Abandoned places in Lisbon – Time machine

When I travel, apart from all the nice things to see, there is one thing I don’t want to miss. To see some visible remnants of time.

Abandoned places

Places that have been inhabited by people decades ago. When I pass a ruin this prevalent feeling of curiosity overcomes me and I can’t stop myself from questioning:

Who lived behind those broken walls?
What stories did they have to tell?
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.

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Follow me through time and explore 5 stunning abandoned places in Lisbon

Picoas graffiti buildings

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Have you ever looked into a guide for Lisbon where you saw big buildings covered by 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 on which names of gas station labels like Shell or Esso are printed. The giant is drinking the whole planet with a straw. This artwork is meant to criticize the corruption and environmental exploitation of multinationals.


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Around the area of the castle São Jorge, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood is situated: Alfama.

This place has its own charm as it remains mostly in the past. Beware not getting lost in a labyrinth of narrow streets, confusing stairways and turns. Within Alfama there is a district dedicated to the traditional Fado music where you can find 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

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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 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 full outline of a former town in the valley. It might be destroyed by time or municipal decisions. When you walk between the ruined houses which are taken 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 has more the look of 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 an 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 were shouting at us. At least, we thought they meant us. We felt a little bit like intruders as everybody knows everybody. Obviously we were spotted as non-locals.

Tapada das Necessidades

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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. Behind a high wall the park is hidden. When you enter, you 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 of which some have an enchanting architecture.

Furthermore the nature is very exotic; 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 can have a look from the top of the dome as there is a balcony.

Monsanto Restaurante Panorâmico

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The last abandoned place is my 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 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 spiral stairway leads to the upper platforms. Especially this stairway has a very special architecture you can only find in old hotels.

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 view of Lisbon. It is not difficult to imagine that this restaurant was a highlight of a once-contemporary life. I cannot understand why they stopped to use it.

Time has made the once very noble restaurant fall apart. The glass dome on one side is fully broken. Thick glass splinters cover what was once a balcony. The walls are covered by graffiti and funny warnings like on the bottom of the first floor leading to the unprotected balcony it says “Run. Just kidding.”

When you climb up to the top, you have the most incredible panorama of Lisbon with a 180-degree view. The round windows are broken so that you can sit on the ledge, but be careful!

It’s one of the best feelings when you sit there, overlooking the whole Monsanto park and surrounding Lisbon. I can’t say which floor has the best view. All of them have their own special angles.

When you go to the terrace in the backyard where a parking lot is located, you can have another view of the river.

Panorâmico is a fascinating and outstanding building that is not to miss if you’re in Lisbon.

4 Comments on “Abandoned places in Lisbon – Time machine

  1. Lisbon had frozen rents during 100 years, until 2012. That’s why so many rundown buildings.

  2. That probably explains the high rent in the places that are still standing. But it does have its charm to find these areas that seem deserted.

  3. The IMF forced the portuguese government to change the rent control law, because there are thousands of ruins all over Portugal, many landlords are broke. The frozen rents are also unfair to all citizens who pay normal rent prices. In the same building one tenant pays 1000 euros, and other one pays 50 euros.

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