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Clouds reflected off the sunset in the Bay of Cascais, with the city of Cascais
Clouds reflected off the sunset in the Bay of Cascais, with the city of Cascais
Flag of Cascais
Coat of arms of Cascais
Coat of arms
Coordinates: 38°42′N 9°25′W / 38.700°N 9.417°W / 38.700; -9.417Coordinates: 38°42′N 9°25′W / 38.700°N 9.417°W / 38.700; -9.417
Country  Portugal
Region Lisbon
Subregion Grande Lisboa
Metropolitan area Lisbon
District Lisbon
Parishes 4
 • President Carlos Carreiras (PSD-CDS)
 • Total 97.40 km2 (37.61 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 206,479
 • Density 2,100/km2 (5,500/sq mi)
Time zone WET/WEST (UTC+0/+1)
Postal code 2750
Area code 214
Patron Santo António

Cascais (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɐʃˈkajʃ]) is a coastal town and a municipality in Portugal, 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of Lisbon. It is a cosmopolitan suburb of the Portuguese capital and one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. The population in 2011 was 206,479,[1] in an area of 97.40 km².[2] The former fishing village gained fame as a resort for Portugal's royal family in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Nowadays, it is a popular vacation spot for both Portuguese and foreign tourists. It is located in the Estoril Coast (named after Estoril, a town in the municipality), in the Greater Lisbon subregion.[3] It has an airport for general aviation serving the Lisbon Region in Tires (S. Domingos de Rana), Aeroporto Municipal de Cascais.


A 1572 sketch of the coastal profile of Cascais
The block-façade of the municipal hall of Cascais
Praia do Peixe, a beach in the centre of Cascais.

Human settlement of the territory today known as Cascais remotes to the late Paleolithic, as remnants encountered in the north of Talaíde, in Alto do Cabecinho (Tires) and south of Moinhos do Cabreiro.[4] It was during the Neolithic that permanent settlements were established in the region, utilizing the natural grottoes (such as the Poço Velho in Cascais) and artificial shelters (like those in Alapraia or São pedro) to depoist their dead. The bodies were buried along with offerings, a practised that continued to the Chalcolithic.[4]

Roman interventions in the area occurred in the settlement of the villae of Freiria (today São Domingos de Rana) and Casais Velhos (Charneca), along with a group of discovered tanks along the Rua Marques Leal Pancada, in the city of Cascais, which was a salting factory for fish.[4] Roman dominion over the territory also influenced the names in the region, as was the case of with Caparide (which camed rom the Latin capparis, that means caper), in addition to several inscriptions associated with funerary graves.[4]

Similarly, Moorish and Arab peoples in the region resulted in several names associated with their influence, including Alcoitão or Alcabideche, the birthplace of the poet Ibn Muqana al-Qabdaqi, who was born at the beginning og the 11th century, and who wrote of the region's agriculture and windmills.[4]

The coastal settlement of Cascais originated in the 12th century, depending administratively on the town of Sintra, located to the north. In its humble beginnings, Cascais lived from the products of the sea and land, but already in the 13th century, its fish production served the capital Lisbon, located nearby. The toponymy Cascais appears to derive from this period, a plural derivation of cascal (monte de cascas) which signified a mountain of shells, referring to the abundant volume of marine molluscs that existed in the waters.[4] During the 14th century, the population increased to the outside of the walls of its castle.

Its prosperity led to the administrative independence from Sintra in 1364. On 7 June 1364 the men of Cascais obtained from King Peter I the elevation of the village to the status of town, that included the establishment of local judges and administrators. The villagers were, therefore, obligated to pay annually to the Crown 200 pounds of gold, in addition to the aforementioned expense of the local administrators: owing the regions' wealth, these obligations were easily satisfied.[4] The village and its surroundings were owned by a feudal lord; the most famous of them was João das Regras (died 1404), a lawyer and professor of the University of Lisbon that was involved in the ascension of King John I to power as the first King of the House of Aviz.

The Castle of Cascais was likely constructed after this period, since by 1370, King Ferdinand donated the castle and Cascais to Gomes Lourenço de Avelar to hold as a signeurial fiefdom.[4] These privileges were then passed on to his successors, among others, Dr. João das Regras and the Counts of Monsanto, later the Marquess of Cascais.[4] Meanwhile, despite its conquest and sack by Castilian forces in 1373, and blockade of the port, in 1382 and 1384, Cascais continued to grow beyond its walls.[4] By the end of the 14th century this resulted in the creation of the parishes of Santa Maria de Cascais, São Vicente de Alcabideche and São Domingos de Rana.[4]

