Parks and Gardens

Gardens of Palácio de Cristal
Photo:  Fernando Mendes PedroCC BY-NC-SA - Some Rights Reserved

Parks and gardens are places for leisure and relaxation, for quick breaks, for the pleasure of walking and rediscovering the history of these sites, many of which are little known. This city can always surprise us with the beauty of unexpected green spaces just round the corner.

The city’s green spaces offer visitors of all ages varied and interesting attractions in every season of the year. The wealth of their natural heritage and their recreation of rural atmospheres are also of great interest. The additional facilities available in many of these parks and gardens also offer visitors opportunities for a number of other activities.

The parks and gardens of the city of Porto that we have selected for these walks are situated in three major zones of the city which we have defined as follows: Historical Centre / City Centre and Boavista / Western zone and Eastern zone. For each of these zones we will describe the parks and gardens that we consider most representative and for which we suggest short, tested routes, including the approximate duration and length of the walk, as well as the facilities and services available along each route. These proposed routes are given merely as a rough guide, leaving you the pleasure of discovering other alternatives. Plan your walks for the most pleasant time of the day and don’t forget to check opening times. Finally, we also recommend the use of comfortable clothing and footwear. These routes have been organised for three-day programmes.

Historical Centre, City Centre and Boavista

Gardens of Palácio de Cristal - 75 minutes

The Gardens of Palácio de Cristal (Chrystal Palace), Quinta da Macieirinha and Quinta Tait are the three units that form this magnificent park, which offers stunning views of the river Douro and the sea. The romantic gardens of Palácio de Cristal, designed in the 19th century by the architect Émile David, have always hosted cultural and social events, concerts and varied public entertainment, and even memorable exhibitions, such as the International Exhibition of 1865 and the Colonial Exhibition of 1934. The multi-purpose pavilion (currently Pavilhão Rosa Mota) was designed for the Roller Hockey World Championship in 1952 and finally completed in 1956. It was designed by the architect José Carlos Loureiro and replaced the original Palácio de Cristal.

The Gardens of Palácio de Cristal start in the Émile David garden, with its numerous fountains and allegorical statues of the seasons of the year, surrounded by fine specimens of rhododendrons, camellias, araucaria, ginkgo and beech, among many other interesting plants.

A notable avenue of lime trees leads past the Almeida Garrett Municipal Library, Palace Gallery and Concha Acústica (Acoustic Shell) to the chapel of Carlos Alberto (King of Sardinia). The Almeida Garrett Municipal Library was built as part of the rehabilitation of the Palácio de Cristal gardens and is a multi-purpose space with different functional areas. Along this avenue are strategic viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the river Douro and the city. There are also a number of themed gardens, including Jardim das Plantas Aromáticas (aromatic plants garden), Jardim das Medicinais (medicinal plants garden) and Jardim dos Sentimentos (garden of feelings) with its unique symbolism, as well as a statue of “Pain” (Dor) by António Teixeira Lopes. Connoisseurs of roses will appreciate the Jardim do Roseiral (Rose Garden), which is enriched with notable works from the city’s artistic heritage. Close by are seven magnificent California fan palms. The wood, full of leafy trees, refreshing shade and sinuous waterfalls, is an ideal place for a light picnic. Equally pleasant is the avenue of horse chestnuts, next to the children’s playground and along the edge of a wood of camellias and old oaks.

The Romantic Museum can be found in Quinta da Macieirinha, a highly romantic spot, filled with ancient and exotic plant species.
Separated by Rua de Entrequintas, Quinta Tait offers a panoramic view of the mouth of the Douro. The Quinta Tait gardens are planted with roses, camellias, fuchsias and a majestic Liriodendron tulipifera.

Other parks and gardens in the area:

Better known as Jardim da Cordoaria, it was transformed into a garden in 1866.

Located on the site of the former Companhia Hortícola Portuense (horticultural company), this park was restored in 1998.

This garden, built in 1897, is considered the last romantic garden in Porto.

