Every summer families, friends, lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts seek out gardens and parks in urban areas or in places that still preserve some naturalness as a stage for informal conviviality, physical exercise, and contemplation of the world around us.

With that in mind, let's look at places that represent a remarkable way of relishing the country and reclaiming a bit of Mother Earth, Portugal's beautiful and occasionally hidden parks and green spaces. Pack a picnic or small snacks and prepare to immerse yourself in this country’s deep-green gems.

Tapada das Necessidades

The most interesting thing about this urban Lisbon space is that it gathers much of what exists in several city parks: local vegetation or other greenery used in Lisbon’s streets and gardens but also a collection of exotic semi-tropical plants. The entire grove of Tapada das Necessidades is classified as being of public interest with many rare or unusual plants. As is typical, the walled gardens evolved from an enclosed space used by Portuguese monarchs for hunting to a privileged place for royal picnics.

Mata do Buçaco

In the centre of the country, Mata do Buçaco, at the highest point of Serra do Buçaco, we find the walls built by the Discalced Carmelites in 1630 to surround their convent and inside, about 400 species native to the Portuguese Atlantic coast and approximately 300 from other climates. Do not miss the Cedro do Buçaco, an imposing cypress originating from Mexico, the first exotic species planted in the forest by the monks in 1656. In the 19th century the arboretum, baroque-influenced gardens, lake, and the Valley of the Ferns were built.

Passeio das Virtudes

Porto’s Passeio das Virtudes is located in the space once occupied by Companhia Hortícola Portuense. Designed by landscape gardener José Marques Loureiro, one of the main attractions of this park is the fact that it is laid out in terraces along the narrow valley of the River Frio. Almost everywhere you go in the park, you’ll have a unique view over Alfândega, the River Douro and Vila Nova de Gaia. Here you can find the largest Ginkgo Biloba in Portugal, originating from China, about 35 metres high plus a collection of 750 camellias.

Lagoa do Congro

One of the most beautiful and primitive areas of the Azores, with a perimeter of 1.25 kilometres, the lagoon, Lagoa do Congro in São Miguel occupies a volcanic crater located in one of the most active geological faults of the island of São Miguel. It’s a hidden treasure, challenging to access and requiring a 700 meter walk through the dense vegetation but it is worth every effort.

In nearly every corner of the country you’ll find surprising, historic, and natural spaces that will take your breath away. Some are well-known while others are hidden gems, revealing themselves only upon an effort to discover them. Now is the time to explore.

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