Since the Middle Ages, Cascais lived from fishing, maritime commerce (it was a stop for ships sailing to Lisbon), and from agriculture, producing wine, olive oil, cereals, and fruits. Due to its location close to the Tagus estuary, it was also seen as a strategic post in the defence of Lisbon. Around 1488, King John II built a small fortress in the village, located by the sea. On 15 November 1514, Manuel I conceded a foral (charter) to Cascais, instituting the regions municipal authority.[4] It was followed on 11 June 1551 by license from King John III to institutionalize the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Cascais.[4] Its medieval fortress was not enough to repel the invasion and in 1580, Spanish troops led by the Duque of Alba took the village during the conflict that led to the union of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns. The fortress was enlarged towards the end of the 16th century by King Philip I (Philip II of Spain), turning it into a typical renaissance citadel with the characteristic flat profile and star-shaped floorplan. Following the Portuguese restoration, in 1640, a dozen of bulwarks and redoubts were constructed, under the direction of the Count of Cantanhede, who oversaw the defences of the Tagus estuary, the gateway to the city of Lisbon.[4] Of these structures, the citadel of Cascais, which was constructed alongside the Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Luz, considerably reinforced the strategic defences of the coast.[4]

In 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake destroyed a large portion of the village. Around 1774, the Marquis of Pombal, prime-minister of King José I, took protective measures for the commercialisation of the wine of Carcavelos and established the Royal Factory of Wool in the village, which existed until the early 19th century. During the invasion of Portugal by Napoleonic troops in 1807, the citadel of Cascais was occupied by the French, with General Junot staying some time in the village.

This situation of decadence started to change when King Luís I decided to turn the citadel of Cascais into his summer residence. From 1870 to 1908, the Royal Family came to Cascais to enjoy the sea, turning the somnolent fishing village into a cosmopolitan address. The citadel gained electric light in 1878, the first in the country, thanks to King Luís. The village gained better roads to Lisbon and Sintra, a casino, a bullfight ring, a sport club, and improvements in the basic infrastructure for the population. The railway arrived in 1889. Many noble families built beautiful mansions in Cascais, as can still be seen in the centre and surroundings of the town.

Praia da Rainha, a beach in the centre of Cascais.
Centre of Cascais.

In 1896, King Carlos I, a lover of all maritime activities, installed in the citadel the first oceanographic laboratory in Portugal. The King himself led a total of 12 scientific expeditions to the coast, only ended in 1908 with his assassination in Lisbon.

Another important step in the touristic development of the area was given in the first half of the 20th century in neighbouring Estoril, in which a casino was built and the infrastructure for luxury vacations was created around Monte Estoril.

Due to Portugal's neutrality in World War II and the town's elegance and royal past, Cascais became home to many of the exiled royal families of Europe, including those of Spain, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Nowadays, Cascais and its surroundings are a famous vacation spot for the Portuguese and foreigners, aiming at both the "jet-set" and normal tourism, who seek to enjoy its beaches.

Marina of Cascais.
Centre of Cascais.
The Farol de Santa Marta and the Casa de Santa Maria.
The Museum Conde Castro Guimarães in Cascais.


Today, there is a large yacht harbour and several small sand beaches in and around town. Cascais is easily reached from Lisbon by car, (A5 Lisboa-Cascais highway, or the scenic "marginal" road), or by frequent inexpensive commuter trains. It has the ruins of a castle, an art and sea museum, as well as parks and the charming cobbled streets of the historic centre. The town has many hotels and tourist apartments as well as many good restaurants of varying cost. It is a fine base to use for those visiting Lisbon and its environs who prefer to stay outside of the city yet in an equally urban and sophisticated environment.

Cascais is surrounded by popular beaches, such as Guincho Beach to the west, and the lush Sintra mountains to the north. Some of its shoreline is cliff-y, attracting tourists for its seascapes and other natural sights such as the Boca do Inferno. It is also becoming a popular golf destination, with over 10 golf courses nearby. Surfing, sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing are also popular in the region around Cascais due to favourable weather, wind, and sea conditions. In 2007, Cascais was the official host of the ISAF World Championship in sailing for dinghies and racing yachts.

The municipality also hosts international tennis and motorcycling events and for many years hosted the FIA F1 Portugal Grand Prix. The famous Estoril Casino is one of the largest in Europe. Near the casino is the "Hotel Palácio" (Palace Hotel), a 5-star hotel where scenes of the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service were shot.


Cascais is situated on the western edge of the Tagus estuary, between the Sintra mountains and the Atlantic Ocean; the territory occupied by the municipality is limited in the north by the municipality of Sintra, south and west by the ocean, and east by the municipality of Oeiras.[4]

Administratively, the municipality is divided into 4 civil parishes (freguesias),[5] with municipal authority vested in the Câmara Municipal of Cascais:

International relations[edit]

Cascais is twinned with:

Notable citizens[edit]


  1. ^ Instituto Nacional de Estatística
  2. ^ Direção-Geral do Território
  3. ^ Matthew Hancock (2004), Lisbon, Rough Guides, ISBN 978-1-84353-315-3, ISBN 1843533154 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Câmara Municipal, ed. (2011). "História" (in Portuguese). Cascais, Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Cascais. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Diário da República. "Law nr. 11-A/2013, page 552 30" (pdf) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Twin towns, Biarritz official website". Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  7. ^ "Campinas signs agreement of sister city with Cascais in Portugal". Retrieved July 9, 2012. 

External links[edit]