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All About Portugal | March 3, 2021

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The history of Cascais, an aristocratic village

The history of Cascais
All About Portugal

The history of Cascais has been linked to its geographical location by the sea and near Lisbon It grew as tourist destination by the end of the 19th century.

The history of Cascais goes way back in time. After being under the influence of the Moors it was reconquered in 1153. However, it stayed under the administrative control of Sintra until 1364. The proximity of the sea always played an important role on the history of Cascais. Since its early years fishing was one of the main economic activities of Cascais inhabitants alongside with maritime commerce and agriculture. The main products produced and traded were wine, olive oil, fruits and, of course, fish. More recently, the fabulous Cascais beaches attracted many visitors, boosting first-class tourism. Let’s not forget that hotels in Cascais, along with the restaurants in Cascais, are some of the most luxurious existing in Portugal.

The history of Cascais and its strategic position

The history of Cascais was strongly influenced by its location. The geographic position of Cascais made it a strategic point in the defense of Lisbon. Therefore, in 1488 King John II ordered the fortification of the village and the construction of a fortress by the sea. However, this fortress didn´t resist the invasion of the Spanish troops in 1580.

By the end of the 16th century the fortress expanded according to the architecture of the traditional renaissance citadels. The defense of Cascais was reinforced with the construction of several other fortresses in the surrounding area.

The 1755 earthquake was a decisive moment of the history of Cascais. As it happened with many of the coastal Portuguese villages and towns, Cascais was almost entirely destroyed. A huge part of Cascais heritage was lost forever.

The rough times that followed the earthquake would soon be over though. By 1774 the Marquis of Pombal start producing fortified wine in wine estate in Carcavelos. His wines grew in reputation, especially in Britain, and the all area became a famed winemaking center.

By the end of the 19th centuries two factors changed immensely the history of Cascais. One of them was the construction of the railway to Lisbon in 1889; the other was the fact that king Luís II chose Cascais as the royal family summer destination. Royals came looking for the astonishing beaches of the area. Cascais grew in importance as a glamorous tourist destination worldwide, rivaling with Marbella or Monte Carlo.

CascaisPhoto by Galeria de pedrosimoes7/a>

Cascais’s development continued in the 20th century. Cascais was the first town in Portugal to have electric light. Tourists came for the beaches and infrastructures like the casino, the bullfight ring and the sports club. The rich and famed including many noble families built mansions and villas in Cascais.

World War 2 was another landmark of the history of Cascais. Due to the Portuguese neutrality, many royal families sought exile here. Besides, Cascais was still an oasis of glamour and luxury on a continent devastated by the conflict.

In spite of Cascais development, the town kept its old charm. It combines with mastery the ambience of a small fishing village with the elegance of a cosmopolitan tourist destination.

Where is Cascais?

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Conde Castro Guimaraes Museum: 38.692059, -9.421731
Boca do Inferno: 38.690266, -9.425583
Estoril Casino: 38.707013, -9.397699
Abano Beach: 38.741365, -9.472661
Casa das Historias Paula Rego: 38.695023, -9.424134

Main image credits

Photo by Galeria de sepulcar/


  1. Denise Buckley

    I am leading a Catholic group of 40 to Portugal in June of this year. Do you have any brochures on Cascais that I could give them? My address is:
    Denise Buckley, Trip Leader
    Christ the King Parish
    1599 Tunner Drive
    Courtenay, BC V9N 8N3 Canada

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