Those who go for a walk in Lisbon cannot miss the opportunity to visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, which has a permanent exhibition and some temporary exhibitions. Do you want to meet him? Then come from there.
The Lisbon Oceanarium is one of the most visited attractions in the Portuguese capital, but the first three times I went to the city I couldn’t even think of going there. I’ve always preferred programmes that I thought were more Lisbon-based, such as getting lost in the streets of Alfama, exploring the historic centre, eating Belém pastels….But I finally decided to give this Oceanário a chance.
Lisbon Oceanarium: Book visit and buy tickets
Below you will find a set of options that will make your visit to the Lisbon aquarium easier, such as buying entry tickets to avoid queuing or the Lisboa Card that will allow you to take transport in the city and get discounts on different visits to Lisbon.
What is the Lisbon Oceanarium?
The Lisbon Oceanarium is an exhibition of animals, algae and aquatic plants, within approximately 5 million litres of salt water, divided into 4 habitats that, together, make us feel that we are within a single environment, at the bottom of the sea.
The Lisbon Oceanarium was elected for the second time the best in the world, by Tripadvisor. The first time it was elected in 2015 and now it was elected in 2017.
Permanent exhibition at the Lisbon Oceanarium
The permanent exhibition of the Lisbon Oceanarium is the one that will always be there any time we visit. And this exhibition has different and rare species. Let’s mention some that we can find.
These penguins usually live in the sea and feed on anchovies. They therefore follow the migration of the fish so that they can feed. When they form a couple, they are kept for life and the two together take care of the eggs.
This bird is being greatly threatened by the oil spill and hunting. It’s a bird that can cover more than 7,000 kilometers in eight months and fly up to 80 kilometers per hour, impressive, isn’t it?
It is an anemone with a cylindrical body and more than 200 tentacles, some shorter and others longer, all inserted around its mouth. These longer tentacles capture the prey while the smaller ones hold the food.
Pacific giant octopus
It is the largest of all octopuses, and can reach 9 meters and 250kg.
This fish is born all yellow and turns blue over time. They feed on algae that are born in the sponges. They became very well known by Dory in the film « Looking for Nemo ».
This fish usually inhabits the sand or the rockiest parts and moves with the help of its pectoral fins. It has this name because when it is taken out of the water, it produces a snort-like sound.
This frog’s mouth is almost half of his entire body, that is, he can eat small mice, birds, and even other frogs.
This frog is an expert in camouflage, because he looks a lot like a leaf. And the most curious thing about this frog is that, after mating, the eggs are absorbed into the female’s skin and after 3 to 5 months small, fully formed frogs come out.
It is the smallest and most recent mammal in the ocean (it has lived « only » for about five million years), but unfortunately the fur trade has almost led to its extinction. Today it is highly protected in the United States and Canada and the population is beginning to grow.
Temporary exhibition at the Lisbon Oceanarium
The Oceanário has special exhibitions that are constantly evolving. During my visit, the Japanese artist and photographer Takashi Amano showed us « forests under water ». Exposure is the best that I’ve seen lately. Absolutely fantastic.
According to Wikipedia, Takashi Amano was a photographer, designer, author, cyclist and aquarist. Its orientation as an aquarist is well described. (Quote at the beginning) Compared to the huge aquarium in the main building, the temporary exhibition seemed at first sight unspectacular: the U-shaped aquarium is « only » 40 metres long and is located in a piece. No rays, no sharks and no tuna – only tetra-neon, freshwater shrimp and other small animals were present.
But the true beauty of the exhibition was only revealed at the second glance: The way the plants are arranged, what plants are used, how they contrast with each other and how water inhabitants interact with their environment. It’s not easy to put it in words, but the aquarium seemed to me to be a constantly evolving image, almost perfectly composed, which in turn consists of many individual images and constantly changes with the movement of the inhabitants.
The temporary exhibition opened at the end of April 2015 and Amano died of pneumonia on August 4, 2015, after a long illness. He was 61 years old. There is something else on the exhibition website with whom I would like to conclude:
« Takashi Amano thought that observing nature up close would allow us to better understand our world and learn to preserve it. »
The additional price of the special exhibition is, in my opinion, money well invested.
