SUMMER has arrived and with it the heat and dust. To cool off visit the gardens and parks around Lisboa. Some are small offering benches where you can have a quiet read. Others have a kiosk where you can have a drink and snack. These gardens and parks are filled with various species of trees, some of great age.
Two of the large gardens which are seen while travelling by train are the gardens opposite the Jeronimos Monastery in Belém and by car the Edward VII Park near the Marques de Pombal in central Lisbon. The latter was named after a visit to Lisboa by King Edward VII in 1903 by the then mayor Rosa Araújo.
In Belém the Botanical Garden of Ajuda (Jardim Botânico d’Ajuda) is located in the Calçada da Ajuda, about fifteen minutes walk from Belém train station, just below the Palace of Ajuda. The road leads straight up from the corner of the Coach Museum and on the left side walking up.
From the 15th century sailors had left from here to discover the world and returned from their voyages with exotic plants and trees. This was therefore the ideal location for the garden, which was built by King José I in 1768, just after the 1755 earthquake. Species from various countries were brought here and you can see Casuavine Torlosa Aiton and the Grevilea from Australia, Phytolacca Dioica from South America, Ulmaceau from Japan and from the Canaries the Dracaena Draco (dragontree) which is about 200 years old. There are benches to sit and relax or even read your newspaper or just enjoy the view of the 25th April Bridge and the sea. At the end of one side of the grounds there is a snack bar serving drinks. The Jardim Botanico de Ajuda is open from 9am to 6.30pm. Buses 14, 27, 29, 32 and 73 have stops nearby. It is closed on Wednesday.
At the far end of the Parque Eduardo VII, past the Marques de Pombal and Avenida da Liberdade is the Estufa Fria (Cold Greenhouse). It was built in an abandoned quarry by order of the vice-president of the Lisbon Council in the early 19th century. It went through several alterations from 1910 onwards and was officially opened in 1933. It is very much like a greenhouse but with slats to allow air to freely circulate while protecting it from rain and sun. Water flows from small streams providing perfect conditions for growing species from various continents: Europe, India, China, Africa and Australia. Different levels with stepping stones, cascading streams, fish ponds and small bridges are all enclosed in this delightful spot. Covering an area of over one hectare it includes the Estufa Quente (Hot Greenhouse) housing tropical plants and trees; the Cactus Garden – a small garden housing cactus and small lakes and waterfalls. A smiling Venus greets you from a small clearing.
Ferns, lotus flowers, agapanthus and azaleas are just some of the many species found here from countries such as South Africa and Japan and South America. Most of the plants are labelled. Palm trees imported from Lord Howe island are also found in this space. A large room towards the back hosts a handicraft fair every August. Functions are also held in this room. Outside the entrance is a snack bar and children’s playground. The Estufa Fria is open all week from 9am to 6pm.
The Estrela Gardens are located in the Estrela area, opposite the huge Estrela Basilica which dominates the street. It was built in the middle of the last century and has grottoes and mature trees. A playground for children is located in one corner with benches scattered all around. It is one of the serene parks of the city to enjoy a quiet read or drink in the snackbar in the centre. The park is open from 8am to midnight.
The Jardim Botânico in the Rua Escola Politécnica, 58, is another delight. With an area of four hectares it is rich in gymnosperms and palm trees. You walk through the University of Lisboa to reach the botanical garden. Once inside you are greeted with tall trees providing lots of shade. Species in this garden come from countries such as Mexico, Equador, Peru, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, South Africa. Pines, bamboo trees and the dragontree are just some of them. There is also an entrance off the Rua da Alegria. The Botanical Garden is open from 9am to 6pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm weekends and holidays.
The Estoril coast offers the tranquil gardens with the cool sea breezes in the Counts of Guimaraes Park next to the Cascais marina. Visits to the Museum near this entrance are by guided tours only.