Created in 1951, this garden is part of the University of Porto and is open to the public.

The house and garden were designed by Nicolau Nasoni. The garden was probably built in 1743-1748 and altered in the 19th century.

This square is commonly known as Rotunda da Boavista. The garden with this name was built in the late 19th century decorating the area around the Monument to the Heroes of the Peninsular War.

Known as Garden of Praça da República, this garden was built on the parade ground of the Santo Ovídio barracks in 1915-1916.

Western Zone

City Park - 90 minutes

The City Park in Porto is the largest urban park in the country, with an area of more than 80 hectares and approximately 8.5 km of paths. Originally envisaged in the Land Use Plan by the architect Robert Auzelle in the 1960s, it was later designed by the landscape architect Sidónio Pardal and opened to the public in 1993.

The design was based on a detailed study of the history of landscape architecture and, specifically, of archetypal parks built since the 17th century. As a result of this study, the concept of this park combines aesthetic influences and technical solutions from the Baroque of Le Nôtre, the English landscape school of Kent, Repton and Paxton, the poetics of the sublime of the German romanticism, faultlessly expressed in the parks of Pückler, the rural landscaping of Ölmsted, the neoclassicism of Alphand, to the minimalism of Bey.

The existing rural landscape, dominated by a valley of marshy fields and exposed to the visual and acoustic intrusion of traffic on Avenida da Boavista, was profoundly transformed, requiring the movement of more than 2.5 million m3 of earth.

The result is a naturalistic landscape in which visitors are unaware of these huge transformations, a landscape to be enjoyed comfortably and peacefully, creating the desired contrast between encoded urban spaces and the free space that is sought after in an urban park. The drainage system, in conjunction with the modelling of the land, represents an innovative project that contributes to the diversity of the landscape, in which dozens of ponds emerge during rainy days and also following irrigation. The three artificial lakes are fed entirely by groundwater and springs. It is interesting to discover that the park’s landscape, resulting from a profound transformation of the site, has achieved the superlative of the idea of “natural beauty”.

An architectural discourse controls the scale of the landscape units provided with interiorities that give the park its dimension and spaciousness. The details are very simple, working with gentle slopes, blocks of vegetation contrasting with grassy clearings, lakes, steps and walls in granite expressing timelessness.

Serralves Park

The Serralves landscape – considered thus in recognition of its role as a process and epiphenomenon of the transformation of a site, based on productive and cultural assumptions and subject to the local ecology – is unequalled in Portugal’s landscape and architectural heritage, an artificial and architectural spatial system which completes, synthesises and symbolises learning and knowledge of the conditions of territoriality in time and within a culture: Portugal and the 19th and 20th centuries. In temporal and spatial terms, the creation of the productive space/inhabitable space duality that in the recent past represented a cultural entity can be demarcated: the estate, the vestiges of a landscape designed as a garden in the 19th century, the Serralves Villa and its garden, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the surrounding landscape.

Through its places, the landscape is configured as a space of simultaneous scenic, ludic and productive learning, organised according to productive factors inspired by the ideals of nature, ideological principles and aesthetic concepts prized by the 19th and 20th centuries.

The juxtaposition and transfiguration of the conditions described established and defined relationships of structural complementarity and necessity, and of composition between spaces and systems, with the landscape emerging as a complex, diverse and changing temporal and spatial unit. Amongst the processes of change, of note is the project for the Garden of the Serralves Villa, commissioned by the Count of Vizela from the architect Jacques Grèber (1932). As far as we know, it is probably the only private garden in Portugal from the first half of the 20th century that was built according to a landscape architecture design.

Visits to the gardens of Serralves always start from the Contemporary Art Museum building.

