I already wrote about the best gardens and parks in Porto, so it is the time to write about what is perhaps the most beloved garden by both locals and tourists. I am speaking about the Crystal Palace gardens in Porto, which are celebrating around 150 years old.
The story of the Crystal Palace gardens in Porto
But these gardens belong to which Crystal Palace?! Even the most inattentive eyes flow to the building that we call “the UFO”, and not to, as it would be expected by the name, a crystal palace. Then let’s dig in the history of the Crystal Palace gardens in Porto.
The International Exhibition of Porto
The Crystal Palace of Porto, inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, was built to host the International Exhibition of Porto, with over 4,300 exhibitors from 25 countries. The exhibition was inaugurated in 1865 with all the pomp and circumstance.
Although the International Exhibition of Porto was a success, the dream of the founders of the Crystal Palace, which was to attract the finest European minds to Porto, never became true. However, the Crystal Palace held, over time, various exhibitions, as you can see on these old photos:
Colonial Exhibition of Porto – 1934
It was, however, the Colonial Exhibition that catapulted the image of the Crystal Palace, during the 30s. In 1934, our dictatorial regime promoted the Colonial Exhibition of Porto, in order to position itself as a modern regime of the Portuguese colonies.
This was particularly relevant at a time when Portuguese colonies were holding grudges against mainland Portugal (in 1930, for example, there was a confrontation between civil servants and military contesting the authority of the central power).
It was imperative to internationally promote Portugal as an empire overseas, and internally, to convince the Portuguese population of the motto of the regime: Portugal is not a small country. Porto, where a huge volume of goods from the colonies was traded every year, and, more specifically, the Crystal Palace gardens, where chosen to host the Colonial Exhibition.
Even more extraordinary than that: authentic villages, with indigenous “imported” from the colonies, where built so that visitors could see what life was like beyond seas. And one of the main attractions was Rosinha, a native of Guinea, much to the delight of Porto’s men…
The destruction of the Crystal Palace in Porto
In 1952 it was announced the World Hockey Championship, to be held in Porto. Thus on January 9th, 1952 the destruction of the Crystal Palace was voted in the municipal assembly, although the building was already being demolished since January 6th, except the facade. Indeed, in this picture you can see the infamous “UFO” that now inhabits the gardens briefly hid behind the facade of the real Crystal Palace!
The current Crystal Palace gardens in Porto
Now you can understand that the relationship of Porto with its missing Crystal Palace is something boisterous. Even though we have not known the original Crystal Palace, we still miss it when we walk through its beautiful gardens…