When I thought of the idea for a series of articles on gardens and parks in Lisbon, my mind went immediately to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Garden. Not only have I been there a lot of times, every time I go it feels new, I always find myself wandering on a path I didn’t know before! So as a second edition of Gardens of Lisbon, after the sweet surprise of the Amalia Rodrigues Garden, a place I only recently discovered, I’ll now move to one I know all too well.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a very important organization in Portugal, dedicated to art, science and education (amongst others goals). Its inception began in the 1950’s after the founder, Calouste Gulbenkian, stated in his will that all his belongings and funds should be given to the State to be used to build the foundation. And to this day it stands, located in São Sebastião. This is not the only thing in common with the aforementioned Amália Rodrigues Garden, like the smaller park, the Gulbenkian Garden makes you feel like the city is far away, like you’ve entered a different region altogether. Amália Rodrigues does this by being higher that the surrounding streets, but Gulbenkian does it by surrounding its premises with tall trees and walls, taking you to it’s own little world away from Lisbon.
Inside this lush and varied garden you can also find the head office of the Foundation, as well as the main Gulbenkian museum of art, the Gulbenkian concert hall (where fantastic orchestral arrangements can be heard), the open air Amphitheatre used for workshops, presentations and live concerts, and the Foundation’s Library, with a huge selection of very important works on a variety of subjects, and which I myself visited many times during my university years (and it really was worth it). All of these culturally relevant landmarks (also counting the modern art museum outside) have a very stern and sober presentation, which contrasts in as absolutely harmonious way with the surrounding greenery.
Now, museum, libraries and other big buildings aside you also have cafés and terraces with a wonderful view of either the trees or the lake, it’s not uncommon for people to sit there for a coffee, a good read, and the occasional sketch. But the crème de la crème is just the amazing strolls you can take between the trees and bushes, the lakes and brooks, mingling with ducks and koi fish, exploring all the paths and seeing all the different plant life. This article has been long enough, but I’ll elaborate more on the flora and fauna on part 2, check it out!
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