Cascais – home of the rich & famous
The beautiful Portuguese seaside town of Cascais is located 30km north-west of Lisbon. This once small fishing village gained its fame in the late 19th century when the Portuguese royal family decided to frequent the town. Today Cascais, and the municipality it is in, is one of the richest municipalities in Portugal on of the principle towns on the Estoril Coast, or the Portuguese Riviera.
Cascais has been inhabited since Palaeolithic time when people used the natural caves along the coast to deposit their dead. Not only were the bodies buried but offerings were also deposited to appease the local Gods. In saying that, the development of the town didn’t begin in earnest until the 12th century when it developed into fishing town to supply the fish to the city of Lisbon. In fact, the name Cascais, derived from Monte de Cascas, which literally means “Mountain of Shells”, a reference to the amount of marine life harvested off the coast. Seafood however, was not its only product, ships going to, or from Lisbon, would stop to collect other products such as wine, olive oil, cereals and fruits.
Its location on the northern side of the estuary of the Tagus river, also meant that the town became a strategic post in the defence of Lisbon and as a result a fortress was built in 1488. This fortress was expanded over the centuries by both Portuguese and Spanish kings.
The 1755 earthquake saw the town almost completely damaged and over the following years the castle fell into decay.
At the end of the 19th century, King Luis I decided to make Cascais into his summer residence. From 1870-1908, Cassias was turned into one of the most prestige’s addresses in Portugal. Electric lights arrived in 1878 and soon after, a casino, a bullring and a sports club were all constructed. The arrival of the noble families saw new roads and mansions built and eventually, in 1889, the railways arrived.
Even with the abolition of the monarchy in 1908, Cascais continued to be a refuge for the rich. Portugal remained neutral in WWII, and the towns royal past saw many exiled royal families from Spain, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria, make Cascais their new home.
Today Cascais is a popular vacation destination with people coming to enjoy its wonderful beaches, upmarket shops and stores as well as the chance to play over 10 golf courses located nearby.