The adventure of being a Portuguese #Lisbon 5
Lisbon is one of those destinations that never stops to surprise you with its rich variety of sights, activities and emotions. From interesting and intriguing museums, through breathtaking panoramic views – all surrounded by that sweet Portuguese melancholy that floats so carefree across the country and makes you feel simply one with your surroundings.
In the previous article, I told you how to explore Lisbon in two days. Because most people, visiting the Portuguese capital, set aside a few days to also visit the nearby cities of Sintra and Cascais.
With this article, I will show you some of the hidden gems of Lisbon that for some reason do not get in the plans of most tourists or just take more time to visit. But if you have more days in the city, here are a few places worth adding to your list.
Table of Contents
The first place I will tell you about is probably one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Lisbon, it is called Estufa Fria, which means the cold greenhouse. Located in one of Lisbon’s most famous parks, Eduardo VII Park, this botanical garden sometimes goes unnoticed because of its unusual location. But there is a reason for everything!
The garden is located in a former basalt quarry from the 19th century, which was abandoned when a nearby spring was discovered. Coincidentally, the site was used by a local gardener and with the help of the artist and architect Raúl Carapiña, the Estufa Fria idea came to life.
It was officially discovered in 1933, and the name derives from the fact that Estufa Fria does not use mechanical protection for the temperature of its plants. Instead, wooden slats on the ceiling regulate sunlight and protect plants from too high or too low temperatures.
In 1945, the greenhouse was rebuilt at the same time as the Eduardo VII Park, and 30 years later the new sections – Estufa Quente and Estufa Doce – were opened, expanding the botanical collection. With an area of 1.5 hectares, the Estufa Fria currently consists of three parts: the cold greenhouse (Estufa Fria), the hot greenhouse (Estufa Quente) and the sweet greenhouse (Estufa Doce).
- Estufa Fria is the largest of the three, with an area of about 8,100 square meters. It is home to species of azaleas and camellias from all over the world.
- Estufa Quente occupies about 3,000 square meters and is home to tropical species such as coffee and mangifera.
- Estufa Doce contains cacti and other succulent plants, such as aloe.
Nowadays, the entire greenhouse complex offers an unforgettable experience. It takes you to a greener and cleaner world. You will have the opportunity to enjoy more than 300 species of plants from all over the world, walk along the shores of lakes full of colorful fish and birds living in their natural habitat, hear the clear waters of the waterfall, or simply sit on one of the benches and watch the landscapes full of life.
Summer opening hours (starts last Sunday in March): 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Winter opening hours (starts last Sunday in October): 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
The price of a single ticket is 3.10 euro and with a 50% discount for students, pensioners and children under 18.
Admission is free every Sunday and public holidays;
The closest Lisbon metro stops to the park are the Marques de Pombal (blue line) and Parque (yellow line) stations.
By bus: #12, #22, #36, #44, #702, #720 or #745 to the Marques de Pombal stop;
I can’t give a specific duration of the walk here, because I personally visited the conservatory 6 times and each time was different for me, my advice is to just give in to the magic here and take your time;
One learns new things until the end. This is the case with this hidden gem in Lisbon, which I found out about in my last month of residence in Portugal. The Aqueduct of Lisbon is an impressive and atypical attraction on which one has the opportunity to walk.
The Águas Livres aqueduct (translated as “Free Waters”) was built from 1731 to 1799, by order of the then King João V. The facility is a huge system for collecting and transporting water from the mountain range near Sintra using gravity. It has had national monument status since 1910 and is considered a remarkable achievement of hydraulic engineering.
An interesting fact is that the trajectory of the current aqueduct coincides with that of the old Roman predecessor. Also, its construction was achieved through the imposition of what was then a special tax called the “Water Royal Duty“, which was levied on basic commodities such as olive oil, wine and meat.
