Get to know Parque das Nações — What to see and do around UXLx venue
Updated 15 May 2023
We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect setting for UXLx. The FIL Meeting Centre is located in Parque das Nações (Nation’s Park) right in the heart of the newly renovated Lisbon Eastern Business District that overlooks the beautiful Tagus river.
Since you’ll be spending some time in this neighbourhood while in Lisbon for UXLx we’ve put together this guide with the top things to see and do around Parque das Nações.
The neighbourhood — from a desolated industrial wasteland to a futuristic glass-and-steel district
Parque das Nações used to be an ugly industrial area but that changed completely when it was chosen to host Expo 98, the World Exposition of 1998. The whole area at the eastern end of the city’s waterfront was rebuilt for the event. The modern architecture completely contrasts with the city’s old historic quarters of downtown. After the event, the site became more than just an office and residential area. It attracts locals and tourists alike that come to enjoy the sights, architecture and attractions.
The exhibition coincided with the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s arrival in India and the United Nations Year of the Oceans. The theme was “The Oceans: A Heritage for the Future”. Due to this and as you’ll see several constructions are named after the explorer and many exhibits, gardens, and buildings have some water connection.
Arrive at the stunning Oriente Station
If you’re getting to UXLx by metro then this is where you’ll be arriving. Gare do Oriente, as it is locally known, is a metro, bus and train station. This modern, bright white, arched construction designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava simply does not go unnoticed.
🚇 Tip: If you’re coming to UXLx straight from the airport (5min ride) or if you’re staying downtown the simpler way to get to the venue is by taking the red metro line and drop off at Oriente station.
Vasco da Gama bridge — Europe’s second longest bridge
Built in 1998, just in time for the Expo, it stretches for 17 kilometres and it’s the second longest bridge in Europe (surpassed by the Crimean Bridge in 2016). It’s one of the two bridges in the city, connecting Lisbon with Setúbal district across the Tagus river estuary (the other one is Ponte 25 de Abril — the one looking like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco). Its name honours Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea, exactly five centuries before the inauguration of the bridge.
Fly over Parque das Nações in a cable car ride
To get wonderful panoramic views over the area go for a cable car ride. It extends the length of the neighbourhood, from the Oceanarium in the south to the Torre Vasco da Gama in the north, covering a total distance of 1.2km. The trip will cost you 7,50€ (one way) or 9,50€ (round trip) and it’s open all year long.
Go under water in Oceanarium
Oceanário de Lisboa has the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, holding 5 million litres of seawater. The main building rises from the Tagus and its circular design centres around a giant indoor tank that allows you to get a fascinating view as you head in and out of the other four outer tanks that represent the four oceanic ecosystems. You’ll get up close to cheerful sea otters, threatening sharks, giant sunfish stingrays, and clumsy penguins. It houses over 400 living species.
Marvel at the gravity-defying Pavilhão de Portugal
Known for its remarkable undulating roof it was designed by the Pritzker-award-winning architect Alvaro Siza Vieira. It was based on the idea of a curved sheet of paper balanced between two bricks. The amazing roof weights an impressive 1400 tonnes.
Stroll along the river
With such a great location many of our attendees take some time during the lunch break to get to know the surroundings. When you leave the venue’s front door, if you head to your left you’ll be in the waterfront in literally a minute. So you can stretch your legs a bit and enjoy a walk along the river or simply sit back soaking up the sun. If you choose to go to your right you’ll discover some of the funnier elements in Parque das Nações — the exploding water volcanos. Sit in one of the benches under the palm trees and expect the water eruption at anytime.
Right next to our venue there’s a building that looks like a spaceship. That’s Altice Arena where many of the city’s biggest concerts happen.
Also very close you’ll see a water mirror flanked with several flags from the countries that participated in Expo 98. Can you spot your country’s flag?
You’ll find curious works of art by national and international artists scattered around the waterfront. The most recent one is the giant Iberian Lynx by Portuguese artist Bordallo II, made from garbage and plastics.
Very close to the venue you’ll also find Jardins Garcia de Orta. These charming small gardens are lovely to go for a walk while enjoying the exotic flora from Brazil, Goa, Mozambique, Macau, Cape Verde and Azores — places where the Portuguese explorers arrived during the Discoveries.
If you walk along the waterfront, past Vasco da Gama Tower, all the way to the Vasco da Gama bridge, you’ll get to the pleasant gardens and lawns where you can sit and admire the magnificence of the bridge and the river. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the bird species from the Tagus Estuary.
If you head further south you’ll find the Jardins da Água (Water Gardens) where you can pass beneath the wonderful waterfall.
Look up to the ship inspired Towers
Vasco da Gama Tower — Styled as a ship’s mast and a crow’s nest, the tower is Lisbon’s tallest building (145 meters). As many other buildings in the neighbourhood it’s named after one of Portugal’s greatest explorers.
At the top of the tower there’s a viewpoint with a 360º view of the city, reached by panoramic glass elevators. The space was closed for 25 years but has just reopened as Vasco da Gama Tower Babylon 360º. Besides a viewpoint, it’s also a bar with cocktails inspired by the spices from the East and a natural vertical garden. To go up you’ll need a ticket — 10€ (until 6PM) or 15€ (after 6PM, consumable value)
Right bellow there’s a Michelin-Star restaurant — Fifty Seconds — owned by the Spanish chef Martin Berasategui. The building right next to the tower was built afterwards and is a 5-star hotel.
São Gabriel and São Rafael Towers — These two twin apartment blocks were built after the Expo, one of then opening in 2000 and the other in 2004. They were designed to represent the Portuguese caravel ships, and resemble the hull of a boat. They are actually named after the two ships Vasco da Gama used on his voyage to India.
Shop around Vasco da Gama shopping centre
One of Lisbon’s largest shopping centres and probably the most beautiful, with unique architectural features. There you’ll find the trendiest clothing stores, a food court, a supermarket, several customer services and a cinema. It’s located right across the street from Oriente station.
If you’re looking for a quick (and cheap) bite to eat then the food court is a great option. There you’ll find international fast-food restaurants (McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Pans&Company) or get a taste of Portuguese flavours (Sr. Frango da Guia, Portugália, Alentejo). You’ll easily get a meal (drink included) for less than 8€.
Discover how science can be fun at Pavilhão do Conhecimento
Pavilhão do Conhecimento is a modern science museum that holds a permanent collection of fun and interactive science experiments. Each year, new temporary exhibits are presented in the main and secondary halls. It’s a great place to go with children.
Enjoy a laid-back nightlife
With some fine restaurants and stylish bars, Parque das Nações is a great place for an evening meal and a more relaxed night.
From Italian to Asian or Portuguese cuisine there’s a large variety of traditional and internationally inspired restaurants and bars along the boardwalk. Many of them offer terrace seating so you can enjoy the nice view.
After dinner, try your luck and hit the tables at Casino Lisboa. It’s not just a place for gamblers, it also offers several music and comedy shows in its large auditorium and has several restaurants inside, including a rotating one.
We could hardly have chosen a more ideal venue setting for UXLx than Parque das Nações, a place where you can find contemporary architecture, delightful gardens, exhibition centres, great restaurants, all located along a breathtaking 5km stretch of the Tagus riverfront.
How excited are you to explore it while in Lisbon for UXLx?