James Bond fans know it as the casino that inspired Ian Fleming’s series of stories and books about the dashing British secret agent. Gamblers know it as Portugal’s oldest casino.
The Casino Estoril sits in western Lisbon near the Avenida de Portugal and the Avenida Marginal. Billed as Europe’s largest casino, what it lacks in size compared to Las Vegas venues it makes up for in character. The spacious green campus is reminiscent of Renaissance European palace grounds.
Tourists visit as much for the scenery and food as for the gaming. The casino usually opens in the early evening, leaving travelers free to explore what’s nearby throughout the day.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
The Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon was built for Saint Jerome’s Order near the Tagus river in the Belém parish. Construction began in 1501 and lasted for 100 years. The monks were charged with praying for the monarch’s soul and watching over the remains of the House of Aviz, the rulers of Portugal from 1385 to 1580. The monastery was abandoned in 1833 when Portugal’s religious orders were dissolved.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is world-famous for its architecture, the most striking of which are the South and Axial portals. The ornate architecture has been featured in uncounted tourist and professional photographs. The interior architecture is no less impressive.
In addition to royal tombs, famous Portuguese explorers Vasco de Gama and Luis de Camões are interred there. Several of Portugal’s most famous poets’ tombs were also placed in the monastery.
The monastery was restored in 1850 and has since housed the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia and the Museu da Marinha.
Oceanário de Lisboa
Many world-famous cities have aquariums, but the Oceanário de Lisboa is famous for being the centerpiece of the last world’s fair to be held in the 20th century. Built-in 1998, the Oceanário de Lisboa is considered a modern aquarium in all respects.
The Oceanário de Lisboa offers many activities for children, including “Sleeping with the Sharks,” as education is its central purpose.
Alfama, Lisbon’s Oldest Neighborhood
Every world-famous city has an “old town” area, and Lisbon is no different. Alfama was built overlooking the Tagus river and was protected by the 8th century São Jorge Castle. People have been in the area for thousands of years and made the earliest known fortifications over 2,000 years ago.
Every major people known to inhabit the Iberian peninsula, from Celts to Visigoths and Moors, dwelt here at one time in the region. Alfama fell to the Christian army led by Afonso Henriques in the year 1147. Lisbon became Portugal’s capital in 1255, and the castle became a governor’s residence.
Alfama was the original Moorish city, and modern Lisbon expanded outward from it. The devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake miraculously left the Alfama virtually undamaged. The area includes several old churches and cathedrals popular with tourists from around the world.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
You can spend more than a day exploring everything this park has to offer. One of Portugal’s 13 natural parks, the Sintra-Cascais is located about 25 kilometers outside of Lisbon. The park’s westernmost point is Cabo da Roca, Europe’s westernmost point of land. It is sometimes called the “Edge of the World.”
The castle has been restored several times by Portugal’s monarchs and is now a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – Founder’s Collection
Calouste Gulbenkian could be the inspiration for novels in many genres. A descendant of an ancient noble Armenian family, Gulbenkian’s father was wealthy enough to have his son educated in London and Marseilles. Calouste Gulbenkian graduated from King’s College London with a degree in engineering and applied sciences.
The family’s oil business flourished, and Calouste Gulbenkian worked on a few projects for his father and the Ottoman government before establishing his own oil business in 1895. He became wealthy and helped open the oil fields of Iraq.
Calouste Gulbenkian is remembered in Portugal for his philanthropy and generosity. He also collected thousands of art pieces from around the world, and they now comprise the Founder’s Collection in the museum named for him. It was Gulbenkian’s original hope to house the collection in London. Still, he had a falling out with the British government, which briefly classified him as an enemy during the Second World War.
After the war, various nations, including Great Britain and the United States, invited Gulbenkian to house his collection in their capitols. Upon his death in 1953, Gulbenkian’s will revealed that he had chosen Lisbon to be the permanent home for his world-famous collection of art.
Praca do Comercio (Terreiro do Paco)
Lisbon’s famous Praca do Comercio is one of Europe’s largest public squares. Picaresque 18th-century buildings surround the square. The equestrian statue of King Dom José I—featured in many photos— dominates the square. The statue survived the historic 1755 earthquake that ravaged much of Lisbon.
The government occasionally places other sculptures and works of art on public display in the square.
Day Trips and Private Tours
There is more to see and do in Lisbon than anyone can handle in a day. Numerous local tour operators offer trips to Lisbon’s historic neighborhoods, scenic points of view, nearby landmarks, and more. Tour prices are affordable but may vary by date and availability.
Travelers also recommend everyone ride Tram 28. Lisbon relies on streetcars like many cities, but Tram 28 carries passengers up and down the cobbled streets of Alfama. The Tram passes some of Lisbon’s most famous palaces and castles.
Travelers also encourage new visitors to go to the town of Sintra. Though most popular as a day trip destination, many visitors also enjoy staying one or two nights in Sintra.
Lisbon has many museums and historic buildings. It’s not possible to mention them all. Still, tourists enjoy visiting many other notable locations. A few worth mentioning include the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (a museum dedicated to the decorative ceramic tile industry), Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (a hilltop neighborhood overlooking Lisbon and the harbor), and Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica.
The sports stadium complex is quite large and offers tours when no games are scheduled. Venues, including the Benfica Museum, are open to tourists.
More About Casino Estoril
Foreign travelers occasionally express disappointment with the casino experience. “It’s not as good as Las Vegas,” is an oft-cited complaint. Casino Estoril is an older gaming house. Don’t expect every city to be like Las Vegas.
The casino’s two levels both offer gaming. Patrons dine upstairs and play real money slots and table games. The larger downstairs gaming area houses an extensive collection of slot machines. Other amenities include bars and music venues.
Explore the Attractions of Lisbon, Portugal
Whether you visit Lisbon for business or pleasure, you should see one of the most popular European gambling destinations at least once. It’s not as large and grand as modern resorts, but it has earned a place in gamblers’ lore for both its literary and cinematic connections and its colorful décor. Also, it’s one of Europe’s largest casinos, so if you’re looking for action, this is one of the places to start your quest.
Casino Estoril’s patrons recommend the Estoril Mandarim Cantonese buffet. You will need to bring identification, including your passport, to enter the casino.
Given that Casino Estoril lies between downtown Lisbon and Sintra, it makes sense to plan your visit around your excursions to Sintra. Spending a few hours gambling and dining in one of Europe’s most popular Cantonese restaurants is an excellent way to end a day trip to the Mountains of the Moon.