When we began planning our move to Portugal from the United States several years ago, we dreamed of living in a place that brought us joy in our daily lives. Under 40 minutes from Lisbon and home to gorgeous beaches, fascinating history, cultural attractions, and a phenomenal food scene, Estoril, Portugal has everything that made our dream come true. But even living the dream comes with certain realities, so we want to share what it’s really like to live in Estoril, Portugal.
The Price of Living On The Portuguese Riviera
Estoril (pronounced ‘Shto-REEL) along the coastal area between Lisbon and Cascais known as the Estoril Coast or Lisbon Coast. It has been called the Costa do Sol (coast of the sun) by some and the Portuguese Riviera by many. Whatever the name, Estoril is part of a highly desirable area known for its gorgeous beaches and scenery, luxurious hotels and restaurants, and glamorous attractions. During World War II, exiled royalty, celebrities, and aristocrats populated Estoril seeking safety in sumptuous surroundings.
Portugal is a popular place for expat retirees, and Estoril is still considered one of the most desirable areas of Portugal. But glamor comes at a price. Property and rentals in Estoril are some of the highest in the country, even more expensive than Lisbon. That said, if you are willing to live a little way up from the beach, better prices can be found. We live about a mile above the beach. We can see the ocean from our veranda and walk there in about 20 minutes. We have almost every amenity we wanted for a price similar to what we paid in the United States. It’s more expensive than we would have liked, but compared to many of the prices nearby, it’s a steal.
Location, Location, Location
Location was one of the most important things for us when we moved to Portugal. We are still traveling and writing, so we wanted to be near a major city and an international airport. Estoril is 40 minutes from Lisbon by train and 30 minutes from Humberto Delgado Lisbon Airport. The train line that goes to Estoril runs along the coastline. Riding to and from Lisbon is like taking a vacation itself as the sea escorts you most of the way.
The place we live is very convenient when it comes to doing everyday things. We live near a large new grocery store, so we can shop easily. There are unique restaurants, shops, bakeries, and cafés minutes away. We are a 5-minute train ride to neighboring Cascais, home to a huge farmers market, more restaurants, shops, and entertainment options add to our choices. Despite its high profile as a glamorous part of Portugal, daily living in Estoril is rather low-key, which is something we enjoy.
Hills, Hills, Hills
Portugal is a hilly country. Lisbon is built on 7 (or 8, depending upon who you ask) hills. Porto is one big hill. It’s no surprise that Estoril is also home to hilly terrain. Once you get down to the main avenue along the Estoril coastal area, the Marginal, things flatten out. But if you’re walking toward the center of town to many of the amenities such as restaurants, shops, hotels, and places to live, there’s likely to be a hill or two involved.
Even though there are hills up from the beach areas, various places are flat. We like to walk all over our neighborhood. Sometimes we climb up steep areas and sometimes our walking is relatively level. The best thing about living on a hill is the view. From our veranda, we can see the ocean to one side and the Sintra Mountains to the other. We watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the homes that surround us. It’s sometimes utterly breathtaking how beautiful this place really is.
Sports Lovers’ Heaven
Estoril is also known for its affinity for sports. The beaches are filled with water lovers surfing windsurfing and stand up paddling. Sailboats and motorboats are abundant. International car races take place at the Estoril Autodrome while the Estoril Golf Club is one of the oldest and most iconic in Portugal. The Estoril Open is an international tennis tournament played outdoors on clay courts. There are lots of places to walk, hike, and bike through all types of terrain.
One of our favorite pastimes is watching the resident professional futebol team, Grupo Desportivo Estoril Praia compete in the Estádio António Coimbra da Mota stadium, of which we have a bird’s eye view. Portugal is wild about soccer, and even if the team isn’t always a winner, matches are lively and fun to watch. We feel as though we have exclusive private box seats and sometimes have friends over to enjoy snacks and drinks while a game is played. It’s fun to see how excited everyone becomes, even those who don’t typically enjoy spectator sports. There’s something special about rooting for the home team, and as long-time Chicago Cubs fans, we’re used to looking toward “next time.”
