You might be surprised that the largest park in Lisbon is also the park that most tourists never visit. The Parque Florestal de Monsanto covers of 900 hectares of land on a large hill. You can spot it easily when you fly into the capital – it’s by far the biggest green space in the middle of the city. So what exactly is special about the Parque de Monsanto and is it worth visiting?
First things first: it’s not only large, it’s hugely important for environmental reasons. It’s a sanctuary to several species of birds, including birds of prey such as falcons. It also happens to be the only place in Lisbon where I’ve seen a rabbit that wasn’t a pet… Squirrels, bats and mice are found in abundance. The Parque de Monsanto is not only a refuge for species who can’t survive near humans, but also serves as a resting and feeding ground for migratory birds who rely on the various types of oak, pine and eucalyptus trees found there. It’s a great location to take kids out to explore the wilderness and learn about wildlife. Needless to say, the park isn’t short on dog walkers…
But that’s not all! It’s a lovely location for humans too. There are clearings with picnic tables for people to enjoy outdoor eating. The park itself is lined with trails for running, biking and exercising (with outdoor gym equipment such as pull-up bars can be found in little spots throughout). There are even areas designated for skateboarding and BMXing, as well as tennis courts. If you enjoy walking, there’s a 14 km (8.7 mile) biodiversity trail that goes from the park to the river. One of my favorite parts of this park is that you can walk right up to the start of the Aqueduto das Águas Livres. I also love that there are little turrets dating back to the 19th century scattered throughout the park. The park offers spectacular views over the city and the river.
If you aren’t able to visit the Parque de Monsanto, you don’t have to necessarily miss out on a really exciting experience. Since 2008, there are cameras in specific nests throughout the park where you can watch birds build nests, lay their eggs and watch them hatch in real time by clicking on one of the nests (ninhos).
Whilst I love the architecture and monuments of Lisbon, it’s refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to just listen to the birds chirp and breathe in the fresh air. The only place you can really do this is in Monsanto. It’s no wonder it’s known as the green lung of Lisbon.