The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Situated at the heart of the Príncipe Real neighbourhood is the delightful Jardim do Príncipe Real.
This peaceful and charming urban park offers a reprieve from the hectic pace of central Lisbon, and many interesting features can be found within it. The most notable of these is a colossal 250-year-old Juniper tree, whose twisted branches extend out for 20 metres and provide refreshing shade.
Hidden beneath the park is a 19th-century reservoir (the Reservatório da Patriarcal) that originally supplied water to the entire Baixa district and was in use until 1942. This impressive engineering feat consists of grand stone arches and vaulted ceilings, rivalling many churches of the era. Also contained within the park are ornamental gardens, a lake and fountain, a small children's play area, and a selection of statues and monuments.
On the edge of the Jardim do Príncipe Real is a traditional kiosk (Quiosque Príncipe Real), while within the park, under the shade of the trees, is the 'Esplanada Café'. Both the kiosk and café complement the unhurried ambience of the park, where locals and long-stay residents come to relax and socialise.
On Saturday mornings, the park hosts a small farmers' and organic market, the Mercado Biológico do Principe Real.
The Jardim do Príncipe Real may be a minor tourist attraction in Lisbon, but it offers an enjoyable location for you to take a break from sightseeing and embrace a calmer part of the city.
Related articles: Príncipe Real guide – Best parks in Lisbon
The Jardim do Príncipe Real lies in the Príncipe Real neighbourhood at GPS; 38.716264, -9.148400 (link to Google maps).
The park is situated along the main thoroughfare, comprising of the Rua Dom Pedro V (to the east) and Rua da Escola Politécnica (to the west). Along this road trundles the number 24 tram, which is the best way to travel to the park and Príncipe Real (full details later on).
Visitors to the Jardim do Príncipe Real reflect the diverse mix of residents and tourists staying in the area.
Historically, Príncipe Real was one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of Lisbon, and today the park is frequented by well-to-do Lisboetas, coming to walk their dogs or socialise with friends at the cafe.
More recently, Príncipe Real has been transformed into a high-end artisan and creative neighbourhood, offering bohemian flair. The area is also home to a vibrant LGBT community who wish to be near the party and nightlife district of Bairro Alto.
The park itself was styled on 19th-century English formal gardens and is based on the ideals of symmetry. At the centre is the lake, and surrounding it are symmetrical flower beds and shaded footpaths.
The underground entrance to the reservoir and the lake, along with the distinctive purple flowering Jacaranda trees
The Esplanada Café
Juniper trees are characterised by their low-spreading growth and long, trailing branches, and there is no better example than the much-loved tree in the Jardim do Príncipe Real.
This ancient tree is around 250 years old (estimates vary by over 30 years), and its twisted branches are supported by pillars to provide a cooling canopy beneath. The juniper tree only stands 7 metres high, but its branches extend for a radius of 20 metres.
Circling around the tree are some benches, and there is no better place to relax on a hot summer's day.
A newly-constructed fence has been installed to prevent damage to the ancient tree
The grand reservoir located below the Jardim do Príncipe Real was constructed in 1864 to supply water to central Lisbon. This octagonal-shaped reservoir has a capacity of 883 cubic metres, while its high vaulted ceilings are supported by 31 stone columns.
The limited strength of the reservoir's roof meant that no buildings could be constructed on top, which is one of the reasons why a park exists above it.
The lake and fountain found in the park are also part of the Reservatório da Patriarcal, with the fountain aerating the water before storage in the reservoir.
The Reservatório da Patriarcal is part of the Museu da Agua (Water Museum) and is open to the public on Saturdays (10am to 5pm). Admission is free.
To the western side of the park is a children's play area, which includes a slide and swings suitable for children aged 3 to 6. This is one of the few free play areas in central Lisbon, but it is small.
Within the park are many ornate statues, the most famous being the statue of Antero de Quental, a Portuguese poet and writer who died by suicide in the park in 1891 after firing two gunshots into his stomach. The statue of Antero was created by Lagoa Henriques and unveiled on the centenary of his death in 1991.
A newly created statue, ‘Homenagem às Vítimas de Homofobia’, commemorates the victims of homophobia and celebrates the diversity of the Príncipe Real neighbourhood.
The bust of Sousa Viterbo, who was an important 19th-century journalist and writer
The best way to travel to the Jardim do Príncipe Real is via the number 24 tram.
This tram route connects the Praça Luís de Camões (in Bairro Alto) with Campolide, passing through the length of the Príncipe Real neighbourhood. A single fare purchased on board costs €3 (and has to be in cash), but a much better idea is to purchase the 24-hour public transport ticket or use a 'zapping' ticket.
Opinion: The best way to visit Príncipe Real and Bairro Alto is to ride the number 24 tram up to the Jardim do Príncipe Real and then walk downhill, seeing both neighbourhoods.
Related article: Tram 24
The 24 tram passing the Embaixada shopping centre
Today, the park is cherished by Príncipe Real's residents, but its past was far less glamorous and fortunate.
In medieval Lisbon, the area was known as the Alto da Cotovia. The first real construction on the land was by the Marquis of Alegrete in the early 18th century, who planned a grand palace on the site. This project was never completed, and the site was left to become a ruin. During this period, the land was used as a dumping ground for the city and accumulated a huge amount of waste.
The next group to attempt construction on the Alto da Cotovia was the Society of Jesus. They cleared the land for a religious college, but the partially constructed building was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and the site was again left abandoned.
The third project was the Real Erário, a central treasury for the entire Kingdom of Portugal, but escalating costs stopped the project.
This doomed building plot was left as an abandoned waste ground from 1789 through to 1830, while the surrounding area prospered. By the 1830s, Príncipe Real had become fashionable and wealthy, and Lisbon's elite forced the council to create a plaza on the land. This was upgraded to a park in 1853, which coincided with the construction of the Palacete Ribeiro da Cunha (now the Embaixada shopping centre).
The Reservatório da Patriarcal was excavated below the park during the 1860s and began supplying water in 1864. The current layout was created in 1869, with the lake being the focal point of the park.
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