Lisbon Botanical Garden, Lisbon

Outside the National Museum of Natural History and Science, on Príncipe Real area is another powerful teaching tool, the Lisbon Botanical Garden. It was established on the university's campus in 1873, and students have relied upon it ever since to further their studies. However, residents and casual visitors also enjoy the spot thanks to its relative solitude and the atmosphere of peace that pervades it.

Entering the gardens, visitors are greeted with stately rows of palm trees. A small admission fee is charged at the gate, then guests are free to wander at will. Most of the botanical collection is tropical and exotic. The almost other-worldly appearance of many of these trees and plants sparks endless awe and wonder. Each specimen is clearly labeled to allow for ready identification. In addition to naming the plant, most labels also indicate where the species originated.

Among the garden's many delights are a butterfly house and a fragrant herb garden. It's notable collections include palm trees gathered from all continents where these trees are native. Lisbon's Botanical Garden is also known for its collection of cycads. These living fossils represent some of the rarest flora on Earth, and many of them no longer exist outside of botanical gardens. Particularly large and diverse collections representing the plant life of Mexico, China, Japan and Australia demonstrate the startling beauty of tropical flora.

Energized by continuing scientific inquiry and educational pursuits, a visit to the National Museum of Natural History and Science and the Lisbon Botanical Garden is a magical way to spend a day in Europe's sunniest capital.