In the world’s largest natural aquarium, 40 metres long and with a capacity of 160,000 litres, life at sea is manifested in all its splendour. The sound is properly tuned. All this is not only beautiful, but it is also a soothing and inspiring tourist activity for your next stay in Lisbon.
How long to visit the Lisbon Aquarium ?
It is logical that the visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium will take according to the time you will stop to enjoy each species.
Two hours is enough. Some people take longer, others take less. On average, about 2 hours is enough to visit the permanent exhibition. If you visit the temporary exhibition as well, it will take a little longer.
Extra Activities in the Oceanarium of Lisbon
In addition to the exhibitions, the Lisbon Oceanarium has several activities to meet all audiences.
They can have birthday parties for children, with the presence of Vasco (the Oceanarium mascot), or games with CSI-style puzzles and even « pajama party » style parties for « sleeping with sharks ».
After everything we mentioned in this article, we can say that this is a very good ride to take the little ones. Even if the parents don’t want to participate in the shows, the beauty of the aquariums will enchant them and they will certainly have fun.
In addition, the Lisbon Oceanarium has a very good infrastructure to receive children, has places to change diapers and wide corridors to get through with cars.
Shows for babies
A mixture of sounds and colours, sharpening babies’ hearing and vision, make the Lisbon Oceanarium a perfect place to awaken children’s sensibility.
- Day: Saturdays;
- Schedule: 9 hours;
- Price: 35€ including the entrance of 2 adults and the visit to the Oceanarium after the show.
- Attention: The show is indicated for children up to 3 years old.
Fado is a very popular musical style in Portugal, and when combined with the scenery of the central aquarium of the Lisbon Oceanarium, it’s hard not to be enchanted. Created for children, this show promises to stimulate the senses and creativity, immersing everyone in the world of fado.
- Date: first and third Sundays of the month;
- Schedule: 9 hours.
- Price: 35€, including the entrance of 2 adults and the visit to the Oceanarium after the show.
- Attention: the show is indicated for children up to 4 years old.
In addition to these activities, the Lisbon Aquarium also offers guided tours, special visits for senior citizens and activities during the school holidays.
Lisbon Oceanarium Mascot
Another attraction, which mainly entertains children, is the Boneco Vasco, a mascot of the Lisbon Oceanarium, which is always there amusing people and playing games. His name is in reference to the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama, who marked the history of Portugal. They say that if you pass by the Oceanarium, you fall in love with maritime life. Take the camera loaded and with space for many photos, because you will need when you visit this incredible tourist point of Portugal and Europe.
Hours and prices of the Lisbon Oceanarium
The Lisbon Oceanarium can be visited from 10am to 7pm, with the last entrance at 6pm. The tip is to buy your ticket in advance through the internet. The prices for the permanent exhibition are: 15€ for people between 13 and 64 years old; 10€ for children between 4 and 12 years old; 10€ for over 65 years old and free for children up to 3 years old. To visit the permanent and temporary exhibition, the prices are: 18€ for people between 13 and 64 years; 12€ for children between 4 and 12 years; 12€ for children over 65 years and free for children up to 3 years.
Aquarium of Lisbon elected the best in the world
For the third time, the Lisbon Aquarium was elected the Best Aquarium in the World. The distinction comes through the Travelers’ Choice promoted by TripAdvisor, whose mission is to distinguish destinations, attractions and hotels with the best reviews of the community.
With 33,854 reviews on the world’s largest travel website, the Lisbon Oceanarium has an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5. Of all the reviews, 64% rate the Lisbon Oceanarium as ‘Excellent’ and 27% as ‘Very Good’. « Great experience for everyone », « very well organized, beautiful place », « unique recreational experience » or « best oceanarium I’ve ever seen » are some of the comments written by visitors.
The Lisbon Oceanarium, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, had already been elected the Best Aquarium in the World by TripAdvisor in 2015 and 2017. It is one of the most visited cultural facilities in Portugal, with more than 23 million visitors, from 185 different countries, since its opening. Last year, it received 1.3 million visitors, registering the best year ever.
