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Quand Estoril était le rendez vous des espions

When Estoril was the meeting place for spies

The Duke of Windsor, the Spanish royal family, the king of Romania, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Leslie Howard, Ian Fleming, Dušan Popov, Garbo... settle in Estoril during the Second World War... They will be a source of inspiration for the character of James Bond!


Portugal during the World War II

When World War II broke out in 1939, Portugal was living under an authoritarian political regime led by António de Oliveira Salazar: the Estado Novo. If you want to learn more about Salazar, please visit our article: 11 famous Portuguese people you have heard of.

The Portuguese state affirmed its neutrality by signing a non-aggression treaty with Franco's Spain and refusing to join the alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan.

Salazar, not wishing to displease either England or Nazi Germany, promised the British that he would not take any action against the Jews in Portugal and, at the same time, forbade the granting of visas to those being hunted by the Nazi regime.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, disobeyed the orders and granted more than 30,000 visas to Jews of all nationalities. 

Aristides de Sousa Mendes - Credit Center of Portugal

Portugal became a place of transit for refugees on their way to the United States, but also a destination for those who were persecuted. Exiled statesmen, kings without a throne, writers, artists, thinkers, businessmen, but also thousands of anonymous people found refuge in the area of Cascais-Estoril because of the many hotels and pensions of all kinds that were located there.

In Estoril, the Duke of Windsor, the Spanish royal family, the King of Romania, Carol II, the Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, the Queen of Bulgaria... but also more troubled characters.

Inaugurated in 1999, the Exiles Memorial Area preserves the memory of all those who found refuge in Cascais and Estoril during the various wars that devastated Europe in the 20th century, especially the Jews fleeing the Nazi regime.
Espaço Memória dos Exílios - Av. Marginal 7152A, 2765-192 Estoril 

Estoril, meeting place for spies.

Several American reports described Lisbon and Estoril as the "capital of espionage", favored by the position of the Portuguese secret police, which remained neutral with regard to foreign espionage activities, as long as it did not interfere in Portuguese internal politics.
On the one hand, German spies tried to buy information on transatlantic cargo ships leaving Lisbon to help their submarines engaged in the Battle of the Atlantic.
On the other hand, celebrities such as the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and Leslie Howard settled in Estoril and collaborated with the Allies. Ian Fleming, a British naval intelligence officer, lived in the Palácio d'Estoril to take charge of Dušan Popov, an English-German double agent...
In Estoril, the Germans chose the Hotel Atlântico, the Grande Hotel do Monte Estoril and the Hotel do Parque,

Grande Hotel do Monte Estoril


while the Grande Hotel da Itália, in Monte Estoril, and the Palácio Hotel are favorites of the Allies.

Estoril Palácio hôtel  


Dušan Popov, the spy who inspired James Bond.

Dušan Popov is an agent recruited by the Abwehr to spy in the United Kingdom but who passes on a mixture of true and false information after also being recruited by the British secret service. He often travels to Portugal where his German liaison officer contacts him at the Hotel Palacio casino in Estoril.

Dušan Popov


Ian Fleming was a British intelligence officer stationed in Portugal, in charge of surveillance of Dušan Popov and staying at the Hotel Palacio in Estoril.
One evening, Dušan Popov, who was being watched by Ian Fleming, bluffed a boastful Lithuanian at baccarat and bet the 38,000 dollars of his mission expenses on a single deal. This bluff inspired Fleming to write Casino Royale.

Casino Royal - 1967


Popov would later be recognized as the most extraordinary double agent of the Second World War and Ian Fleming would become the successful writer of the James Bond saga. In 1969, the Hotel Palácio d'Estoril hosted the James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Service".

On Her Majesty's Service - 1969 

Garbo, the spy rewarded by the Nazis and by the British.

Garbo, whose real name is Joan Pujol Garcia, is considered the greatest double agent of the Second World War. He persuaded the Germans that he was spying for them in England when in fact he was in Portugal giving them false information. As such, he was awarded the German Iron Cross in July 1944.

Joan Pujol Garcia


In reality, his mission with MI5 consisted in spreading false information to the Abwehr about the Normandy landings, making the Nazis believe that it was only a decoy and that the real landing would take place two weeks later in the Pas de Calais. As such, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by King George VI in November 1944.


Estoril, nest of spies.

Garbo and Popov were not isolated cases. Many spies occupied the squares, hotels and pensions of Estoril and did double work, deceiving one or both sides. Most of them were discovered and disappeared.
For example, Leslie Howard, an American actor, director and producer, was targeted by German fighters while on a plane that had just taken off from Lisbon, which suggests that his activity as a collaborator of the secret services had been discovered. Also on the plane was Tyrell Shervington, director of Shell in Lisbon and also close to the British secret service. Both were killed in the air raid.

Leslie Howard


Discover the mythical places of espionage in Estoril.

Many of the places that saw German, British and American spies walk around still exist in Estoril. The Cascais Tourist Office publishes a small guide to help you discover them. Here it is, but it is also available on the website www.visitcascais.com



Atlantico hôtel

In 1939, the "Atlantico" hotel, now the Intercontinental Hotel, was bought by a German industrialist named Wortus. From then on, it served as a base of operations for German spies who took advantage of the view of the sea to control maritime traffic to the port of Lisbon. The shortage of accommodation led to some Jewish families settling in the hotel, which led to strong tensions.

 Hôtel Atlantico (Lado do mar) - Monte Estoril


Palácio hôtel

The Hotel Palácio is one of the few hotels that still has its original style. The lounge of this hotel was the favorite place of the allies and their spies spoke loudly. On the other hand, microphones have been found on the walls, under the carpets, in the lamps... Ian Fleming, a British intelligence officer, frequented the bar and the Casino.

 Hôtel Palácio today - Estoril

Pastelaria Garrett

This establishment, still open, was a place of passage for spies acting undercover. Today it is one of the best patisseries in the region and a tea room that remains very famous.
Pastelaria Garrett today - Estoril

Grande hôtel

This hotel has now been replaced by luxury residences. It was the favorite hotel of German spies from which they could monitor the movements of the enemy. Not far away, Wilhelm Lorenz, a German spy who took advantage of the German Diplomatic Delegation in Portugal to communicate with ships at sea, lived there.

Grande hôtel - Monte Estoril

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