Príncipe Real is a leafy neighbourhood not far from Bairro Alto. Here you’ll find grand houses with beautiful tilework, quaint antique shops, bookstores, tiny coffee houses and gay friendly bars. There’s a certain homely bohemian feel and it immediately makes me think that this is an area I could live in.
From Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, follow the road round to the right and up the short hill. The climb will take into the Príncipe Real district and you’ll see trees ahead of you. Head towards the green and you’ll find a tranquil park which is over-awed by a huge ancient ceder tree whose branches spread out to almost impossible dimensions. The tree is so old that it is now held up by ornate iron trellis. I wandered beneath it, feeling the sheer weight of it upon me and wondered how many lovers this tree has witnessed. It’s perhaps what used to be called a Trysting Tree. The presence of the tree is both deeply comforting and ominous – almost as if it’s spirit fiercly protects this little sanctuary in Lisbon.
It was around 10am when I arrived in the park so there were no lovers to be seen but the park was a natural focal point. People were walking their dogs, elderly folk sat reading the morning paper and prepared for a game of cards, people cut through on their way to work and a few earlybird tourists stopped to read their maps. There are permanent picnic tables and plenty of shady seats as well as a lovely little cafe to buy your morning bica (espresso).
Wandering through the park, I came across an entrance leading underground to the Museu da Água (Museum of Water). Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go in but I have discovered from the main website that this is one part of the Water Museum which is spread over several sites. This site (the Patriarchal Reservoir) was once one of the main reservoirs in Lisbon holding tons of water to keep downtown alive. Shut down in the 1940’s the site has become an place of historic and architectural interest.
Príncipe Real is a neighbourhood with a lot to offer. I’m told that it’s well worth stopping to buy bread here too from a shop called Doce Real.
Yes, I could definately live in Principe Real.