Casino Estoril, one of the largest casinos in Europe — Photo courtesy of Outi-Maaria Palo-oja
You can’t miss Casino Estoril. Set back from the seafront esplanade at the top of elongated landscaped gardens, the building nestles in the heart of Estoril, a popular coastal resort located approximately 30 kilometers west of Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant capital city.
Casino Estoril is one of the largest casinos in Europe. For much of the day, it sits quietly in its spruce surroundings, attracting a steady trickle of local residents and inquisitive tourists.
But after dark, when bright neon and pinpoint starburst color its façade, the casino sparks into life, drawing revelers and party-goers galore to one of the slickest nightspots in the region.
A gambling and live entertainment venue rolled into one, Casino Estoril lures the feel-lucky visitor and seasoned card shark to its sleek and voluminous halls. Sited near the main doors are banks of flashing slot and video machines (nearly 1000, in total), where the promise of a euro jackpot is enough to tempt even the most pennywise punter.
Picture mirrors, dazzling chrome and polished marble add to the glossy veneer.
Traditional table games, including poker, are played at Casino Estoril — Photo courtesy of Poker Photos
A more refined atmosphere is dealt in the Traditional Games salons. Here, you can try your hand at classic table games such as blackjack and roulette, and options extend to baccarat and poker (including bar room favorite Texas Hold’em), among others.
Actually, Casino Estoril is celebrated for its high-profile weekend poker tournaments, where the stakes can be substantial.
The magnificent Salão Preto e Prata, a huge function room furnished in black and silver décor — Photo courtesy of Casino Estoril
But it’s not all about playing your cards right. Estoril’s casino is also a respected entertainment hotspot that's well known for its wine and dine extravaganzas and sophisticated cabaret. The shows, hosted in the glitzy Salão Preto e Prata – a huge function room furnished in black and silver décor – have seen the likes of Liza Minnelli take to the stage, as well as some of Portugal’s most esteemed singers and musicians.
The casino's Salão Preto e Prata restaurant and stage, the setting for shows and cabaret — Photo courtesy of Casiono Estoril
For something less formal, check out the live gigs in Lounge D. Besides excellent home-grown talent, the sets often feature up-and-coming international bands and solo acts. Later, clubbers can dance the night away in Jézebel, the casino’s fashionable nightclub that only winds down at dawn.
Open for lunch and dinner is Restaurante Mandarim, one of Portugal’s finest Chinese restaurants. Situated on the ground floor on the south side of the casino, Mandarim is recognized for its authentic cuisine (The dim sum is yum!) and adds yet another mouth-watering dimension to this multi-faceted visitor attraction.
Casino Estoril's Jezebel nightclub, where clubbers can dance till dawn — Photo courtesy of Casino Estoril
Over the years, Casino Estoril has welcomed VIPs from the worlds of sport, show business and politics, as well as royalty. During the Second World War, it was a hotbed of espionage, a magnet for spies drawn to neutral Portugal attempting to gain the upper hand on their enemy’s battle plans.
One such operative was a gentleman called Ian Fleming. During his sojourns at the tables, the dapper intelligence officer began toying with the idea of writing a spy novel and created a character that would mirror his own personality and shadowy profession.
The result was Bond, James Bond, and the glamorous setting was the inspiration for Casino Royale, in which 007 made his first appearance. (Coincidentally, the nearby Hotel Palácio where Fleming stayed featured in the Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)
Easily reached by train from Lisbon city center, Estoril buzzes in the summer months, when the casino enjoys a full house every night. However, during the off-season, a less frivolous atmosphere pervades the resort.
That said, Casino Estoril’s New Year’s Eve parties are legendary. If you’re in town over the festive season, then why not dress up, roll the dice and place a bet? You could come up trumps.