7 reasons to visit the Lisbon Oceanarium
Make a turn of the Lisbon airport
I always go to Europe via TAP, on a direct flight to Lisbon, and many times the connection in the Portuguese capital is enough to take a walk. The best part is that the airport there is not far from the city, so you can go to several nice places using public transport, taxi or Uber.
There is a subway at the airport, and in only three stations you can get to the East of Lisbon, which gives access to Parque das Nações, where the Lisbon Oceanarium is. In other words: in a longer connection, it’s super easy to go back and forth. Leaving the subway, just walk straight ahead towards the river, passing the Vasco da Gama shopping mall, and then walk right for about 15 minutes.
See a more modern Lisbon
Parque das Nações is a modern region of the city, which was built on the banks of the Tagus River for the 1998 World Exposition with a project of urban and environmental requalification of an area that was very industrial and medium degraded. It is a very different region from the more traditional parts of Lisbon, such as the Center and charming neighborhood of Alfama.
I don’t think it’s superb, but if you like contemporary architecture it’s worth a visit, and also to visit other attractions such as the Pavilion of Knowledge (a science and technology museum with interactive exhibitions), the cable car and the Vasco da Gama Tower (the tallest building in the country).
Oh, and there’s also the Vasco da Gama shopping mall, which is right in front of the Oriente subway station, and in addition to having several nice shops, it’s open until midnight.
To be moved by the immensity of the seas
I love to look at the sky, especially at night, and feel minuscule in this absurdly big universe that surrounds us. But I also felt tiny as I reflected on the immensity of the seas, this other universe so full of life. Especially because of the philosophy of the museum, that there is only one ocean.
In other words: the separation between the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, etc. is artificial, created by men who wanted to put things in order, but in the end it is all one thing. And this is reflected in the disposition of the Oceanarium: in the middle, a large central aquarium gathers more than 100 species from four oceans.
Around it, small tanks represent different marine habitats (North Atlantic, Temperate Pacific, Antarctica and Tropical Indian), as if we were walking inside a single aquarium – or a single ocean.
As if that wasn’t enough, here and there you can still find excerpts of poetry by the Portuguese Sophia de Mello Breyner, who had many works related to the sea. It’s hard not to be touched by her words about the greatness of this infinite blue.
Discovering curious animals at the Aquarium
The Oceanarium brings together 8,000 animals from about 500 different species. What does that mean? That it has a lot of weird animals!
The child that exists in me loved to see the colorful little fish, sharks and company, but liked even more to discover those more curious species, like the sea dragon, flat fish that camouflage totally in the sand, this funny moonfish from the photo below, nice colorful amphibians and the fluorescent marine life.
These corals in the last photo, for example, have fluorescent pigments that in addition to leaving them superb act as « sunscreens », protecting them from solar radiation. On the other hand, marine dragons, which look like funny seahorses, are like this to imitate the algae of the environment where they live. Nature is incredible,
Supporting the conservation of the oceans
In addition to entertaining and entertaining visitors, the goal of the Oceanarium goes far beyond: many of the main marine research in Portugal are developed there. This means that, when you visit the space, you will be contributing to the maintenance of these studies. Not to mention the awareness, after all, you will probably also be sensitized to our impact on marine life and the importance of nature conservation.
Teaching children about the environment
And speaking of awareness, there is an area explicitly dedicated to this theme, with a focus on children. I thought it was really cool to facilitate this approach on the part of the families who visit the place – like « How beautiful is the little fish, right? Did you know that if you don’t take care of the environment, it could die? » 😛
Water saving and recycling are among the themes addressed in the area called A Casa do Vasco, based on the Oceanarium mascot, the Vasco doll, which was created in reference to the navigator Vasco da Gama. It has mini toilets, refrigerators and sinks with tips and curious information about sustainability, as well as some videos and games for the little ones.
To fall in love with the otters
I finish this post with the sympathy of the otters Mica and Tide. They were born in the Oceanarium (in 2001 and 1998, respectively) and float, spin, eat and be beautiful. There I discovered my love for otters, which have already been hunted for fur and almost extinct, and are now protected by law.
It’s pure fluffy to see the two otters with « hands » given <3 As they explain there, these animals can have this behavior to always stay together, avoiding the risk of being alone adrift.