  • Itinerary 1 (60 minutes) - Walk through the Arboreto Serralves, pass the Lateral Parterre, cross the Central Parterre in the direction of the lake, and from here walk down towards the meadows. From the meadows you can walk towards the Herb Garden and then return to the entrance to the Museum building, following the wall along the NW edge of the Woods and the NE side of the Museum building.
  • Itinerary 2 (90 minutes) - Walk down the Liquidambar Avenue to the Serralves Villa. After admiring the Lateral Parterre, walk to the Central Parterre and look down on it from the Casa de Fresco. Cross the Central Parterre down to the lake and walk from here down to the meadows. From the meadows area you can walk towards the Herb Garden and then follow the wall along the NW edge of the woods, crossing through the Woods to the Tennis Court and Tea House. From here you can walk towards the Sundial Garden, past the Rose Garden and towards the exit.
  • Itinerary 3 (90 minutes) - Walk down the Liquidambar Avenue to the Serralves Villa. After admiring the Lateral Parterre, continue east towards the Camellia Garden and the 19th-century Arboreto, from where you can walk down to the lake area. After the lake, continue down to the meadows. From the meadows area you can walk towards the Herb Garden and then follow the wall down to the path that leads back to the lake, from where you can walk back to the southern edge of the Central Parterre. After crossing the Central Parterre and walking along its east alley, you can enter the Tea House and Tennis Court area or continue to the Sundial Garden, from where you can enter the Rose Garden. From here you can walk down the Liquidambar Avenue to the Arboreto, after which you return back along the Liquidambar Avenue to the exit.

Entrance: Rua de João de Castro. Length: 2.6 km. Refreshments: coffee shop in the main house; Tea House, restaurant and terrace.

Other parks and gardens in the area:

This garden was built in the late 19th century with the contribution of Émile David.

The Pasteleira Urban Park extends over an area of 7 hectares of woods and plays a fundamental role in the city’s green structure. Since 2009 it has a 2 km cycle path that links the park to the City Park.

Eastern Zone

São Roque Park- 50 minutes

The São Roque Park, formerly Quinta da Lameira, opened to the public in 1979. Bought from the Ramos Pinto/Cálem family by the City Council, this four-hectare property has a fine mansion.

Start your visit at the gate on Travessa das Antas. You will immediately enter fresh and leafy woods. Follow the main path to a small rise with stone seats the Bandstand. Continue your visit along a path that crosses the two bridges over the lake. A steep slope will take you to a clearing with a magnificent view over the Douro and the Freixo area: this is the Main Avenue. Walk down the avenue, flanked by lawns, to an open area, where you will see a gate that leads to the more formal gardens. Turn right down the steps to the terraced lawn, where there is a pond and a children’s playground. In front of you is an elegant box hedge maze. Enter the maze and have fun finding its exit. Carry on past a rectangular garden with numerous varieties of camellias. Then pass another garden next to the yellow house, an elaborately laid out garden with small ponds, fountains and other water features. Go down the steps on the left to admire the façade of the building. Now you are in Rua São Roque da Lameira and visit is overIf you came by public transport, you can go to the bus stop on this street. If you came on foot, prepare yourself for the steep climb, getting your energy back at the Casa de Chá (Tea House).

Other parks and gardens in the area:

Designed by Jerónimo Monteiro da Costa, this garden opened in 1928.

Bought in the 20th century by a shopkeeper, José do Covelo, from whom its current name is derived, this park now has an area of approximately 8 hectares.

This property, formerly owned by the Reids, a family of British origin, was bought by the Porto City Council in 1932 and has an area of 68,500m2 .

This 18th-century leisure estate was bought by João D’Allen in 1839 and is still owned by the family.

The Bonjóia Manor, with an area of approximately 40,000 m², has a mansion from the 18th century. It was bought by the Porto City Council in 1995 and the house and its surroundings have been significantly restored.

This urban park was opened in 2010 and was designed by Sidónio Pardal. It is planned to have a total area of 53 hectares and currently covers an area of approximately 10 hectares.

This municipal plant nursery was set up on land belonging to Quinta das Areias, an 18th-century property that used to have a house with a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Pilar. The Porto City Council bought the property in 1937 to set up a municipal plant nursery with an area of approximately 67,000 m2.

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Published 30-04-2015