A few figures about the aqueduct:
- The main section of the facility is 14 km long and starts from the Mãe de Água Velha in Belas and ends at the Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras Reservoir in Lisbon;
- It has several secondary sections for transporting water from about 60 other sources;
- Five galleries were built to feed about 30 fountains in the capital;
- In total, the aqueduct system was about 58 km long in the mid 19th century. Since the 1960s, its waters are no longer used for consumption;
- The magnificent arches in the Alcantara Valley section are 35 in total and cover a length of 941 meters. They are the largest stone arches of this type in the world, with a height of 65.29 m and a width of 28.86 m;
From Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 to 17:30;
The ticket costs 4 euros;
The last stop of tram #24.
By bus: #107, #159, #161, #702, #711, #742, #758.
The nearest metro station is on the yellow line, the last stop is Rato;
The duration of viewing the aqueduct takes between 30-40 minutes;
I came across the Palace Fronteira (a true hidden gem in Lisbon) again quite by accident on my way home from a visit to the Lisbon Zoo. It is one of the great palaces in the capital and is located in a quiet area away from the city center, which is why it is not a popular landmark.
Built around 1670, the palace was used as a summer residence by the Mascarenhas. It stands out for its baroque gardens, full of fountains, ponds and statues, but most impressive to me were the well-preserved decorative elements and azulejo tiles from the 17th century.
The palace itself is built in a Mannerist style with Baroque decoration that directly exemplifies the 17th century palatial style. In the Sala dos Painéis Holandeses and Sala das Batalhas you can enjoy impressive works of art and learn more about the Marquises of Fronteira who played an influential role in the history of Portugal.
The palace provides the perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a unique place where history meets modernity.
For the palace, from Monday to Friday:
10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – guide in French/Portuguese.
11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. – guide in English/Portuguese.
For the garden, Monday to Friday:
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
The palace is open to visitors only in the morning. All visits inside the palace are guided.
The fee includes a visit to the palace and the garden: 13 euros.
Fee for the garden only: 5 euros;
By bus: #770, #202
The nearest metro station is on the blue line, Zoo stop;
The duration of the visit depends on whether you visit the palace and the garden or just the garden, but in both cases it is between 40 minutes and 1:30 hours;
Although it is one of the symbols of Lisbon, the statue of Jesus is not at the most convenient place. To visit it, one has to dedicate half a day or more, that is why I call it one of the hidden gems in Lisbon and takes part in this article. But on the other hand, in that way, one can see the capital from the other side of the Tahoe River, as well as witness different panoramic views.
Just like the famous Brazilian statue from which it draws its inspiration, Christ the King of Lisbon is a majestic statue representing the image of Christ with his arms outstretched towards the city. It can be seen from every point of the capital and it is no accident that the statue has become an indispensable part of the image of the Portuguese capital.
The monument has a deep religious meaning for all Catholics, but it will certainly excite non-believers as well, thanks to its grandeur and the unique view over the city that you can enjoy from its top. The view from the monument is truly impressive and covers about 20 km.
The monument was built by order of the Cardinal of Lisbon, who wanted a copy of the Brazilian Christ the Redeemer from Rio de Janeiro after his trip to Brazil in the 1930s. The Portuguese bishops approved the project of the religious monument in 1937, but the construction of the statue took on greater importance after the start of World War II, as Portugal was spared the atrocities of the war and did not take part in it.
The monument was officially opened on May 17, 1959. The statue of Christ is 28 meters high and rests on a base of more than 80 meters.
It is open every day: from 10:00 to 19:00;
Fee: 6 euros, it is important to emphasize that you only pay in cash there;
By ferry from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas;
From there you can walk or take the bus: #101
Viewing time 30 min.;
Another hidden gem in Lisbon is the Ajuda Palace, whose location is right above Lisbon’s tourist jewel, the Belém Tower. And it is interesting to share that this is also the last royal palace built in Portugal.
This neoclassical palace was built in the first half of the 19th century and was chosen as the residence of the Portuguese royal family when D. Luís I became king and married the Italian princess, D. Maria Pia of Savoy.
