When we travel, we often come across lots of interesting monuments, buildings, parks and sights. Some may be more maintained than others and usually they’re open to everyone for visiting and discovering. If it’s a popular destination, there is a high chance that you’ll meet other travelers there.
And then, on the other hand, there are the less crowded places. Old buildings nobody pays a visit because there is no life anymore, thus no maintenance, no prospects. We believe that every place in the world has abandoned buildings that once used to be well-visited and appreciated hotels, restaurants or important institutions.
When we travel, we don’t only look forward to visit the common attractions of a place, but more than that share enthusiasm for abandoned places.
are places that have been inhabited by people decades ago. When we pass a ruin this prevalent feeling of curiosity overcomes us and we can’t stop to question ourselves:
Who lived behind those broken walls?
What stories did they use to tell one another?
What have been their dreams? Or their fears?
When you enter an abandoned building, the atmosphere of a long forgotten time engulfs you immediately and you can’t protect yourself from traveling back in time like in a time machine.
Follow me through time and explore 5 stunning abandoned places in Lisbon
Picoas graffiti buildings
Our first abandoned place is not hard to miss, as the giant buildings are completely covered with huge graffiti artworks. The buildings look like factories. Their doorways and windows are barricaded by concrete so that there is no way to access the inside.
Coming from the metro station Picoas you can see the first of three graffiti houses exposed to the street.
It shows a masked rebel pulling a human catapult. The attacked one is a fat king wearing a crown printed with labels from gas stations like Shell or Esso. Metaphorically, the giant is slurping our whole planet through a straw. This artwork is meant to criticize the corruption and environmental exploitation of multinationals.
Around the area of the castle São Jorge, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood is situated: Alfama.
This place has its own charm because it remains mostly in the past. Beware not getting lost in a labyrinth of narrow streets, confusing stairways and turns. If you’re looking for traditional Fado music performances, you can find them in this precious district, alongside several restaurants and bars with live singers playing on special Fado guitars of which they say that it has the shape of a teardrop.
Watch out for abandoned houses and castle remnants covered with street art.
Marvila ghost town
Marvila seems like a little village not far from the center of Lisbon. It is located near the riverside. The best way to go there is by train (Roma/Areeiro). Do not take the train to Oriente but the regional one because the first doesn’t stop in Marvila.
During the drive you can already see the outlines of the abandoned town center which is situated on the left side of the railway. This part is completely abandoned. There are just some gardens sporadically built, fenced off with old wood, plastic or any other recycled material. Lisbonese grow some vegetables there.
If you look down from the train station you can see the visible remnants of what once must have been a town in the valley. It might be destroyed by time or municipal decisions. When you walk between the ruined houses which are taken rapidly over by nature, you can easily forget time and space. Inside the open buildings, windows and doors are not closed off with concrete. They are overgrown with wild plants and weeds.
Now and then trash is dumped in the middle of squares and passages. If you look closely you can sometimes find well-preserved books, cassettes, Christmas decorations and other junk. We found some brochures, books as well as unopened mail written with a typewriter dating back to 1970s. There was also a treasure chest dumped in a hole. Unfortunately we couldn’t reach it as there was no way to climb down the hole.
After we finished our tour through the ghost town, we changed to the other side of the railway. Although there are some abandoned warehouses, it resembles more a suburb with partially modern residences.
The most interesting part is when you cross the railway and walk straight until you reach a bridge where another railway passes below. You can see a well preserved abandoned tower. Unfortunately it’s not accessible. It would be nice to climb it up as it might offer a nice view over the river.
The area is kind of a poor area. A gang of kids patrolled on the roof of an abandoned factory and was shouting at us. At least, we thought they meant us. We felt a little bit like intruders as in a village like that, everybody knows everybody. Obviously we were spotted as non-locals.
Tapada das Necessidades
If you like to explore a whole abandoned park, Tapada das Necessidades is not to miss. Take the metro to Rato and walk up or take a bus to the outskirts. The park is hidden behind a high wall. As soon as you enter, you will find yourself in a bewildered forest with some abandoned houses.
The special thing about this place is that the houses are not closed off by concrete as usual so that you can have a look inside. Beware of not stepping on broken glass or other dangerous stuff hidden in the dark. You can take unique pictures of these overgrown houses with some of them possessing an enchanting architecture.
Furthermore, the nature is an exotic mix; consisting of strangely shaped cactus trees, orchids with sweet scents, Agave leaves and palms in all imaginable sizes and shapes.
When you walk through the park you’ll pass interesting monuments and statues. There is also a palace Palácio das Necessidades where you can enjoy an amazing view of Ponte 25 de Abril (Lisbon’s red bridge).
The most beautiful building of the whole park is a round building with a glass dome. Apparently it used to be a greenhouse. When you follow the path, you end up on a balcony, offering a great view of the dome.
Monsanto Restaurante Panorâmico
The last abandoned place is our most favorite. It is located within Lisbon’s biggest park Monsanto. The easiest way to access Monsanto, is to take the train to Sete Rios/Jardim Zoológico. When you follow the highway bridge, turn left and walk up the steep street. Just follow the course of the street until you see the roof of a big, round complex from far away.
Although there is a fence to prevent trespassing the area, you can easily slip through a gap next to the fence. The first feeling when you stand only a few meters away from the still well-preserved building, is a mix of awe and curiosity.
Before having a look at the upper floors, check the overgrown rooms on the base floor.
A wide stairway spirals itself upwards to the top floor.
The sign on the back reveals the name of this place Restaurante Panorâmico. It’s a very suitable name as the restaurant offers a splendid panoramic view of Lisbon. It is not difficult to imagine that this restaurant has been a highlight of a once-contemporary life. We can hardly understand why they stopped to use such a majestic get-away.
Time has made the once very noble restaurant fall apart. The glass dome on one side is fully broken. Thick glass splinters cover what once has been a balcony. The walls are covered by graffiti and ironic warnings, e.g. on the bottom of the first floor leading to the unprotected balcony it states: “Run. Just kidding.”
When you climb up the top, you have the most incredible panorama of Lisbon with a 180-degree view. The round windows are broken so that you can climb through and sit on the ledge, but be careful!
It’s one of the best feelings when you sit at such a high height, overlooking the whole Monsanto park and surrounding Lisbon. We can’t say which floor has the best view. All of them have their own special angles.
When you head to the terrace in the backyard where a parking lot is located, you can catch a different view of the river.
Panorâmico is a fascinating and outstanding place for urban exploration that is not to miss if you’re in Lisbon.