Caves of Poço Velho

In Portuguese: Grutas do Poço Velho

Under the bustling town, lies a twisting labyrinth of limestone karst caves. Feel the cold, smooth stone as you duck your head: those stones have been worn away by humans for tens of thousands of years. Look into the rounded nooks: people have lain their departed loved ones there. This space, under the cars and cafes and street vendors, is a cool, quiet spot that has been visited by many generations of humans, from early hunter-gatherers to modern urban dwellers.

1.6 million years ago, water seeped into the limestone and formed caves. They’ve been visited and used by human beings for thousands of years. The seaside town of Cascais grew up above them. Today, they’ve been made accessible with wooden walkways and electric lights. It’s a fun experience to scramble (crouch, sometimes crawl) through these caves beneath the bustling seaside town!

There is some evidence the caves were in use during the Upper Paleolithic period (22,000-18,000 years ago), but the limited evidence suggests that they were only used by hunters as a temporary shelter. Around 6,000 years ago they started being used more heavily, mostly for entombments. Many artefacts from this period, mainly decorative jewelry, has been discovered. There are sporadic artifacts through the Bronze Age and up to the medieval period and even into modern history which shows that the caves were being used occasionally throughout history. (The slogan is “Cascais began here!”)

The caves were first excavated in 1879 and then again in the 1940’s. There were a number of artefacts found, including chalcolithic necklaces and ornaments, which are displayed in the Cascais Town Museum.


The entrance to the caves is in central Cascais, in the Largo das Grutas. It’s behind the Garden of Visconde de Luz.


The caves are only open holidays and weekends, during the summer months, from 10h00 to 13h00. With 48 hours notice, you can make a booking during weekdays (Tue-Fri). Entrance is free. You will be given a hardhat to wear (and a disposable liner). The caves can be narrow and low. It’s not recommended for people with claustrophobia or mobility issues.


There are no signs directing you to the caves. From the Garden of Visconde de Luz, go out the rear of the gardens (away from the merry-go-round) past the restaurante Visconde de Luz. Turn right (on Rua Carlos Ribeira) and the caves will be on the left about 100m down.

The only sign is the name of the largo (square)


  • Entry (in English) from the Megalithic Portal
  • Article (in English) from Wikipedia
  • Virtual Tour (in English) from the Town Hall of Cascais
  • Video (in Portuguese) from RTP
  • Description (in Portuguese) from the Town Hall of Cascais
  • Designation (in Portuguese) as a Property of Public Interest by the Director-General of Cultural Heritage


The Cascais Town Museum has loads of information including artefacts retrieved from the caves. There are plans to build an interpretive center in nearby Estoril, covering these caves and the ones in Alapraia.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:Town Museum of Cascais - Prehistoric Portugal

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.