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When Estoril was the meeting place for spies

When Estoril was the meeting place for spies

During World War II, Estoril became a haven for international spies and exiled European royalty, including the Duke of Windsor, the Spanish royal family, the king of Romania, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Leslie Howard, Ian Fleming, Dušan Popov, and Garbo.

This unique atmosphere and cast of characters in Estoril served as inspiration for the creation of the James Bond character by Ian Fleming.

Portugal during the World War II

During World War II, Portugal was under the authoritarian rule of António de Oliveira Salazar's regime, known as the Estado Novo. To learn more about Salazar and other famous Portuguese figures, please visit our article: "11 Famous Portuguese People You've Probably Heard Of."

During World War II, Portugal declared its neutrality by signing a non-aggression treaty with Franco's Spain and refusing to join the alliance between Germany, Italy, and Japan. António de Oliveira Salazar, the leader of the authoritarian political regime in Portugal at the time, did not want to upset either England or Nazi Germany.

He promised the British that he would not take any action against Jews in Portugal, but at the same time, he prohibited the granting of visas to those being hunted by the Nazi regime.

However, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, defied these orders and granted over 30,000 visas to Jews of all nationalities.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes - Credit Center of Portugal

During the 20th century, Portugal became a refuge for a diverse group of people fleeing persecution, including exiled statesmen, writers, artists, thinkers, and businessmen. The area of Cascais-Estoril was particularly popular due to the many hotels and pensions available.

Among the notable individuals who sought refuge in Estoril were the Duke of Windsor, the Spanish royal family, the King of Romania, Carol II, and the Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, as well as less savory characters.

This influx of refugees was particularly significant during World War II when Portugal maintained its neutrality by signing a non-aggression treaty with Franco's Spain and refusing to join the Axis alliance.

To honor the memory of these refugees, the Exiles Memorial Area was inaugurated in 1999.

Espaço Memória dos Exílios - Av. Marginal 7152A, 2765-192 Estoril 

Estoril, meeting place for spies.

Lisbon and Estoril were known as the "capital of espionage" in several American reports due to the position of the Portuguese secret police, which maintained neutrality towards foreign espionage activities, as long as they did not interfere in Portuguese internal politics.

German spies attempted to purchase information on transatlantic cargo ships departing from Lisbon to aid their submarines during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, well-known figures such as actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and Leslie Howard settled in Estoril and collaborated with the Allies. Ian Fleming, a British naval intelligence officer, resided in the Palácio d'Estoril to oversee the English-German double agent, Dušan Popov.

In Estoril, the Germans selected the Hotel Atlântico, the Grande Hotel do Monte Estoril, and the Hotel do Parque as their bases.

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 was a spy recruited by the German Abwehr to gather intelligence in the United Kingdom, but he also provided a mix of accurate and false information to the British secret service. He frequently traveled to Portugal, where his German contact would meet him at the Hotel Palacio casino in Estoril.

Dušan Popov


Ian Fleming, a British naval intelligence officer, was stationed in Portugal during World War II and was responsible for keeping an eye on the activities of Dušan Popov, a double agent working for both the Abwehr and the British intelligence services. Fleming was staying at the Hotel Palacio in Estoril, where Popov was known to frequent for meetings with his German liaison officer.

One night, Popov managed to bluff his way to victory at baccarat, convincing a boastful Lithuanian to bet against him with the 38,000 dollars of his mission expenses on a single deal. This incident served as inspiration for Fleming's first James Bond novel, "Casino Royale".

Casino Royal - 1967


Popov's success as a double agent during WWII and Fleming's experience in Portugal would eventually inspire the James Bond character and series. In fact, the Hotel Palácio d'Estoril, where Fleming stayed and where Popov was contacted by his German liaison officer, would become a location in Fleming's novel "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

The novel was later adapted into a James Bond film of the same name, which was filmed in the hotel in 1969.

On Her Majesty's Service - 1969 

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

Garbo, whose real name was Joan Pujol Garcia, is widely regarded as the most successful double agent of World War II. He convinced the Germans that he was spying for them in England, when in reality he was in Portugal, feeding them fabricated information. As a result of his deception, he was awarded the German Iron Cross in July of 1944.

Joan Pujol Garcia


In reality, Garbo's mission with MI5 was to spread false information to the Abwehr about the Normandy landings. He made the Nazis believe that the landings were only a decoy, and that the real landing would take place two weeks later in the Pas de Calais.

For this successful operation, Garbo was awarded the Order of the British Empire by King George VI in November 1944.

Estoril, nest of spies.

Estoril was a hub for espionage during World War II and was home to many double agents who deceived both sides. While some, like Garbo and Popov, were successful, many were eventually discovered and met their demise.

Leslie Howard, a well-known American actor and director, was suspected of collaborating with the secret services and was targeted by German fighters while on a plane leaving Lisbon. The attack resulted in his death, as well as the death of Tyrell Shervington, director of Shell in Lisbon and a close associate of the British secret service.

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, which is now known as the Intercontinental Hotel, was purchased by a German industrialist named Wortus. It soon became a hub of operations for German spies who utilized its strategic location overlooking the sea to monitor maritime traffic to the port of Lisbon. However, due to the scarcity of accommodation, some Jewish families also sought refuge in the hotel, causing considerable tension between the spies and the refugees.

 Hôtel Atlantico (Lado do mar) - Monte Estoril

Palácio hôtel

The Hotel Palácio stands out among the few hotels that have managed to preserve their original style. During World War II, the lounge of this hotel was a popular spot for the allies, and their spies often discussed sensitive matters in a loud tone. However, hidden microphones were discovered on the walls, under carpets, and even in lamps, indicating that the Germans were also eavesdropping on their conversations. Ian Fleming, who was a British intelligence officer, was a regular patron of the bar and casino at the Hotel Palácio.

 Hôtel Palácio today - Estoril

Pastelaria Garrett

This pastelaria, is still in operation today. It has since transformed into one of the most renowned patisseries in the area and is also known for its popular tea room.
Pastelaria Garrett today - Estoril

Grande hôtel

The former hotel, which was a preferred location for German spies to monitor their enemies, has now been replaced by luxury residences. Wilhelm Lorenz, another German spy who used the German Diplomatic Delegation in Portugal to communicate with ships at sea, also resided in the same area.

Grande hôtel - Monte Estoril


Dear Luisa-Paixão,

Very interesting. Congratulations!
Vivenda Girasol (Rua de Inglaterra, alto do Estoril) Wilhelm Lorenz’s residence, still.exists. Art deco style house, with 2 floors, a terrace in the top, located in a high point off Estoril was ideal for the german spy, to control the ships movements.
Somme time ago i take 3 photos i can send if you want.
With my compliments
Horácio Raposo Dias

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