The Tamariz Castle. Photo taken by André d’Almeida.
Imagine being in a spy resort during World War II, near the capital of a neutral European country, surrounded by displaced European royalty living in nearby villas, mansions, and little palaces. Imagine spending nights at the bar of the hotel where most of the spies were hosted, and gambling at the casino where Ian Fleming, a Royal Navy intelligence officer, was inspired to write “Casino Royale,” his first James Bond novel.
In fact, you just imagined you were in Estoril, Portugal, in the 1930s and 1940s. Just a 20 minute drive from the centre of Lisbon, the closest European capital to the United States, and just around a two and a half hours flight from all the other major European cities, Estoril was a famous cosmopolitan and sophisticated town during the Second World War. Back then, this officially neutral country, strategically positioned by the Atlantic, which had an authoritarian political regime, was a centre of diplomatic secrecy and a place of exile for well-known royalty. Miklós Horthy, the regent of Hungary, Infante Don Juan, the Count of Barcelona, Umberto II, the King of Italy and Carol II, the King of Romania, just to name a few, resided in the territory.
These historical events contributed to today’s Estoril’s beautiful architectural richness and mystical environment that is so inviting for brides and grooms. The Hotel Palácio (“Palace Hotel”), which was the set of large aristocratic wedding receptions such as those of the Princess of Italy, Maria Pia of Savoy, in 1955, and the Princess of Spain, Infanta Pilar, in 1967, is now available as a wedding reception for any couple looking for a timeless venue full of classical splendor and history for their nuptials.
Besides feasting their eyes with the enchanting architecture that Estoril and its former noble residents have to offer, the couple and their guests can also find a wide range of cultural and leisure activities for before and after the wedding, such as visiting several art galleries, museums (including house museums), and attending international conferences at a modern Conference Centre. The casino is a mandatory stop not only for gamblers but also for visitors who are interested in intimate live music shows, musicals and theatre plays.
The Estoril Casino and its spacious gardens. Photo taken by André d’Almeida.
Outdoors lovers can enjoy magnificent sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters bordered by an attractive promenade, beautiful gardens and pools. A “trash the dress” photo shoot is mandatory too. Wedding guests can prolong their stay in one of the many existing five star hotels in town, and enjoy a short trip to Lisbon on a scenic coastal railway, where they will be escorted by the sea and one of the most beautiful roads in Europe (“Avenida Marginal”).
In the surrounding areas, sports enthusiasts will be able to find tennis courts, golf courses, cycle paths, and even a hippodrome with ten hectares of parkland, rest areas, trails for pleasant walks, and leisure areas for children. There are many surf classes nearby, too. And motor sports lovers will find “Autódromo do Estoril,” a FIA homologated (Grade 1) racetrack, where champions such as Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Gerhard Berger, and Valentino Rossi once raced.
The Duchess Beach (“Praia da Duquesa”). Photo taken by Pedro Coutinho.
The whole region (usually known as “Cascais and Sintra”) is packed with history, romance and excitement. There are plenty of interesting sites not only for the wedding ceremony (and consequent wedding pictures) but also to visit during your stay. And there is a rich gastronomy (and a vast assortment of wines) to explore once you don’t have to fit into “that” dress anymore. But the gastronomical richness of Portugal and all the wonders of Cascais and Sintra shall be the object of other articles here, in World Bride Magazine’s blog. Please come along and visit with us!
Eunice Vasco has a life long passion for traveling and writing and she is very enthusiastic about giving other people the feeling that they are traveling through her writing. Ms. Vasco holds a Master Degree in International Law from Queen Mary University of London and she has been working at the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2012.