Celebrating 25 years this 2023 the Parque das Naçoes is one of Lisbon’s popular spots. This large area, formerly an industrial site on the inner coast of the River Tagus, opened its doors to the last Exposition of the century. The site was developed for pavilions and auditoria were built, trees and plants were brought in for designated parks and water fountains. The Expo 98 closed at the end of that Summer but the Parque das Nações, as it was named, continues to be an important hub for leisure as well as a sought after residential area. Many restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets line up the streets.
The Oceanarium of Lisboa, Europe’s largest, is the main attraction here with more than 28 million visitors. It was designed by Peter Chermayeff. ‘Oceans – a heritage for the future’ was the theme celebrating the 500 years of the explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea voyage to India. Portugal has long been associated with the oceans and discovering far away lands.
The oceanarium’s central tank holds 5 million litres of salt water with 8,000 sea creatures of 500 different species. It features four separate tanks representing the Indian, Antartic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In the main tank you can see eagle rays and mantas, hammerhead sharks and mullets. The smaller tanks hold species such as conger and ray eels, sea dragons, octopus and living corals while outside the tanks natural habitats have been created to hold penguins and sea otters.
These playful otters provide their own show, speedily swishing to and fro in the water from one end to the other!
The exhibition Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano shows plants and fresh water fish – beautifully arranged in a 40 metre long aquarium providing moments of calm.
One of the many residents, the penguin, at the Oceanarium
Another exhibition is ‘ONE, the ocean as you have never felt it’, an art installation work with images by Maya de Almeida Araújo, a specialist in underwater photography.
At the entrance to the Oceanarium is the gift shop Sea the Future. Within the complex is the Tejo Restaurant open from 10am to 7pm in the Summer and 10am to 6pm in the winter.
The Oceanarium is open from 10am to 7pm. Tel: +351-218917000.
The Vasco da Gama Tower at the other end of the Oceanarium, originally with its height of 140m but now extended to 145m, houses the Babylon Bar on the top. From here you have spectacular 360º views including of the 17 km Vasco da Gama bridge completed in 1998. The recently opened restaurant Fifty Seconds by Michael Berasategui serves dinner only – named for the 50 seconds it takes to reach the top by lift.
In May 2023 the Sana Group of hotels opened the luxury five star Myriad By Sana Hotels, adjacent to the Tower.
The overhead cable cars (open from 11am to 7pm) take you from behind the Oceanarium to the Vasco da Gama Tower, providing great views of the area for miles.
The Altice Arena, originally the Utopia Pavilion during Expo ’98, is now a venue for concerts. Further on is the International Trade Fair of Lisboa (FIL) where conferences and meetings are held.
Scattered around the Parque are gardens and benches. The Garcia de Orta Gardens and the Water gardens (Jardim da Água) are just two offering restful areas. There are also seating areas overlooking the river.
There are art works in various places. Just outside the Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre is the iron sculpture Sun Man (Homem-Sol) by Jorge Vieira. A little further down is a huge sculpture of the Iberian Lynx by Artur Bordalo or Bordado II as he is known. A talented artist Bordalo is famous world-wide for his structures of animals, birds and other designs and uses plastics and other items from trash to create his impressive artwork. Next to it is a sculpture entitled Rhizome by Antony Gormley.
Reaching the Parque das Nações can be done by the Underground Metro – the station, on the red line, is the Oriente. Take the metro from Caís do Sodré – Green Line – and change at Alameda on the Red Line and it is the last stop.
Updated May 2023 – Pat Rodrigues