The Lisbon Oceanarium never ceases to amaze me. When I was young and lived in Lisbon, I used to mark my birthday every year with a morning spent hanging out with the otters, nationwide stars that they are, and the inquisitive penguins. And now that I’m a mum, I love taking Charlie to the aquarium at least once a year so we can both lose ourselves in this underwater wonder. It is hands down one of the best things to do with kids in Lisbon.
I have been taking him since he was a baby, but he always got fidgety and moody halfway through, perhaps because of the darkness and the warm air, but this time around I knew he would love it. He is a huge Octonauts fan (if you don’t know them, check here) and he can identify dozens of fish, crabs, sharks and whales just from watching the show and reading the books.
On Saturday we had a full day with both C and his cousin who had stayed over, and we knew we wanted to make it special so we went all out and spent a morning at the Oceanarium!
VISITING THE LISBON OCEANARIUM WITH CHILDREN
Europe’s largest aquarium has been inspired by the oceans, both inside and out. As you approach the impressive building you realise that the only way to get in is through a footbridge, and as you walk over the water, you get the impression that you are boarding a ship.
The Oceanário sits over two expansive floors, with an enormous central 5 million litre tank, that is the home to a plethora of marine creatures including black tip sharks, sting-rays and the huge ocean sunfish.
You start the visit on the aquarium’s top floor, which displays the aquatic life that lives above ground. The first area you visit is the North Atlantic, covering waters from Iceland to the Azores and where you’ll find the beautiful Puffins, several starfish and razorbills.
As you continue, you start feeling the chilly air coming in as you approach the Antartic and find the ever-friendly penguins frolicking on the icy rocks or practicing their Olympic-worthy dives!
If you can manage to get away from the penguins, then you’re in for a treat! The sea otters are next in the Pacific, and this family are almost as famous in Portugal as Cristiano Ronaldo, and a lot cuter if you ask me! Watch them hold hands as they swim, wash each other or play in the water. All together now: AWWW!
Now get ready for jungle-action in the Tropical Indian Ocean, where kids can walk over a wooden bridge and explore a variety of exotic trees and fish including the beautiful Saddle Butterflyfish.
As you make your way downstairs you’ll feel like you’ve submerged into the deep sea, where you’ll be at home with the sharks, the manta rays, and hundreds more colourful fish! Take a seat and enjoy the show – we easily spend more than half an hour just sitting here, snapping pictures, looking in. Sometimes, they look out too! (see photo below)
As you explore the Oceanário further, you’ll find beauties such as the jellyfish, the sea lions and the most searched for fish in the world – Nemo! Sorry, no pics of Nemo, but here’s what he looks like.
There is also a temporary exhibition, which we didn’t visit this time as the boys were famished. Instead we dashed to Honorato Gourmet Burgers for a good Saturday lunch (great menu, and really fab with the kids but not the best burger in town in my humble opinion).
The perfect tie-in with the Oceanário? The cable car ride which is located just behind the aquarium, and that for €5.40 per adult (kids under 4 go free) is a really great value activity to do with little ones. Very exciting for them to be up so high, but a bit scary for me!
- The Oceanário can get really busy, so buy tickets online before you go to avoid the queues. You can just go straight in and show your printed ticket or the PDF on your phone.
- The Ocenarium is well equipped if you’re taking a buggy/stroller or are in a wheelchair. If you can’t find the lift, just flag down a team member and they’ll help you out.
- The visit can take up to 2 hours, so bring a few snacks and water for the kids. I consistently forget and we always have to miss out on the last section as the kids get too cranky.
- How to get there: Taxi (€6-€8 from Baixa/Chiado area) | Bus: 5, 10, 19, 21, 28, 50, 68, 81, 82, 85 (exit at ‘Oriente’) | Metro (exit at Oriente)
- Ticket price: Adults €14 (get 15% off when you buy online here) | Under 12s €9 | Under 4s Free
- Opening hours: Summer : 10am – 8pm | Winter: 10am – 7pm