Estufa Fria Plantation in Lisbon, Portugal

One of Lisbon‘s lesser-known but extremely pleasant tourist attractions is Estufa Fria, formerly known as the Winter Garden, a horticultural wonderland of tropical plants and flowers hidden away in the north-west corner of the city’s centrally-located Edward the Seventh Park (Parque Eduardo VII).

Open almost every day of the year, this delightful half-hectare garden area of recently-restored tropical rain forest first opened in 1930 and consists of three different sections – Estufa Fria, Estufa Quente and Estufa Doce – right in the centre of the Portuguese capital.

Enclosed by slats to keep out the sun whilst cleverly allowing fresh air to circulate, the largest of the three, Estufa Fria, is humid without being unpleasantly hot for summer visitors.

Consequently, many unusual plants from Asia, Africa, South America and Australia can be seen in something resembling a natural open-air environment, a rare site in Western Europe, with all the flora remaining perfectly still without even the merest whisper of a breeze.

The gardens are intricately landscaped with narrow paths winding a peaceful passage amidst flowering shrubs, gigantic palms, exotic plants (over thirty species in all) and rare trees, some of which are well over a century old.

Water is a prominent and very welcome feature, especially in high summer, with refreshing streams, fountains, ponds, watercourses, hidden grottoes and cool cascades lazily helping to temper the atmosphere and maintain comfort levels for everyone inside.

Budding botanists can easily identify each and every specimen on display from discreet labels detailing exactly what they are and where they’re from.

The fragrance of the rich, damp soil combined with the perfumes of hundreds of exotic flowers provides plenty of added appeal for visitors all year round, allowing them to absorb the atmosphere and easily forget the hustle and bustle of the city centre nearby.

Estufa Quente is a cosier affair, smaller than its cooler neighbour but just as delightful visually. Heat levels are maintained by means of a glass dome in order to create the perfect habitat for the many plants therein that thrive in higher temperatures.

The small cacti house known as Estufa Doce is filled with literally hundreds of different species, some as tall as a two-storey building.