Lisbon’s Best Kept Secret

February 5, 2016

Portugal has become an increasingly popular tourist destination in the past years. Porto was named Europe’s Best Destination in 2014, Lisbon was featured as Europe’s coolest city on CNN and World of Wanderlust named that same city as the best budget destination in 2016.

As a local, I see first-hand what all of this media attention translates into: an increasing number of restaurants with English menus, countless souvenir shops popping up everywhere, and massive cruise ships on Lisbon’s shores every day. And – don’t get me wrong – it’s great! I love that more and more people are getting to know (one of) the cities and countries that I like to call home. (And the one that, in my unbiased opinion, is the most beautiful.)

Sometimes, though, I really just want to go somewhere quiet to chill for the afternoon. I want to enjoy a nice view, have a cup of coffee or go for a walk without being surrounded by masses of tourists. Today in Lisbon, a quiet place like that is sometimes difficult to find.

But it’s not impossible.

For those who like to travel off-the-beaten path, Lisbon still has something to offer. Somewhere hidden in the massive green hills of Monsanto Forest Park is Lisbon’s best kept secret.

Lisbon off the beaten path

Just look at that view.

Meet Panorâmico de Monsanto. Originally inaugurated in 1968 as a restaurant, the massive building was also later a small casino, an office and then a warehouse for construction material. Today, it is an impressive, hollow, empty and degrading building. Its floors are filled with small chunks of shattered glass. Its walls are painted with urban graffiti art. And its glass-free windows offer one of the best views you’ll ever get of Lisbon.

Lisbon off the beaten path

Skillz.

Walking through the massive halls is one incredibly eerie experience. Imagining the lavish dinners and exciting casino nights that must have taken place here is more difficult than one would think: nothing is left here save for the grand cement structures. Well, one particular detail has withstood the test of time: the beautiful azulejos (tiles) created by Manuela Madureira that adorn the restaurant’s entrance.

Still, I couldn’t help but let my imagination run free as I wandered through the building’s various empty halls. Is this where the kitchen would have been? What did this elevator lead to? Were the underground floors used for parking or illegal casino games? (Hey, let a girl have some fun.)

Lisbon off the beaten path

The building is completely falling apart. And that’s part of the beauty of this place.

My exploring was constantly sidetracked, though, by the simply amazing views we got of Lisbon from up there. And it really is panoramic. (Get it? It’s called Panorâmico de Monsanto because it’s in Monsanto and it features a panoramic view of the city.) On one side, you can let your gaze wander as far as you like to get a view of the city’s north side. On the other, you get a wonderful glimpse of Ponte 25 de Abril (25 of April Bridge) and Cristo Rei on the other side of the river.

Located on Estrada da Bela Vista, you’ll be able to reach Panorâmico de Monsanto via the 711 bus. To get into the building, you’ll have to squeeze through a breach in a wired fence because entrance to the property is technically forbidden. Everyone goes in anyways, and you’ll almost always find at least one other person roaming the eerily empty halls of the building.

Lisbon off the beaten path

What about you? Do you like to explore abandoned places like this in your town or when you travel?

 

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