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Lisbon parks: the city's greenest public spaces.



The parks in Lisbon are among the city's most pleasant and attractive public green spaces. The most famous however is found outside the Portuguese capital, at Sintra. The beautiful and historic Parque do Palácio Pena is in fact part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and embraces several majestic monuments and an ancient castle. Nearer Lisbon but still out of the city is the wonderfully original Parque dos Poetas, a park themed around Portuguese and Portuguese-speaking poets and writers. Dominating the city outskirts is Parque Florestal de Monsanto, a huge wooded area known as "Lisbon's lung" criss-crossed with walking trails and known for its biodiversity. Central Lisbon's biggest green space is Parque Eduardo VII, which sits at the top of Avenida da Liberdade and dates from the early 20th century.Within the park are the famous estufas, greenhouses brimming with exotic tropical flora. Visiting the Belém Palace Gardens is a rare opportunity to explore the grounds of the presidential palace while the nearby Jardim Botânical Tropical affords encounters with flora originating from the Far East. At the top of Belém sits another tropical garden park, Jardim Botânico da Ajuda.Back in the city centre, two parks stand out, the Parque Príncipe Real, noted for its huge cedar tree, and Jardim da Estrela, arguably the prettiest and most tranquil of all Lisbon's parks.    


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Lapa/Estrela

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. An 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 looking to improve their Portuguese.

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Bairro Alto/Principe Real

This modest garden-park, laid out in 1860, is the centre point of the city's elegantly affluent Príncipe 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 café 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, don't miss the colourful Neao-Moorish-style palace replete with domes and turrets standing opposite. After strolling through the park, don't miss the colourful Neao-Moorish-style palace replete with domes and turrets standing opposite.

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Spread out like a verdant quilt at the top of a hill near the Palácio 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 – Sunday brunch is especially popular.

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The Tropical Botanical Garden in Belém (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 Palácio 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 aromas of Asia and is best visited in May when it's in full bloom.

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Often overlooked by the general public, the gardens within Belém Palace are definitely worth discovering, not least because a guided tour of the grounds on Saturdays and Sundays also includes entrance to the palace and the Museu da Presidéncia da República. 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.

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Set along the northwestern edge of Parque Eduardo VII, these three estufas (glasshouses) date from 1933 and make for a pleasant diversion away from the bustle of the city. The estufa fria (cool greenhouse) is filled with shimmering tree ferns and striking camellias, among other brilliant flora. The tropical trees and plants are landscaped around a series of ponds and waterfalls in much the same way as the more exotic greenery in the estufa quente (hot greenhouse). Here, coffee and mango trees flourish in the sticky heat. The smaller estufa doce (sweet greenhouse) bristles with prickly cacti and other succulents. Overhead, lofty palms at least one hundred years old provide welcome shade.

Recommended for Parks because: This verdant pocket of greenery is a veritable oasis and offers a place of respite from the city surrounding it.

Paul's expert tip: The glasshouses are particularly alluring late afternoon during winter, when the flora and water features are illuminated by spotlight. It's also lovely and warm!

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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 are open to the public.

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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".

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Outside the City


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 Luís de Camões (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 Shopping mall. From there it's a 5-minute walk.

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Outside the City


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 Palácio de Pena, the Palácio 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 mountains' 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.

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Meet Paul Bernhardt

Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul

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