We had been frustrated in our attempt to visit Lisbon’s Jardim Botânico, finding it closed for renovations. “Indefinitely”, as the bored girl behind the desk put it. But we had a back-up in mind: within the Parque de Eduardo VII is another botanic garden, called the Estufa Fria.
The Estufa Fria, or “Cold Greenhouse”, is comprised of three different areas, all protected from the elements by a large, permeable roof. It’s not really cold as in “refrigerated”; the name refers to the fact that it’s not artificially heated.
This greenhouse was built in 1933, in the first year of the Estado Novo, Portugal’s fascist dictatorship. I suppose that the first few years of dictatorship tend to be full of benevolent gestures. “Enjoy your new greenhouse, people of Lisbon! (Please don’t mind us tapping your phones.)” or “Tax cuts for everyone! (Please don’t mind us deporting immigrants.)” It’s how they sucker us in.
Regardless of its origins, the Estufa Fria is a curious and welcome addition to the Parque Eduardo VII. We happened to be visiting on a Sunday morning, when the entrance is free, and enjoyed our time here. The three zones are all lovely, and there are pools, statues, and a million different paths from which to choose.
Actually, when we entered the Estufa Fria, I had been under the baseless impression that this was a relatively new construction. I don’t know why. But after visiting, I wasn’t at all surprised to learn about the true age of the greenhouse. The park is certainly well cared-for, but even so, there’s a certain wildness and unpredictability to the growth that can only come with time.
I wouldn’t put the Estufa Fria anywhere near the top of the list of “Things to See in Lisbon”, but if you’re already in the area, or if you’re looking for a different kind of place to spend an hour, it might be worth checking out.