Went to a Greenhouse… Ended Up in a Rainforest

Estufa quente - folha

You know when you come up with a really great plan? Perhaps you’re even a little smug about your strategic expertise? And then nothing happens as you expected?…I had wanted to explore the Estufa Fria (which translates to the cold greenhouse) in Lisbon for some time, so one day I just decided that I would go with my mom for some quality mother-daughter time. Sounds like a stupendous plan, right? Keep reading.

I was very pleased with myself for choosing a day where we needed to run an errand near the Parque Eduardo VII (where the Estufa Fria is located) and on a morning when it was meant to rain (so we could be in the greenhouse and avoid getting wet). Genius, really. We paid the €3.10 entrance fee and went inside… where it was still raining!

I hadn’t realized that only about 40% of greenhouse is covered by glass. The rest has wooden slats with gaps in between, which help regulate the temperature inside- but fail to keep the rain out. So we continued with our umbrellas, trying to avoid puddles (which we kind of achieved) and people (which we achieved epically, because we were really the only ones there). I won’t lie: having the place essentially to ourselves felt a little special.


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The 1.5 hectare Estufa Fria is actually divided into three parts: the cold, the hot and the sweet. Both the hot and sweet parts are fully covered for climate control, so we strolled more leisurely around those parts. The hot part looks like an amphitheater covered in plants where you can walk uphill, exploring little nooks and crannies, which vaguely reminded me of the gardens at Quinta da Regaleira. The sweet part is the smallest: a room filled with a huge array of cactii.


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We then returned to the cold area to realize the rain was even heavier than before. It felt like we were in a rainforest! It was a real shame that we had to rush that part due to the weather, because I would’ve enjoyed taking my time to admire all the plants and flowers, and explore the little creeks and bridges, and admire the sculptures between the greenery.


Estufa fria

Estufa Fria from above


Estufa quente

The sheltered hot area

Walking around, I got the impression that the plants at the Estufa Fria naturally grew where they did (even though they’re obviously carefully maintained). I liked that it didn’t feel like an overly-manicured plant “museum”. At the time, I didn’t realize that this impression isn’t too far from the truth: delicate plant species from all over the world were brought here in 1912 to be transplanted to the Avenida da Liberdade down the road. WWI broke out and delayed these plans, so by the time they were ready to transplant the species, they had already taken root at the site. The greenhouse was built around it and it was officially inaugurated in 1933. I’m glad it’s not just my plans that go awry!


The cold area

The cold area

The Estufa Fria is the perfect place to go for a stroll with friends (especially on a hot day to cool off), or to take kids to, as they will love finding the hidden crevices and the looking at colorful sculptures. Needless to say, I’ll certainly revisit the Estufa Fria – as should you – on a dry day, of course.


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