As a child I learned to swim in the sea, sputtering salt water, kicking my legs out as my father hovered nearby. I remember the fear and the exhilaration. I always wanted to go into the water. Then, maybe a year after I learned to swim, my Mother was surrounded by jellyfish whilst paddling. She lost her wedding ring that day as she fought her way past the stinging swarm. I still went into the water but somewhere along the line I learned that the ocean is full of the unknown. The creatures that belong there are like nothing else. It’s a long time since I’ve done more than got my feet wet in the sea but I remain fascinated by the creatures that live there – the otherworldly faces, vibrant colours. Looking into that world reminds me that there is so much more to this planet than we normally see.
So Lisbon Oceanarium (Oceanário de Lisboa) was on my agenda during my last trip to the city.
What is Lisbon Oceanarium?
The Oceanarium was build as part of the World Expo in 1998 to celebrate “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future’. Lisbon has a very special cultural relationship with the sea, having built it’s reputation upon the Discoveries. The Oceanarium is dedicated to educating the public about the ocean and its conservation. Essentially it is a giant aquarium filled with an extraordinary amount of sea life. One of its most famous occupants is a sunfish. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it! Sunfish are notoriously difficult to keep so its good health shows how well the aquarium is run and the creatures within it looked after.
The building is created around a thousand square meter tank that runs up the centre of the main floors of the Oceanarium. Around this are four more aquariums with different habitats (North Atlantic, Antarctic, Temperate Pacific and Tropical Ocean). These Four zones are actually separated from the main aquarium by acrylic but are made to appear as though everything is swimming together to show the interrelated life in the ocean and it’s connection to all life. Around the building are smaller Aquariums housing for example starfish and amphibians. Make sure you check out the Temperate Pacific zone as this is home to two Alaskan Sea Otters called Eusébio and Amália. They are incredibly cute.
Really there is so much to see here that you could quite easily spend a whole day investigating all the different areas. Photography is allowed but you must not under any circumstances use a flash as this can disturb the animals. There are plenty of seats so you can rest your feet and take in the view. The building is accessible to wheelchair users. In many ways, the Oceanarium is a very restful place. Sounds of the ocean play as you move through the darkened observation rooms. The graceful movements of bizarre creatures, the startling colours of vibrant undersea life evoke such a sense of peace. I found it inspiring. Seeing creatures that live under the sea reminds me of how beautiful and extraordinary our planet is and how much we need to take care of it.
As an enterprise dedicated to education, the Oceanarium runs different events and experiences. Guided tours are available including a backstage tour so you can get to see behind the scenes. An audio guide can be picked up upon entering for 2.50 Euros. A variety of events happen throughout the year. You can find these listed on the main website.
How to get to Lisbon Oceanarium
If you don’t want to take the metro, the following bus numbers will take you to Oriente: - 5, 10, 19, 21, 28, 50, 68, 81, 82, 85.
Lisbon Oceanarium is situated in Parque das Nações, the popular ultra modern area which housed the World Expo in 1998. Parque das Nações is served by the Oriente metro station situated at the end of the red line (linha vermelho). To get on the red line, catch the metro on the blue line (linha azul) at Baixa-Chiado or Restauadores and change at São Sebastian.
When you come out of the metro station (make sure you look up to see the fabulous ‘crown’ of the Oriente station!), cross the road and walk straight through the Vasco de Gama shopping centre. It will bring you out to an extraordinary spiky sculpture and onto the promenade area. Turn right onto Alameda Dos Oceanos. Walk all the way down the promenade until you reach the roundabout at the end. To your left you’ll see a blue wall with a fountain. The pedestrianised walkway beside this is Passeio de Ulisses. Walk down here and this will take you straight to the Oceanarium on the river front. Just head for the cable cars which are right outside the Oceanarium. Whilst you are there, I definitely recommend a trip on the cable car. You’ll have a terrific view of the elegant, futuristic architecture of Parque das Nações and the fabulous Vasco de Gama Bridge.
How Much Does it Cost?
The current entry ticket is 12 Euros. Three’s and under go free. Four – Twelve year old are 6 Euros and over Sixty Six is 6.50 Euros. There are also family tickets available for 29 Euros (2 adults, 2 children under 12). Tickets are purchased at the main entrance.
When is it Open?
During the summer months from 10am – 8pm (last entry 7pm)
During the Winter months from 10am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)
The Oceanarium is also one of the few places open on Christmas Day and New Years day.
For further details and lots more information visit the official website (available in both Portuguese and English)