The Lisbon Oceanarium is one of Europe’s finest aquariums, and one of the largest in the world. It’s also arguably the most family-orientated of all the city’s visitor attractions.
Designed by Peter Chermayeff and built for the Expo 98 World Exposition in an area now known as Parque das Nações, the oceanarium is home to a mind-boggling array of fish and marine animals, including dozens of different species of birds.
The ingenious layout represents four separate sea- and landscapes, effectively the habitats of the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Antarctic oceans. These surround an enormous central tank teeming with fish of all shapes and sizes including graceful rays, bulbous sunfish, and sleek sharks — kids’ favorite denizens of the deep.
The wraparound plexiglass allows a fantastic close-up view of this magical undersea world, but you should also seek out less obvious, but no less extraordinary species housed in smaller aquaria, such as the exquisitely delicate sea dragon and the comic clownfish.
The different ecosystems are a delight to explore. The Antarctic habitat, for example, showcases playful penguins, while a pair of spirited sea otters steals the show in the Pacific tank.
The Oceanário de Lisboa actively promotes conservation of the world’s oceans, and besides its envious reputation as one of Portugal’s most popular tourist attractions, has garnered global praise for its marine environmental awareness campaigns. But most of all, it’s seriously good fun.