The little-known Palacio de Cristal (“Crystal Palace”) gardens near the centre of Porto, Portugal, are a spot not to be missed. This diverse park is the perfect place to spend some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre without having to travel out of your way. Whether you are attracted by the prospect of a gentle stroll, a chance to see the panoramic views provided over the river Douro or an afternoon spent picnicking and relaxing in the sun, the gardens offer something for everyone.
Find some peace and quiet
While this park is no longer home to the Crystal Palace which gave the gardens their name in 1860, it still boasts many beautiful features. The entrance to the park is a wide open space full of grassy spots and decorative flowerbeds bursting with colour. As you continue to walk, you come across ornate fountains, boulevards of trees, interesting sculptures, and much more. There is certainly plenty to see, and also a large number of benches to rest on, making the park the perfect place for both a relaxing walk and a chance to sit and soak up some sunshine (or shelter in the shade!).
One of the most appealing aspects to the park is that, in spite of its proximity to the centre, it remains undiscovered by the majority of tourists and never has a busy feel to it. The gardens always have a calm, peaceful atmosphere, and they are so full of hidden corners that it is easy to find a place to yourself.
Fancy a spot of bird watching?
Further on into the park a pond can be found, which forms the central part of the gardens. It has a bridge leading to an island in the middle with benches for anyone who wants to stop and relax. This area is where kiosks selling food and drink can be found, and also where the main wildlife of the park tends to be roaming. The gardens are home to a large number of adult peacocks plus some adorable chicks which follow their mothers everywhere. These beautiful birds will grab your attention as they wander around you and it may be hard to tear your eyes away! However, they are not the only birds to be found in the gardens: others tend to gather around the pond, ranging from ducks to geese and even the occasional chicken!
View Porto from above
Continuing on, the southern side of the park is where the two main viewpoints can be found. These areas provide stunning panoramas of the river Douro, from a slightly different angle than the standard view found on postcards. Both are decorated with mosaics depicting the scenes below, and from these spots you can gaze out across the river and the beautiful coloured buildings Porto is known for as they slope down to the Douro and lay themselves out for you.
The viewpoint found first when approaching from the pond is on the western side of the park, and this direction gives views of the mouth of the Douro, the sea that lies beyond it and if you look carefully, the lighthouse at the coastal area of Foz can be seen behind the bridge opposite you. From the eastern viewpoint on the other side, you can look out at Vila Nova de Gaia, the city across the river from Porto, featuring landmarks like the Serra do Pilar Monastery and the famous Port wine cellars.
Watch the sun go down
With its views of the sea to the west, these gardens are a perfect place to sit and watch the sunset. The park becomes bathed in beautiful orange light, and as the daylight begins to fade away bats can be seen flitting about above your head. The sight of the sun setting slowly over the hills at the edge of the city, transforming everything around it with its rainbow colours, will stay with you for a long time to come.
Access this conveniently placed park from the city centre
To visit this stunning park, your main options are on foot or by bus. The main entrance to the gardens can be found on Rua de D. Manuel II, a 15 minute walk from the popular Praça de Lisboa where the Torre de Clérigos (Clérigos tower) is located. It can also be reached on the 200 bus, which can be caught from a number of central locations, originating at the Mercado de Bolhão. The park is open 8.00 am – 9.00 pm between April and September, and 8.00 am – 7.00 pm October to March.
Everything you could ever want from a park can be found here! From flowerbeds and fountains to woodland and waterfalls, around every corner there is something new. Read a book, have a picnic, take panoramic photos, walk and enjoy the weather, but whatever you do, don’t miss this hidden gem in Porto!
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