Nine Reasons You Should Visit The Lisbon Oceanário

Nine Reasons you should visit the Lisbon Oceanário

The Oceanário in Lisbon is easily the best aquarium we’ve ever been to. It’s also one of the biggest, with a fantastic variety of fish and other animals. You’ll find puffins and penguins, sharks and jellyfish as well as the more unusual creatures such as the cartoon-like sunfish and the adorable sea otters.

Here are all the reasons why you should visit.

It’s the largest indoor aquarium in Europe

© Mafalda Frade

The Oceanário is Europe’s biggest indoor aquarium, containing about 25,000 different fish, seabirds and mammals from around the world. But it’s so well designed that it doesn’t feel too big to enjoy.

What’s more, the building itself is really cool. My James Bond-obsessed 12-year-old said it looked “just like an evil villain’s hideout”. The eye-catching building appears to be floating on the water and you enter by crossing a footbridge.

It’s extremely well laid out

The aquarium is on two floors surrounding a massive central tank. The tank is seven metres deep so that visitors can look into it at different levels for close ups of the creatures living at the top and the bottom of the ocean.

The four main areas around the central tank showcase four different habitats around the world: the North Atlantic rocky coast, the Antarctic coastal line, the Temperate Pacific kelp forests and the Tropical Indian coral reefs.

As you wander in and out of the four habitats you keep coming back to the central tank and you’re guaranteed to see something new and fascinating every time. There are lots of helpful signs all over the walls so that you can find out interesting facts as you look around.

The central tank is truly incredible

The central tank is as big as four Olympic-sized swimming pools and contains 100 different species from around the world. Because it’s on two floors you can look into it from different levels which gives you the chance to observe some fish that you wouldn’t normally be able to see.

On the ground floor you can get a better look at the fish that spend most of their time at the bottom of the sea, like the zebra sharks and the guitarfish that look like something halfway between a ray and a shark. You can watch flatfish like plaice, sole and brill burying themselves in the sand and you can sometimes spot penguins diving in-between the rocks.

On the top floor we loved watching the graceful moray eels and the ‘devil fish’ Mantas whose horn-shaped fins work as giant spoons to direct small fish into its mouth.

Like most people, we were particularly taken with the numerous sharks. The sharks here are fed with ten kilos of fish twice a week. We learnt that sharks often shed their teeth and that some of the sandbar sharks have more than 20,000 teeth throughout their lives.

It’s a rare chance to see a sunfish

© Pedro A Pina

We were fascinated by the Ocean Sunfish. It looks like something a child would draw – I’d never seen anything like it in my life. It’s the largest bony fish in the world – more than three metres long and weighs over two tons. It looks exactly like a rock and often lies on its side on the surface of the water to sunbathe.

We were very lucky to see it – the Oceanário is one of very few aquariums in the world to have a sunfish because they are so difficult to care for.

You’ll fall in love with the sea otters

The sea otters, which come from the North Pacific Ocean, were some of my favourite animals in the whole aquarium. They are the only marine mammal to rely on their fur to maintain their body temperature so as a result they’ve got the densest fur in the animal kingdom and spend most of their day grooming their hair.

You can watch the otters doing just this at the Oceanário. They swim to the surface and lie on their backs, rubbing their cheeks with their paws, holding their paws over their furry tummies then rolling around in the water. It’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen – my youngest son and I literally had to be dragged away so that we could see everything else in the aquarium.

You can walk through a rainforest

The Tropical Indian Ocean part of the aquarium recreates the coralline beaches of the Seychelles. The rainforest and the coral reef are two of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Planet Earth. In this area you can go on a walkway through the forest listening to the sounds of birds and monkeys.

…and into the Antarctic

In the Antarctic area you’ll get to see Rockhopper Penguins and Magellanic Penguins from the Falkland Islands – always a huge favourite in any aquarium we’ve been to. Here the experience is made even better by having Inca Terns flying right above our heads.

It’s a great place to shelter from the sun and rain

Lisbon can get really hot in the summer months and when you’ve had a few days of intense heat it can be a big relief spending a few hours in the cool, tranquil space of the indoor aquarium. It can be a blessed escape from the rain too. Despite its reputation as one of the sunniest cities in Europe, it was pouring with rain when we arrived in Lisbon in February. Spending the afternoon in the Oceanário on that first day was a great way to escape the awful weather.

Even the shop is worth a visit

I’ll usually avoid the gift shop if at all possible but I had to make an exception for this one. It’s packed with great products including soft toy penguins, puffins and sharks. I think they’re missing a trick though – we couldn’t find any soft toy sea otters. We’d have bought those for sure!

The Oceanário de Lisboa is open daily from 10am until 8pm, until 6pm during the winter months. Tickets, adults, €14; children, €9; under 4s, free. Family tickets cost €36 for a family of four.

Disclosure: We were very kindly given free admission to the Oceanário but all opinions are honest and my own.

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51 thoughts on “Nine Reasons You Should Visit The Lisbon Oceanário

  1. It looks fantastic, I visited soon after it first opened in 2000. Our entire family love aquariums, they are one of the few places where both young and old are equally fascinated. Have fun x


  2. Wow! That Aquarium looks amazing! How cute are those otters? Just chilling and floating around on their backs. Was it quite crowded when you went? Or did you find it quite peaceful watching the sea life gently swimming around?


    • The otters were unbelievably cute!! We went quite late in the day and it really wasn’t that busy. There’s a lot of space to wander around and sit and watch the central tank so the atmosphere is more peaceful than hectic.


  3. Lovely pictures, Clare.

    Up the walls with course – will email soon and eplain where our lunch date went. xx

    Avril O’Reilly

    Children’s Book Writer and Illustrator

    My new straight-to-the-point one page website


    Liked by 1 person

  4. How adorable are those penguins!? I’m all about birds so I’d probably spend half the visit in the rain forest. 🙂 #citytripping


  5. We had a great visit on Christmas Day a few years ago (pro-tip: they are actually *open* on Christmas day; one of the few attractions in Lisbon that is open). Plus one to your recommendation. This is a great place to spend an afternoon. #citytripping


    • They were all fantastic, Ahila! It was the best possible activity for a rainy afternoon on our first day – we were all exhausted after an early morning flight from the UK but it was so relaxing walking around with the fish and other creatures.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How amazing – I love Lisbon but have not yet managed to visit here. I know my daughter would adore it. The sunfish is astonishingoing too – and otters are always unfeasibly cute #citytripping


  7. This sounds amazing! Aquariums are such great educational spaces and sounds like you learnt a lot – thanks for passing it on – didn’t know otters had the densest fur and the amount of teeth some sharks go through is incredible. Love the sunfish too. Thanks for linking to #citytripping


  8. I looooved the Ocenario in Lisbon, I recommend it to everyone visiting the city. The otters were too cute, I spent a lot of time watching them floating, haha. #citytripping


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