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Your Ultimate Guide to Camellias in Porto

Camellia PortugalIn the North of Portugal, parks radiate green under rain filled winter skies. Moss gently spreads along ancient stone walls, vines creep up porcelain tiles as Camellia trees burst in red, pinks and whites. It’s mesmerizing, beautiful and absolutely worth seeing for yourself!

Camellias, however, didn’t originate in Portugal, like the cork oak or lavender bush did; they’re home to eastern and southeastern Asia where they’ve been revered and celebrated for more than 5,000 years.

The small, shiny leaves of Camellia sinensis were first used in China and Japan to make black tea, and was later brought to Portugal in the 16th century. With the marriage of Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza to King Charles II in 1662, tea meandered its way to England where it’s become an integrated part of British culture.

Mind you, tea producing leaves of Camellia sinesis are not the same species that’s brought the city of Porto to floral delight every winter. The ornamental Camellia japonica is responsible for over 3,000 hybrids worldwide of which 400 were created in Portugal. And though the first living camellias recorded in Europe in the early 18th century were said to be in the gardens of  Robert James, Lord Petre, the Portuguese contend that Camellias arrived in Portugal well beforehand. In the Museu Azulejos (Tile Museum), you can find painted azulejos depicting camellias in Portugal dating back the 15th century.

When to Experience Camellias

This exotic botanical species thrives in Portugal’s mild Atlantic climate, making the city a rich, floral wonderland for almost half the year! From January to March the North of Portugal is completely blanketed in silky multi-colored petals, providing you a wide window to choose from. If you’re planning a spring trip, fabulous! As a result of climate change, Camellias are prolonging their stay in many parts of the North, giving you an extra opportunity to savor their beauty. If, however, your trip is edging towards summer or early autumn, head to São Miguel on the Azorean archipelago where the greatest concentration of cultivars and broadest genetic diversity can be found. Sintra near Lisbon is also fabulous place at this time to visit!

The key point to remember when planning your visit to Porto, is that Camellias bloom in different phases, the most common being the Camellia Japonica. Some types of Camellia may show their petals up in September, while others may wait as long as April! The question being, what’s the ideal time for you!

When to visit in the North of Portugal:

Where to See Camellias

camellia portugalThere’s no shortage of places to enjoy Camellias in Porto, but if you’re looking for a highest concentration of botanical beauty, we have a few “must visit” locations to make your visit worthwhile! All of the gardens listed can be accessed via public transportation or a quick cab ride from downtown Porto.

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Where to Stay

Camellia PortugalConsidering the prolific nature of the Camellia in Porto, you could stay pretty much anywhere, but for convenience sake, we’ve provided a handful of places (in various price ranges) nearest to Camellia filled parks and gardens.

What to Consider

This time of the year can be schizophrenic in the North of the country. So come prepared!

What not to Miss!

It’s a bit of a trick question, because really, what shouldn’t you visit! The city always has heaps of concerts and events occurring throughout the year, but for ease, let’s point you to a select few!

If you’re needing a botanical guide during your stay, let us know! We’re more than happy to seek out the ideal garden or nature tour while you’re here.

Cheers,

Gabriella Opaz

 

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