The Cascade Garden at the former palace of the Caxias royal estate today serves as one of the most delightful and tranquil recreational green spaces in Lisbon. Located at Caxias, about a 15-minute train journey west of the city centre, the garden was originally laid out in the 18th century to complement the royal palace, a summertime residence of King Pedro III. Influenced by the French Baroque gardens of Versailles though presented on a far smaller scale, the well-maintained grounds at Caxias are woven with boxwood, an ever-green shrub native to southern Portugal, and shaded by plane trees and lofty palms. Several water features including a fountain dedicated to the goddess Diana embellish the estate, the central feature being a dazzling monumental waterfall. An original set of terracotta sculptures by Machado de Castro (1731- 1822), one of Portugal's foremost sculptors, further lend the place character. Numerous footpaths crisscross the Cascade Garden. Set at various "biospots" are illustrated information panels in English and Portuguese that highlight the flora and fauna the visitor can expect to come across during a walk.
Recommended for Parks because: Calm and tranquil Cascade Garden is a historic location. It's set opposite the railway station and the beach at Caxias.
Paul's expert tip: Free to enter, the park is open in summer from 9am-9pm. In winter, from 10am-5pm.
This modest garden-park, laid out in 1860, is the centre point of the city's elegantly affluent Principe Real neighbourhood. Fragrant magnolias and robin fleck the grounds with colour and a number of statues paying homage to local figures lend it personality. Locals gather here for the serene setting and the cooling shade. An open-air cafe and children's play area offer pleasant distraction, but the highlight is a huge cedar tree, the flattened branches of which have been trained on a trellis, creating a huge, natural "umbrella". After strolling through the park, take a closer look at Neo-Moorish-style palace replete with domes and turrets standing opposite.
Recommended for Parks because: A favourite retreat from Lisbon's urban hustle and bustle, centrally located Principe Park still retains a pleasant late 19th-century character
Paul's expert tip: The fascinating Loreto underground aqueduct is located in the middle of the park. Guided tours are conducted on Saturdays, at 11am and 3pm.
Spread out like a verdant quilt at the top of a hill near the Palacio da Ajuda, the Ajuda Botanical Garden was laid out in 1768 and is Lisbon's oldest public park. The views from the terraces take in the river and the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The garden is planted with an incredible variety of flowers and visitors can also explore the greenhouses where tropical flora is cultivated, including a selection of beautiful orchids. One of the garden's highlights is a 400-year-old Madeiran dragon tree. An onsite shop sells various souvenirs and there's even a restaurant, the highly regarded Estufal Real that serves lunch, with Sunday brunch especially popular.
Recommended for Parks because: Often overlooked and a little off the beaten track, a visit to this park can be combined with the nearby Palacio Nacional da Ajuda.
Paul's expert tip: Guided tours are available. For more information visit their website.
The Tropical Botanical Garden in Belem (sometimes referred to as the Jardim Museu Agricola Tropical) is a lush oasis of exotic flora set in landscaped gardens that surround the 18th-century Palacio dos Condes da Calheta, these days used as research centre of the Institute for Tropical Sciences. Visitors can appreciate an array of tropical and subtropical plants, and imposing date palm, fig and monkey puzzle trees. Kids can feed the ducks on the lake and play hide and seek under the garden's verdant canopy. The palace regularly hosts scientific exhibitions about the research on natural resources, people and history of tropical regions.
Recommended for Parks because: Brimming with rare and beautiful flora, the leafy open botanical park also attracts a wealth of birdlife.
Paul's expert tip: The Oriental Garden is perfumed by the aromatic flowers of Asia and is best visited in May when it's in full bloom.
Often overlooked by the general public, the gardens within Belem Palace are definitely worth discovering, not least because a guided tour of the grounds on Saturdays only also includes entrance to the palace and the Museu da Presidencia da Republica. The palace is the working residence of Portugal's president and dates from the 18th-century. The ornamented grounds are in fact composed of three distinctive areas – the Main Garden, the smaller West Garden and the South Garden. In addition, visitors can wander through the Orangery, the Lime Tree Garden, the Yew Garden and the Waterfall Garden. Statues and water features embellish the landscape, the boundaries of which are marked by lavender and myrtle hedges. The views south across the Main Garden embrace the picturesque riverfront.
Recommended for Parks because: A visit provides a rare opportunity to explore the grounds of the presidential palace and admire views of the River Tagus.
