The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
The ‘Hamptons of Portugal’ that’s luring the new A-list
Europe’s moneyed elite are returning to Cascais and Estoril, a stretch of coast where kings and spies once roamed. Mary Lussiana finds out why
It doesn’t take long for visitors to Cascais and Estoril to suspect they’ve found somewhere special. From Praia da Duquesa (the Duchess’s Beach) to Praia da Rainha (the Queen’s Beach), even the names of its shorelines carry a royal seal of approval, and on nearby Praia da Ribeira, you might just spot Portugal’s president on one of his morning swims.
The Hamptons of Portugal, as this coastline has been latterly rebranded, first attracted serious attention in the 1870s when King Luis I began to embrace the burgeoning royal trend for seaside convalescence. Cascais – due
English is heard as much as Portuguese as you make your way through the chic crowds
south of lofty Sintra, home to the royal summer residence – seemed a logical choice, and Luis converted half of the coastal town’s huge medieval citadel into a new palace, to which aristocrats inevitably flocked.
In October 1910, Portugal became a republic, and the royal family left Cascais. The politicians moved in, and the palace became one of the Portuguese president’s residences.
In 1930, the doors of the elegant Palacio Estoril Hotel (palacioestoril hotel.com) swung open, further enhancing this coastline’s A-list reputation. It would soon become the go-to watering hotel for spies in neutral Portugal, and Ian Fleming was a regular, perhaps drawing inspiration from the grand casino next door – opened in 1931 to rival Monte Carlo’s – to write Casino Royale.
Foreign royalty arrived – from the Duke of Windsor (previously Edward VIII) to the fleeing Italian and Romanian royal families – and some stayed, including the exiled King Umberto II of Italy, who built a villa there in the 1960s, now a hotel called the Grande Real Villa Italia (granderealvillaitalia. realhotelsgroup.com).
Now – not wishing to rest on its elegant laurels – Cascais is getting a new lease of life, with fresh hotel openings and buzzy, contemporary restaurants spilling out onto cobbled streets. French architect Philippe Starck is a resident, and English can increasingly be heard as much as Portuguese as you make your way through the chic crowds, cocktails clinking, as dusk falls.
“It has low crime, high temperatures, is hugely cosmopolitan, has a number of leading international schools and is within easy reach of Lisbon,” explains British expat Charles Roberts, from Fine & Country Real Estate. “Between the fallout from Brexit, the French escaping high taxes, the British leaving Hong Kong and those seeking Portugal’s ‘Golden Visas’, it has been ridiculously sought after.”
Pressed on which celebrities he has shown round, he mentions Claudia Schiffer before confirming that footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is building a £17 million house in seaside Quinta da Marinha. So, where should you go to rub shoulders with Cascais’s new royalty?
Just opened Japanese food bar Izakaya, where dishes include cuttlefish with a beurre-blanc sauce, a homage to the chef ’s mother, is a good place to start (Starck is a regular). Close by is Kappo (kappo.pt), another Japanese restaurant, where Tiago Penao delivers delicate, flavourfilled dishes. Overlooking the bay is Hifen (hifenrestaurant.square space.com), a two-storey restaurant with cracking views, which also draws the cool crowd for cocktails.
There’s new accommodation, too, including the sleek, design-centric Farol Hotel (farol.com.pt) and the Pestana Cidadela Cascais pousada (pestanacollection.com) – but the grande dame of the region remains the Palacio Estoril. Its corridors are lined with photographs of film stars, heads of state and the grandest families of Europe, and though spies no longer lurk in the dimly lit Bar Estoril, rest assured – you can still find a killer martini.