Beaches And The Paredão
Of course, a big draw to living in Estoril is the beach. The main beach is Tamariz Beach. We think it’s one of the nicest beaches on the Lisbon coast. You can take a train, get off at the Estoril station, and walk right down to the beach. There is a soft sandy area perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, or just hanging out. Several restaurants and bars line the promenade alongside the beach making it easy to get a drink or meal and enjoy what’s going on. There’s also an area with a saltwater swimming pool, popular with kids and people who just want to dip in their toes without braving the ocean waves.
Poça Beach to the east and Praia das Moitas to the west provide other beach options with rocky shoreline areas between where surfers love to catch the waves. One of our favorite ways to enjoy the beaches is to walk along the pedestrian promenade called the Paredão that extends between Cascais and Estoril. People watching, stopping for a bite at one of the many cafes, and sitting on the sand watching surfers and SUPers all make for a perfect day in Estoril.
James Bond And The Glamorous Life
One of the most interesting facets of Estoril is its history. Known as a haven for European royalty, aristocrats, and others seeking refuge during World War II, the little fishing town became a glamorous resort. The Casino Estoril, one of the largest in Europe, was a magnet for glamorous people and entertainment. Today there are events, concerts, and an art gallery, as well as casino games to entertain visitors.
One cannot talk about Estoril without mentioning James Bond. Ian Fleming, creator of the character conceived of the suave 007 while he was a journalist and British Naval Intelligence Officer staying at the luxurious Estoril Palacio Hotel. James Bond and the first book, Casino Royale were inspired by the spies he met in this captivating environment. The Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed in Portugal and around the hotel.
The halls of the Palacio are filled with photos of European royals, global celebrities, diplomats, and nobility from around the world. We’ve had fun looking at the documents and images then getting a drink at the bar (nicknamed the “Spy Bar”), a martini, shaken not stirred, of course. The streets surrounding the hotel and the casino have elegant shops and restaurants fun for exploring, and we’ve discovered a favorite spot or two great for dining outside. No spies encountered yet.
Estoril is a neighborhood with many of its best features tucked away. We appreciate its fascinating history with well-known attractions, but as residents, we love that some of the real attractions here are the tiny shops, restaurants, and facilities not so readily seen. For instance, we can walk to any number of local fruit and vegetable stands to see what’s fresh and interesting for the day. Small local restaurants peek out beneath apartment buildings wafting scents of fantastic meals at reasonable prices.
One of our favorites, Churrasqueria do Viveiro, serves large portions of grilled meats and fish, salads, desserts, and wine. We’ve stuffed ourselves silly, including a bottle of great red wine for under 30 Euros.
Another Estoril hidden gem is the Quinta do Saloio, a gourmet grocery store packed with everything we could possibly want to enjoy an elegant globally-inspired meal at home. Pastelaria Garrett is a swanky café where you can dine in style or take away delicious baked goods to munch on the beach. Evolve wine shop is an oenophile’s dream. There are quirky and fun places to shop as well. Cabinet of Curiosities offers unique home decor as well as interior design services. We purchased logo wear of our local soccer team at Estoril Praia Official Store and also picked up a bottle of Estoril Praia private label white wine that turned out to be fantastic. And the Museum of Portuguese Music, tucked away in an interesting villa, displays Portuguese instruments and offers concerts in a beautiful garden setting.
Estoril gives us the best of all worlds. We’re in a neighborhood on a hill with gorgeous views yet only a 20-minute walk to the beach. There are interesting cultural attractions, but not so many that we are swamped with tourists. The local residents are very friendly, welcome us, and help us with our Portuguese. There are wonderful places to walk and explore and we are close to all the major necessities. You may have to look a little deeper in Estoril to illuminate its allure, but once you do, its appeal is undeniable.