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One of Lisbon's hidden treats, a botanical emporium, embodies the true spirit of a secret garden that has matured, it has the marks of time, sometimes neglect and has an essence of being wild - it has an authentic feel of the adventurer about it. Virtually undetectable from the nearby bustling streets, Lisbon's Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico) is found attached to the University of Lisbon in the happening Principe Real.
Once inside, the wild vegetation and vast trees block out the sound of urban life, and the plentiful treescapes and overflowing borders mean you’ll receive a huge dose of the power of nature. What’s nice about this botanical garden is that it’s been allowed to run a little wild and has a nicely untamed vibe. It’s a place to wander and get lost, rather than follow an educational route.
You’ll notice the maturity of many trees, again allowed to grow unchecked, some branches and roots spreading out over pathways, creating mysterious archways for you to walk under. Dendrophiles, or lovers of trees, will enjoy the diversity here with over 1,400 species – including rarely seen palms and ferns from across the world, ancient floras such as near-extinct cycads which are more like living fossils and tropical varieties from Australasia.
The garden was created in 1878 and belonged to the National Museum of Natural History and Science. It was used by students as a scientific garden, and to this day, it serves as a floriculture map of Portugal’s colonial influence, showing species gathered from New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan and South America. Seeds, saplings and cuttings were collected by two of Europe’s earliest horticulturists – the German, E. Goeze, and the French national, J. Daveau. These upstanding gentlemen make it possible for us to see the conservation of plants that otherwise might be under threat.
Absorb the intensity of the monumental trees and their shady assets as well as appreciating the structures around the garden – the area was declared a National Monument in 2010 – including a meteorological observatory, a palmarium, herbarium, historic wooden greenhouses and a butterfly house. A perfectly strollable botanical garden, just the right side of untamed.