Once listed among Europe’s most stylish destinations Estoril remains one of the top places to visit in Portugal today. A civil parish in the municipality of Cascais, Estoril is conveniently close to the capital, only fifteen kilometres away, and is often included as part of the itinerary of Lisbon tourists. Estoril possesses a unique charm that is a combination of modern-day cosmopolitan and old-world glamour with its chic establishments and its majestic old mansions. The seaside location is another facet to this gem and completes the romantic character of the place.
In the early forties Estoril began to be known as a playground for jetsetters. Portugal was neutral territory during World War II and since the coast of Estoril generally enjoyed good weather the resort destination drew not just rich holiday makers but a lot of important personalities from that time as well. Among them were Hollywood actors and European nobility including the Count of Paris, Romania’s Carol II, Don Juan of Spain and Italy’s King Umberto II. Estoril’s Hotel Palacio has become legendary for housing such distinguished guests since the height of the town’s fame.
While Estoril may be famous for a lot of things one prominent attraction that has helped establish its renown is the Casino de Estoril. This casino holds the title as the largest in Europe and serves as the centre of Estoril’s exciting and sophisticated lifestyle. It also gives out the highest weekly prizes on the continent and acts as a stage for prestigious international performances. Ian Fleming is believed to have derived his inspiration for Casino Royale from Casino de Estoril. Incidentally, English and German spies were known to have frequented Estoril itself during the war.
The grand casino sits on the perfectly manicured grounds of the Central Parque do Estoril. With its pristine lawns, carefully maintained plants and stately palm trees this awe-inspiring garden embraces the casino and nearby shops, restaurants and bars. Casino de Estoril also faces the Hotel Palacio, the most famous hotel in the area, which appeared in one of the earlier James Bond movies.
Estoril shares a long coast with Cascais, which stretches from Carcavelos, the closest to Lisbon and one of the most popular beaches, as far as Guincho where surfers can catch the biggest breakers. Estoril Coast, as it is known, was originally an area dedicated to fishing until the latter years of the 19th century when the Portuguese royal family started to make Cascais their seaside retreat initiating its evolution into a leisure destination.
There are many attractions along Estoril Coast. There are a number of EU Blue Flag-rated beaches, hip bars and restaurants as well as natural wonders like the Boca do Inferno (“Mouth of Hell”) cavern. Tamariz Beach is the closest to Casino de Estoril and is typically part of Estoril tour itineraries. From the beach you can see a magnificent castle owned by the royals of Monaco. Yachts also bedeck the stunning view of the ocean. Parede is another beach with a climate that is very rich in iodine which is therapeutic for people suffering from bone ailments. For this reason two of the best European orthopedic hospitals are based here.
The hill town of Monte Estoril is another usual stop in Estoril tours. The Verdades-Faria Museum, which houses a valuable collection of musical instruments, is located in Monte Estoril.
Also a famous landmark in Estoril is the Estoril Circuit where Formula One races used to be held. Its eligibility to host F1 was cancelled in 1997 when the circuit was not able to meet the safety standards of the FIA. To improve its safety Estoril Circuit was re-shaped in 1999 and now plays host to all Portugal’s major international motorsports events like the MotoGP as well as other lower category motor racing events.
Although Estoril no longer enjoys the same kind of prestige it used to have it still has much to offer in terms of leisure, entertainment, historical interest and natural beauty. Aside from the casino, the race track and commercial establishments, it also boasts of some of the best golf courses in Europe.