A few days ago I had a little online chat with a volunteer at the Jardim Botanico da Ajuda in Lisbon. That reminded me I still had an unfinished post about parks and gardens in the beautiful Portuguese Capital. The guy also mentioned that the Jardim Botanico da Ajuda celebrates its 250th birthday this year, so I had no more excuses not to finish this Post.
Visiting Lisbon’s gardens filled me both with joy and concern, as many of them are in need of some renovations and there seems to be a lack of upkeep. But they are pleasant and interesting peaceful havens in this busy city and the variety of plants is enormous.
Let’s start with the main Botanical garden, the University of Lisbon Botanical Garden. The garden is particularly rich in tropical species from New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan and South America, illustrating the mild climate and the special microclimates produced in the garden. There is also a small butterfly house in the garden. This garden was started as a scientific research garden and was inaugurated in 1878. Thanks to its colonial power in that period, the garden now has a large plant collection from all over the world . Especially the high variety of palm trees bring in a high tropical vibe to the garden. The garden still has a scientific task and they try to preserve endangered plant species and the many botanical fields are explained to the public. (Address : Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Lisboa, Rua Escola Politecnica 58, Lisbon)
For the other two gardens we have to head to Belem. The Jardim Botanico Tropical (link only in Portuguese) is filled with plants from the old colonies and has a nice oriental garden. Here is also a scientific institute located at the top of the garden. It’s a pity the old glasshouse is nothing more than a ruin, but it seems other parts are undergoing renovations. Enjoy the palmtree lined paths of the park and feel like walking on sunset boulevard (Address : Largo dos Jerónimos, 1400-209 Lisboa)
The third garden is more higher up in Belem, the Jardim Botanico da Ajuda is the oldest botanical garden in Portugal and has a beautiful Baroque lay-out. As I mentioned before it is celebrating its 250th birthday and they will organise a lot of events to celebrate this milestone. You can have a look to the temporary exhibition of ceramics from António Vasconcellos Lapa or join one of the many guided tours and workshops. Its collection of plants grew to reach around 5000 species, but in 1808 the Napoleonic invaders took more than 1500 specimens to Paris. There are still some impressive old trees to see and a lovely decorated fountain. Worth mentioning is also the scented garden and not to forget the wonderfulp views on the river and Belem (Address :Calçada da Ajuda s/n, 1300-011 Lisboa)
Don’t forget to also take a stroll in the Eduardo VII park, which gives you nice views on the Baixa area and the Tejo, or enjoy one of the terraces in the Jardim da Principe Real. A bit more up you can take a rest in the Jardim da Estrela in the shadow of the impressive Basilica da Estrella.
I also want to talk about a very nice garden in Sintra, a nice day trip from Lisbon. The Quinta da Regaleira, a smaller 19th century palace in eclectic style with even a private lab on top of the building. The palace is very nice, but the main attraction is the garden which contains an extensive and enigmatic system of tunnels, which have multiple entry points that include: grottoes, the chapel, Waterfall Lake, and “Leda’s Cave,”. At the upper part of the garden you can find the initiating Well which contains a 27-meter spiral staircase with several small landings. The spacing of these landings, combined with the number of steps in the stairs, are linked to Tarot mysticism. It’s a real pleasure to explore this little piece of paradise. (Address : Quinta da Regaleira, 2710-567 Sintra)
So if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life you know what to put on your bucket list.