Paul's expert tip: The President of the Republic Museum is next door and places the whole park in context. Note that advance reservations are required.
Named after British monarch Edward VII who toured Lisbon during a 1903 state visit to Portugal to reaffirm the Anglo-Portuguese alliance, this huge green space consists of 62 acres, making it the largest park in the city centre. It is really more of an inclined promenade flanked by a mosaic-patterned esplanade, trees and flowerbeds. Neatly clipped hedging provides decoration through the centre of the park. Sweeping city views can be enjoyed from the north end of the park where two estufas, or greenhouses (one hot, one cold) are located. The displays of exotic tropical flora in these hot houses are open to the public.
Recommended for Parks because: Lisbon's best known park is not its grandest but it's certainly the most convenient to explore, sited as it at the top of Avenida da Liberdade.
Paul's expert tip: If you'd rather walk down the esplanade than plod all the way up it, alight at Sao Sebastiao metro station.
For more than 70 years Monsanto Forest Park has been attracting city dwellers and visitors to Lisbon, all drawn by over 10 hectares of mostly eucalyptus woodland criss-crossed by running and hiking paths, mountain bike trails and pockets of landscaped gardens embellished with water features. Set on a hill west of the city centre, the park has several excellent purpose-built miradouros – lookout points – that afford superb views over the city and its environs, plus specially created recreational and picnic areas, popular with families. The parks's HQ is an environmental interpretation centre and while most of the information available is in Portuguese, there are English-speaking staff happy to impart more about the flora and fauna found in this verdant oasis, often referred to as "Lisbon's Lung".
Recommended for Parks because: Originally private hunting grounds, Monsanto is today a favourite destination for leisure and recreation, a retreat from the urban sprawl that is nearby Lisbon.
Paul's expert tip: A vehicle is the most convenient way of reaching the park as public transport is sporadic and walking distances from the city centre are challenging.
A wonderfully designed green space themed around Portugal's greatest literary figures and those of the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) world, the "Poets' Park" combines carefully landscaped grounds with works of art from some of the county's leading sculptors. The park features a series of gardens dedicated to a particular wordsmith. Those to look out for include areas highlighting Renaissance poets Gil Vicente (1465–1537) and Luis de Camoes (1524–1580), and 20th-century greats Miguel Torga (1907–1995) and Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). A lake, maze and children's playground offer pleasing distractions.
Recommended for Parks because: Unique in Portugal, the park pays aesthetic homage to the country's most respected poets. The integrated amphitheatre hosts music concerts.
Paul's expert tip: The park is located in Oeiras, west of the city centre. It's very near the Oeiras Parque Shopping mall. From there it's a 5-minute walk.
Allow a full day to explore this beautiful and historic destination. Set on rolling hills textured by moss-covered granite, the park encompasses several must-see historical sights, visitor attractions such as the Disneyland-esque Palacio de Pena, the Palacio Nacional de Sinta and the 10th-century Castelo dos Mouros. The craggy, undulating landscape constitutes the Serra de Sintra, a dramatic expanse of verdant woodland best explored on foot following the many official trails laid out for hikers and those on mountain bikes. Stunning Atlantic Ocean views await those who make it to the mountain's highest points.
Recommended for Parks because: A region of spectacular beauty, the entire park is classified a World Heritage Landscape by UNESCO.
Paul's expert tip: The train from Rossio station in central Lisbon goes all the way to Sintra. You can nip on a bus to the palace and castle, of if you're fit, follow the hiking path.
Arguably the prettiest of Lisbon's public green spaces, the Estrela gardens are attractive any time of year but it's during the warm summer months that the park is at its vibrant and most colourful. A lake teeming with ducks and geese is overlooked by a waterfront cafe, a favourite meeting point for residents, especially at weekends when an arts and crafts fair threads its way along the grounds. The well-maintained lawns are natural picnic sites while the adjacent adventure playground keeps smiling youngsters occupied. A refurbished 19th-century wrought-iron bandstand is still used today as an ad-hoc concert stage and there's an open air library for bookworms and anybody else looking to improve their Portuguese reading ability.
Recommended for Parks because: Cherished by locals, this verdant oasis is laid out opposite the beautiful 18th-century Basilica da Estrela, one of the city's most historic landmarks.
Paul's expert tip: The number 28 tram pulls up right outside the park's front gates.