Lisbon’s Oceanarium

We enjoyed our morning wandering around Lisbon’s Expo area – especially the cable car ride and after lunch it was time to visit the Oceanarium, originally our main reason for coming to this part of the city.

After stacks of pre-trip research I read many times over this was one of the most impressive aquariums in the world. We have trekked around our fair share of these sorts of places down the years with Son in tow. We’ve seen big and glitzy aquariums and many less so but still quaint, charming and rustic. Fair to say we have a point of reference I think and with that in mind I’m not sure I would award this place the “most impressive” title. The building is striking however and although this (apparently) the largest salt water aquarium in the world is not unimpressive it was not my favourite part of our Lisbon trip.

We bought our tickets – expensive – and ventured inside. Sinking hearts all round as soon as we got through the door. The building was so packed, tons of tourists plus it seemed like every school in Portugal was also here on a visit. Noise levels were loud to say the least and I was instantly put off. Had we not bought our tickets I would have run straight out the door.

This was probably the main reason we didn’t enjoy our aquarium experience here. Anywhere packed to capacity and indoors on a gorgeous sunny afternoon is not a fun place to be. We had to push our way through the crowds to even peek at the tanks and displays. This was not quite the fun family day out I was anticipating.

There is a huge central tank and four adjacent ones representing different ocean environments. Plenty of creatures both the odd and the recognisable, our favourites hands down were the sea otters.

We followed the well marked route around viewing the sea and underwater world on a number of levels – albeit mainly from the back of a large group of people.

An interesting film gave a behind the scenes look at the aquarium. I did enjoy this but we didn’t linger too long inside. The crowds and noise made us long to escape and head back to the old streets of Lisbon. That is just what we did….

46 thoughts on “Lisbon’s Oceanarium

  1. That’s a shame to hear it didn’t quite hit the mark – big crowds are a turn off for me too. Sometimes I find that reviews filled with superlatives can (unfortunately) set the bar too high for attractions like this one.

    • Absolutely Rosie, I think having read about how great it was definitely did raise our expectations too much. The crowds though were unbearable, I just yearned to be back in the old part of the city.

    • The crowds were horrific Marion, it was packed to beyond capacity which is never fun. I think what made it worse though was we could have been wandering around those gorgeous old streets in the city instead of being stuck indoors!

  2. I hate when that happens. Large crowds always ruin be experience which is one o f the things I love about being retired. Off seasons and mid week trips work perfectly😊

  3. Well you know from reading my blog that I utterly loathe crowds. I actually get panic attacks from being in very crowded situations. I, therefore, can’t stand it when I’ve been looking forward to something and it’s then ruined by being too crowded. Aquariums (like zoos) are always expensive which makes it worse when the experience doesn’t meet expectations.

    • The crowds here were unbearable and unbelievable Laura, as bad as anything I’ve ever experienced. Like I said had we not bought those (expensive) tickets I would have been straight out the door. As it was we didn’t stay too long and were all much happier out in the open air again!

  4. So sad that your visit wasn’t awesome… we have the same problem with our Vancouver aquarium. It is so popular with tourists and school groups that the trip has to be timed very carefully! Having a membership as a local takes the edge off, as it lifts that burden of “this better be worth the ticket price” and we can pop in and out. Having travelled a bit too we are starting to get more discriminating about what makes any place a “great” destination… I’m glad it’s not just us. You did get some lovely shots though, which make it look all sea blue and peaceful. Just wanted to say thank you again for keeping your blog going. The last year or so has been rough for us at times, but it is always nice to read about your travels and live vicariously. So inspiring. Happy summer!

    • I think anywhere packed to capacity is never a fun place to be. We are learning too about being a bit more discriminating and sometimes opting out of the places that get the best reviews and recommendations for that very reason. Thank you for your lovely comments about the blog, so sorry to hear things have been tough but I hope they get better. We’ve had a rough couple of years as well and still a bumpy few months to come but I feel as if writing this blog and reading other people’s travel tales is a lovely escape from reality. Sending you lots of good wishes.

  5. We loved this place, but we arrived in late September at the end of the day and basically had the place to ourselves… I think that’s one reason we loved it so much, we were alone. The size of the place didn’t really warrant much time, so it worked out for us, but I can see how large and very noisy crowds would be very off-putting! All in all Lisbon seems to have treated you right…

    • Oh the crowds here Hilary, I think that was the problem. Had we been here on our own we probably would have loved it too. As it was, getting jostled and having to squirm to get to see anything was not ideal. Bad planning on my part to visit in peak school holiday time I think!! You’re right though, Lisbon did treat us well, we loved it and I would go back in a heartbeat.

  6. Sorry that your visit wasn’t as good as you’d hoped Joy. We have always loved aquariums too and used to take our daughters there when they were younger. We had a lovely visit to the Western Australian one (AQWA) a few weeks ago with our elder daughter and granddaughters (well I did at least as Monsieur was at work). Despite the school holiday crowds it was not unpleasant – obviously winter holiday crowds in Perth are not like summer ones would be in Europe! The highlight here is a conveyor belt that transports you underwater and you get so close to the fishes. The sharks and sting rays are always the favourite attraction and they were being fed when we went round so you could see them even closer! You still got some great shots in the Lisbon one though! Hope you’ve had a good week and have a relaxing weekend πŸ™‚

    • I love those conveyor belts in aquariums Rosemary, we’ve been on one (somewhere – can’t remember where) but it is such a great experience to look up and around at the creatures!!! I think it also helps keep people moving and not lingering which is great too. The crowds here were the main problem, it was packed to capacity and just none too pleasant. Had there been less people I think we would have enjoyed it a lot. We’re mid school holidays now, getting organised after our week away and mid planning another break in Devon in a couple of weeks. The sun is shining too which is always good Rosemary!! Hope your weekend is a lovely one too.

      • Yes thanks Joy we had a good weekend and the weather fined up too after a cold and wet week. Crowds can be too overwhelming at times – it must have been so difficult to see the displays. Your summer plans sound lovely- we used to go to Devon a lot for summer holidays! We stayed on the edge of Exmoor, which I loved though we drove around to many places too – hope you have wonderful weather! πŸ™‚

  7. That’s unfortunate that the experience wasn’t what you had hoped. Any time you end of somewhere with a large noisy crowd is unpleasant as far as I’m concerned.

  8. I too dislike crowded noisy places – what a pity that you didn’t enjoy this aquarium as much as you could have on a quiet day. I particularly dislike it when kids make so much noise in aquariums and zoos – I had a recent experience in Rotterdam’s Zoo when roving swarms of school children made so much noise that they terrified a tiger into hiding! And the teachers did nothing, just chatted amongst themselves and ignored the yelling and banging on the glass partitions. It was awful. Wherever we walked, we saw them doing this at the other exhibits too. I felt so sorry for the animals, and appalled that no one stepped in to teach them some manners and respect for the animals who have nowhere to hide – and for the people who want to enjoy them in peace and quiet.

    • Absolutely Reggie, it is one of my bugbears in places like this where even the signs ask for people to be quiet around the animals and they disregard them. Like you say, if the teachers in this did nothing how could the children know this was the wrong thing to do.

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