Jardim da Estrela, Lisbon

A visit to the Jardim de Estrela gives tourists the opportunity to relax and unwind the way that Lisbon's natives do. This park may be small, but it is filled with charm and peace. In a busy, cosmopolitan city like Lisbon, it's rare to find a spot that feels secluded and restful. The Jardim de Estrela provides this, offering an ideal chance to lay back with a book or simply watch the other park visitors as they go about their daily business.

The garden was established opposite the well known Estrela Basilica in the 1840s after Lisbon's governor decided that the congested city needed a fresh, green space for the citizens to enjoy. A wealthy landowner made a donation, and design and construction of the garden began soon afterward. Ten years were required before the garden could be opened to the public. Despite delays wrought by war and financial hardship, the Jardim de Estrela opened in 1852.

Original garden designers Bonnard and João Francisco carefully laid out their creation, including many exotic trees and plants in their plans. Several romantic structures, such as a Chinese pavilion, were also a part of the creation. These structures have not survived to the present day, but the Jardim de Estrela nonetheless boasts a charming wrought iron bandstand that became a part of the landscape around 1936. Fortunate visitors will be able to enjoy a live musical performance as these are still regularly offered at the bandstand.

Several statues also grace the gardens. Most of these were added in the early 20th century. One was created by noted Portuguese sculptor Costa Mota. It depicts a farmer and was created in 1913. Another statue is known as "O Despertar," a nude female figure sculpted by Simões de Almeida.

A favorite stopping place within the park for locals and visitors alike is the small cafe with a charming patio. It's the ideal spot for enjoying a cool, refreshing drink on a hot day. One of the park's main features is a manmade lake that is the perennial home of a large flock of ducks. Here, visitors will find what is perhaps the garden's best known statue, Guardadora de Patos. This "keeper of the ducks" is a favorite of most visitors and locals. Many people have chosen to while away an afternoon by feeding the ducks and enjoying Lisbon's warm sun under the approving eyes of this figure. Close by the lake is a whimsical fountain featuring a dog that spouts water from its mouth. Children adore looking at this charming statue.

Weekend visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy the antique street market that is held here throughout the year. Filled with bargains, this market is a fantastic place to pick up an unusual souvenir or a one-of-a-kind memento. Regardless of the day chosen to visit the Jardim de Estrela, the tourist is bound to enjoy the experience. This charming place is one of the best opportunities most visitors will have to relax like a native.