On the eastern side of Lisbon, Portugal sits a waterfront area that was once an eyesore. An oil refinery, a seaplane terminal and other downtrodden structures dotted the wharf. But with the coming of the Expo ’98, a World Fair hosting 130 countries, the entire area underwent a revitalization.
Today, visitors from all over the world marvel at the new sights and sounds of Lisbon’s Parque das Nações, the Park of Nations. Here, one can explore the Oceanarium, the Vasco da Gama Tower and Bridge, and any of the hundred other fun things to see and do on Lisbon’s shoreline.
One entrance to the area is via the famed cable-stayed bridge, one of the world’s longest: the Vasco da Gama Bridge. At nearly 17km (~10 miles), it is a marvel of engineering. Nearby are lovely gardens where travelers can rest and admire the view before heading off to some of the other sights.
Capping off this area is the Vasco da Gama Tower. Rising 175m (575 feet) into the air, travelers can have a meal in the restaurant, then proceed onto the Parque. If the idea makes you queasy, fear not. There are dozens more restaurants and cafes throughout the area.
Anyone coming here will not want to miss the Oceanarium. The largest in Europe, it houses 15,000 plants and animals encompassing 450 different species. The aquarium is divided into four sections, each holding representative species from four different coastal habitats. There are flora and fauna drawn from the Antarctic to the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
One housing, the Global Ocean tank, is 7m/23ft deep. This massive container holds several species of shark, tuna and other large aquatic creatures.
Apart from the displays, the Oceanarium offers a backstage tour lasting 45 minutes. Knowledgeable tour guides take visitors to areas behind the scenes. Here, one can see how the staff do their jobs to take care of some of the inhabitants.
While some members of the family are exploring the sea life, others might want to take advantage of some of the best shopping in Lisbon. The Vasco da Gama shopping center, named for Portugal’s heroic explorer, offers enough quality and variety to challenge even the deepest pockets.
If you have any money left, spend some time at the Lisbon Casino. There is gambling at 22 gaming tables along with shows in the 600-seat auditorium. There are additional performances at the rotating bar in the Arena Lounge.
All that activity might be a little exhausting. So, stop in for a breather at one of the Parque das Nações fine bars for a little liquid refreshment. The conversation is always lively and the views are spectacular.
You can reach the park via the convenient metro, where you’ll exit at the Oriente Station. That is a sight itself worth seeing, with a variety of murals and contemporary artwork on display.