Lisbon: Places to Explore

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Parque das Nações

To prepare for the World Exposition in 1998, Lisbon's officials wisely kept in mind not only the immediate needs of the event, but also the future needs of the city. The result was the Parque das Nações, or Park of Nations, a revitalized district on the banks of the Rio Tejo, 5 km (3 miles) northeast of Lisbon's center. Before it became the Expo 98 site, empty warehouses and industrial waste filled the district, which was once a landing area for seaplanes. Today it has apartment buildings, office complexes, hotels, restaurants, bars, the Centro Vasco da Gama mall, and a modern casino, interspersed with landscaped parkland. It's also home to a marina; the MEO Arena, a venue for major cultural and sporting events; and the Feira Internacional Lisboa (FIL) convention center.

The centerpiece of the Parque das Nações is the popular Oceanário de Lisboa, an aquarium built for the Expo. Near it is the Pavilhão do Conhecimento: a hands-on science museum that is great fun for kids. The Pavilhão de Portugal, with its stunning concrete canopy, housed the host nation’s contribution to the Expo; it was designed by multiple-prize-winning Porto architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, while the soaring Gare do Oriente train station is the work of Spain’s Santiago Calatrava. From the cable car that runs through the area, the views are fine. Beyond the Parque das Nações to its north, parkland continues along the river, affording close-up views of the waterbirds that thrive here. You can make the most of all the open space by renting bicycles or inline skates from the Tejo Bike booth near the Vasco da Gama mall (open summer 10–8, winter noon–6 weekdays and 10–6 weekends).

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