It is a typical example of a 19th century royal residence and has an important collection of decorative arts (gold and silverware, paintings, sculpture, furniture, tapestries, glassware, porcelain, etc.).
It was to be one of the largest palaces in Europe and the world, with gardens stretching to the river, but only about a fifth of the original design was completed. The reason was that this happened during the great Napoleonic conquests, which reached Portugal in 1807. Then the royal family was forced to flee to Brazil, so construction was interrupted.
Then came the important year for Portugal, 1910, when the country declared itself a republic and the palace was closed from 1910, and reopened as a museum in 1938. Now its halls have been converted into museums, and the grand ballrooms host some of the most important presidential ceremonies.
Speaking about the grand ambitions associated with the palace gardens, nowadays there is the botanical garden of Ajuda.
It is the first botanical garden ever created in Lisbon and Portugal, dating back to 1768. Built by the Marquis of Pombal and designed by the Italian botanist Domingos Vandelli. It contains over 500 species of plants found in Portugal and its overseas former colonies.
The garden is laid out in the style of the era – flourishing. On the upper level, you’ll find the King Jose Lakes and the Tree Garden with countless examples of tropical flora. And in the lower part there is a baroque garden with a central pond, nurseries and herbs.
About the Palace: Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
About the botanical garden: open daily: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.;
For the palace: 5 euros, for students and pensioners it is 2.50 euros, for children under 12 it is free.
For the botanical garden, the fee is 2 euros;
If you travel by tram: #18, #15
By bus: #760, #732, #714
Duration to explore the palace takes between 1:00-1:30 hours.
For the botanical garden between 40 minutes and 1:00 a.m.;
Located in Alcântara in the immediate vicinity of one of the most exciting places in Lisbon – the XL Factory, there is perhaps one of the most hidden gems in Lisbon from the tourist view – the Pilar 7 Experience.
This place has been turned into an interactive center that will give you the opportunity to witness a unique experience on the bridge – Ponte 25 de Abril, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. With your visit here, you embark on an exciting journey through the history of its construction, ending with an elevator ride up to a panoramic viewpoint that offers an unrivaled view of the city and river.
Every day of the week: 10:00 to 18:00.
A single ticket costs 5 euros, with a discount for students and pensioners of 3.50 euros
If you travel by tram: #15
By bus: #714, #727, #732, #751
You can also take a train to Cascais, getting off at the Alcantara stop;
Duration to see everything: 1:00 hour;
Some people would be surprised that I put this as one of tge hidden gems in Lisbon, but personally I was surprised by the fact that many people do not visit it because they consider the place just a church without a roof, but it is much more than that!
The ruins of this Gothic church are reminders to this day of the devastating earthquake that almost leveled all of Lisbon in 1755. Before the earthquake, it was the largest church in the city, but today the main building, without a roof open to the sky, is all that is left.
What survived from the building was the main altar, which is now a small archaeological museum with an eclectic collection of tombs (the largest being that of King Ferdinand I), statues, ceramics and mosaics. Among the more ancient finds is the remains of a Visigothic column and a Roman tomb carved with reliefs depicting the Muses.
Other notable items include shrunken heads, South American mummies, a jasper sculpture of the Virgin Mary, ancient tombstones, Visigoth artefacts, and coins dating back to the 13th century. At the entrance to the museum is a stone engraved with a Gothic inscription informing visitors that Pope Clement VII granted a 40-day indulgence to “every faithful Christian” who visited this church.
Every day of the week except Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
A single ticket costs 5 euros, with a discount for students and pensioners of 4 euros.
It is located in the perfect center of Lisbon, that is, you can reach the church from different streets.
Duration to view everything: 40 min;
This concludes our list of hidden gems in Lisbon. I hope that I have shown you things that you have not heard of or even suspected to be in the Portuguese capital. Now you are ready to surprise your friends with interesting and unique attractions on your next trip to this idyll called Portugal!