 miles you’ve finally reached Cascais. You can drive the N6 all the way to the end at the roundabout at the Av. República, but we suggest you to skip the last part and drive towards Jardim dos Frangos (Alameda Combatentes da Grande Guerra 68, 2750-326 Cascais) for a nice roast chicken piri-piri. Parking right in front is almost impossible, you’d better head to the parking garage under the Cascaisvilla Shopping Center. From there it’s just a few hundred yards more.
N6: Famous and notorious
The Estrada Marginal is especially notorious because many accidents happened in the past. No mystery there to be honest. Until about 15 years ago this was a dual carriageway without separation between the two directions. The lanes aren’t that wide either. And to make it all a bit more challenging, the sun is usually right in your face in the morning and in the evening (depending on your driving direction, of course). And yes, there is just a lot to see when you drive along the water.
Add to this that the Portuguese do not always keep to the traffic rules and you can imagine that sometimes things went horribly wrong on this road.
In recent years, the road has greatly improved and has become much safer. Where there used to be no barrier between both directions, there are now these flexible bollards. That helps big time, especially between the ears of most drivers if you ask me.
That being said, he Estrada Marginal is still not the safest road ever, so please be careful if you decide to drive this beautiful route.
Iconic coastal road
For us the Estrada Marginal is an iconic piece of road. The route takes you past a large number of sights, museums, beaches and parks, both in the city of Lisbon itself and on the outskirts, towns and villages outside of Lisbon. The views are different every 10 seconds and wherever you look, there is always something going on.
Of course you also have to be very careful about what you do, so do not just change lanes and do not stare at the sea for too long. Our top tip is to drive the route both back and forth: one to drive from Lisbon to Cascais, the other does the return leg.
So in short, make sure there’s a second driver.