While there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Lisbon, it isn’t crammed full of world-class attractions in the way of some other European capitals. There are a few, though — and one of the highlights for kids and adults alike is the city’s oceanarium, Oceanário de Lisboa, which sees over a million visitors a year.
Opened for the city’s Expo in 1998, and with around 500 marine species and over 15,000 water-loving inhabitants, it’s the largest indoor aquarium in Europe.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Lisbon Oceanarium.
The main highlight of your visit will be the huge central tank system that holds a remarkable seven million liters of seawater. Spanning two floors, it’s visible from much of the oceanarium, and you’ll keep coming back to check out different sections of it throughout your visit.
Containing a huge variety of coral, anemones, and tropical fish, plus different species of sharks and rays, schools of barracuda, turtles, and even a large sunfish (mola mola) rarely found in captivity, the oceanarium would be well worth visiting even if this tank was the only thing it contained.
There’s plenty to be seen in the rest of the permanent exhibition area as well, however. A series of outdoor enclosures houses families of penguins and sea otters, while other parts of the oceanarium include everything from giant spider crabs to fluorescent jellyfish, seahorses to tiny frogs, and plenty more.
Near the entrance lies a smaller space used to house temporary exhibits, all of which are related to the marine world in one way or another. It only costs a few euros extra to visit this section, but check whether the current exhibit is likely to be of interest before you hand over the cash.
A visit to the oceanarium is rewarding in itself, but for visitors determined to make the most of the experience, several types of guided group tours are available in English and other languages.
It’s possible to book guided tours of both the permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as going behind the scenes to discover what’s involved in running a large aquarium—everything from how to feed so many diverse kinds of marine life, to the challenges involved in maintaining five million liters of water at the right temperature and more.
If you’re visiting Lisbon with kids, an overnight “sleeping with sharks” experience is available, or a musical "concert for babies" at 9 a.m. every Saturday that includes entrance to the exhibits afterward.
How to Visit
The Lisbon Oceanarium is open every day of the year, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. in summer, and 7 p.m. in winter. Last admission is an hour before closing time. The only exceptions to those hours are on Christmas Day (1 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and New Year’s Day (12 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
The oceanarium sits alongside the Tagus river, five miles northeast of the central city in the Parque das Nações (Nations’ Park). If you’re not staying nearby, it’s quickly and easily accessible by road or rail.
If you’re using public transport, the easiest way to get to the oceanarium is via Oriente station, one of Lisbon’s major transit hubs. The red line of the city’s metro runs there, with a single ticket costing under two euros (including transfers from other lines if needed).
Several city buses also call at Oriente, as do many regional and intercity buses and trains. From there it’s an easy 15-minute walk to the oceanarium.
If you prefer to use a taxi, expect to pay 10-15 euros from the downtown area, a little less if you use Uber or other ride-sharing services. While parking is also available nearby, driving in inner Lisbon is often stressful for those not used to it, and is only recommended if you already have a rental car for some other reason.
Expect to spend at least 2-3 hours inside, although you could easily spend a half-day or longer if you’re particularly captivated by the marine world.
Facilities and Food
There’s a restaurant on site to ensure you avoid starvation during your visit. It serves a range of coffee, snacks, and larger meals, including a three-course set meal that offers reasonable value.
If you’d prefer to eat elsewhere, several restaurants serving Portuguese and international fare are within easy walking distance along the waterfront, and there’s a large food court on the upper level of the Vasco da Gama shopping center that sits above the Oriente metro station.
The oceanarium is fully accessible to visitors with mobility needs, with appropriate bathrooms, ramps and lifts throughout the complex, and the option of borrowing a wheelchair if needed.
Lockers are available on the ground floor for leaving small bags and other luggage, requiring a one euro coin to operate (returned after use).
Tickets and Prices
While it’s not necessary to purchase tickets in advance, the oceanarium is often quite popular, especially at weekends or during the height of the summer tourist season. A small number of ticket vending machines are available alongside the manned kiosks, and using them will often be quicker than waiting in line.
To speed things up even further, however, you can also purchase tickets via the website ahead of time. Only combination tickets (ie, access to both permanent and temporary exhibitions) can be purchased online, but they’re valid on any day up to four months after the date of purchase, and are slightly cheaper than purchasing in person.
Tickets to the permanent exhibition cost 16€ for adults, and 11€ for children aged 4-12. Children three and under enter for free. A family ticket that covers two adults and two children costs 42€. Whichever ticket you buy, you'll pay an extra 2-3€ per person if you want to check out the temporary exhibition as well.
If you’re interested in the various guided tours, prices vary significantly depending on what you’re looking for. To take a look behind the scenes, simply add 5€ per person. You can book for groups of 8 or more ahead of time, or otherwise just ask about when you arrive.
For a tour of the permanent exhibition, you’ll pay for a standard ticket for each person, plus 80€ (or 4€ per person, if you’re in a particularly-large group of 15+ people). The "sleeping with sharks" experience costs a flat 60€/person. Other prices are on the website.