This town was a small fishing port throughout early history as it lies protected from nature’s elements at the mouth of the Rio Tejo. It was occupied by the Spanish under the Duke of Alba in 1579.
In 1807, the French invaders commanded by General Junot used the Palácio da Citadela as their suitable headquarters for his army. During the first part of the 19th Century the port trade declined bringing poverty to the town. When in 1870 the King, Luís I, chose to convert the 17th Century building of the Citadela into his summer residence Cascais soon became a very fashionable town and aristocratic palaces and mansions followed.
In 1926 the railway line from Lisbon to Cascais was the first to be electrified in Portugal and this also had a positive economic effect. During the 2nd World War several Kings and Heads of European countries sought refuge in Cascais and nearby Estoril. With these people came other aristocrats, politicians, actors and writers - so many that the population increased by over 20,000 people between 1939 to 1946.
Names of important exiles such as Duke of Windsor, King Umberto of Italy, Princess Joana of Italy, King Carol II of Romania, Prince Juan of Spain, Count Henri of France, part of the Hapsburg family, Regent Horthy of Hungary, all can be associated with the history of both this town and that of neighbouring Estoril.
Today it is the dormitory of the Lisbon international working community and the "younger set" who enjoy the diverse and sophisticated the nightlife.
One of the most outstanding palaces is the Palácio de Conde de Castro Guimarães that is open to the public and exhibits its own grand private collection that includes over 25.000 books and such rarities as an illustrated book by Duarte Galvão(1455-1517). Also, most of the pre-historic finds from the Grutas de Alapraia are stored here.
These were a series of underground caves only discovered in the late 19th Century. The Grutus do Poço Velho are located in the centre of the town and date back to the Neolithic period. On a much more modest scale is the Museu do Mar that depicts the story of Cascais and its fishing history. Just outside the town is the famous Boca do Inferno in which the sea on rougher days hammers into the rock and creates a booming noise and a spectacular spray thus creating its name which in English means "mouth of hell".
Today, Cascais now boasts a smart new Marina with lovely yachts adding a further attraction to the town. The Praça de Touros built 1873 and is an imposing area in which regular bullfights can be seen. The Parque Palmela is an attractive park created by the Duques de Palmela and now maintained by the Town Hall and in which open-air concerts are often held.
Within easy reach of Cascais is the famous beach at Guincho with its high waves that attract windsurfers from all around the world as having some of the best rollers in Europe. The next town to the east of Cascais is the resort town of Estoril with its popular Casino.
To the north and within easy reach is the romantic and fascinating town of Sintra and which was made famous too foreigners after a glowing account of its splendours recorded by Lord Byron
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