Known as the lungs of Lisbon, just a short bus journey from central Lisbon (Bus 711 departing from Rossio) is The Parque Florestal Monsanto Lisbon (Monsanto forest Park), the largest green patch in the city with its over fifty hectares of forest it is one of the largest urban forests in all of Europe.
This beautiful forest is not all naturally grown tho, In the 19th century the Monsanto forest park was filled with fields, both for growing crops and used as feeding grounds for cattle. There were also quarries from which the stones necessary for the construction of the city were extracted. Vegetation was becoming scarce so around a hundred years ago it was decided to reforest the area and a large number of fast growing species were introduced in the Monsanto Hills during this period. Due to climate and geological characteristics, they created a very interesting ecosystems in the urban patch of Lisbon and with so much more to offer than just a walk or run through the forest, this green space is a most for anyone looking to escape the busy city for a the day and it is a hidden gem from most of the tourists, and if lucky, you can spot a red squirrel in the forest, maybe not that impressive for some, but as the species completely got extinct in the whole of Portugal during the shipbuilding period in the 16th century it is pretty incredible that it has now found its way back to the park hundreds of years later.
Within the park you can find everything from a large number of beautiful bike or walking paths to skate ramps and climbing walls, football pitches, rugby, tennis and basketball courses, a large children’s playground, some beautiful monuments and a few cafes spread throughout the park as well as a good amount of picnic spots in the scenic nature, truly something for every nature lovers taste.
In 1959 the Portuguese Grand Prix formula one event was held in the Monsanto forest park on the 5.44 km long Circuito de Monsanto or Monsanto park circuit, but as the track was build on the parkland with many different terrains and surfaces, crossing both roads and tram lines, it was considered to difficult to drive and even tho it hosed many smaller races between 1954 and 1959 it was shortly closed after the big Grand Prix event.
Hidden a short walk from the main road, close to the military grounds located in the park is the astonishing Panorâmico de Monsanto, a most see if you are visiting the park, this impressive building was once a well known restaurant that after some bad business decisions got shut down and in 2001 became completely abandoned, now it is being restored and it is once again open to the public to explore, and it is offering some absolutely breathtaking views over Lisbon and the river from its top floor and some pretty fantastic graffiti pieces spread from floor to ceiling all over its many floors for visitors to enjoy, this unique building has a ghost like beauty and it is well worth a visit, and except the bus journey fee, the whole park included Panorâmico de Monsanto is completely free to visit. One thing to keep in mind whilst visiting the old restaurant is that it is illegal to take any photos of the army base located just next to it, but to be fair, why would you want to take pictures of an old army base when if you just turn around have some of the best views over all of the city and river?