Lisboa’s Park of Nations – Parque das Nações

Lisboa is under constant renewal. In 1998 a 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 renovated for pavilions and auditoria were built, trees and plants were brought in for designated parks and water fountains. Expo 98 closed at the end of that summer. However the show still goes on and now called the Parque das Nações, it is still very much a lively place with various restaurants and entertainment in open air concerts in the Praça Sony and exhibitions in the pavilions.

The main attraction then was and continues to be the Oceanarium of Lisboa. ‘Oceans – a heritage for the future’ was the theme celebrating Vasco da Gama’s sea voyage to India. Portugal and the Portuguese have long been associated with the oceans and discovering far away lands. The Oceanarium is Europe’s largest, designed by the American architect Peter Chermayeff. A central tank representing the open ocean holds 4,600 sq.m. of water with fifteen thousand specimen of 200 different species. It features four separate aquariums representing the Indian, Antartic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In the main tank of the open ocean 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 a natural habitat has been created to hold penguins and sea otters. It is open from 10am to 6pm.

The pavilions, Atlantico, Virtual Reality (open 12noon-6pm closed Monday), Knowledge/Science (open 10am-6pm closed Monday) and Macau (open 12 noon -7pm closed Monday) hold exhibitions, conferences and other entertainment. Concerts of classical music are held at the Camoes Theatre.

The Vasco da Gama Tower at the other end of the Oceanarium has a height of 140m. A lift takes you to the top affording you specatular views of the whole area and beyond to Lisboa. It also overlooks the 17 km Vasco da Gama bridge completed in 1998. The Tower is open from 10am to 8pm. A restaurant is located on the top.

Travelling from the north to the south of the Parque can be done by cable car, giving you a superb view. It is open from 11am to 9pm on weekdays and 10am to 9pm weekends.

Temporary exhibitions are planned throughout the year in the Trade Fair of Lisboa (FIL).

Every Sunday fairs take place at the Oriente station. On the first Sunday of the month there is a stamp and coin fair. The second Sunday sees a Portuguese handicraft fair, with the third Sunday holding an antiques and bric-a-brac fair and the last Sunday of the month reserved for paintings and decorative arts. Open 10am – 7pm.

Boat trips druing the summer take you from here to Belém and back. Guided walks are organised along the river. Further information from Tel: +351-21-8918215.

There is a bowling alley next to the Macau Pavilion. Open noon.

Moving from one end of the complex to the next can be tiring but there is a train service. It begins and ends at the Alameda dos Oceanos in front of the Atlantic pavilion, 10.30am to 7pm.

Scattered around the Parque are benches and gardens. The Garcia de Orta Gardens and the Water gardens are just two offering restful areas. There are also seating areas overlooking the river.

Reaching the Parque das Nações is relatively easy. Buses go from the main areas in the city. The underground 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.

PR