Lisbon’s modern neighborhood is on reclaimed land from a former industrial site.
Parque das Nações origin story
Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) is a gorgeous waterfront neighborhood in Lisbon. Prior to 1998, it was an ugly area of slaughterhouses and polluting factories no tourist would have any reason to visit. That changed when Lisbon was chosen to host the Expo ’98, aka the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition.
Building on the newly purposed area from scratch, a metro line was added to reach the neighborhood as was a state of the transportation center (Oriente). In addition, the Vasco de Gama Bridge, the longest in Europe, was built to give access to the Setubal peninsula across the Tagus River.
After Expo ’98, the buildings for the event were removed leaving a huge parcel of prime real estate right on Lisbon’s waterfront. This was rebuilt as the new Parque das Nações neighborhood.
Modern buildings along with a world-class aquarium (at the time the largest in Europe), a cable car funicular, mini parks, and a waterfront promenade made Parque das Nações stand out as an almost futuristic neighborhood in stark contrast with the charming historic neighborhoods of Lisbon.
Things to do in Parque das Nações
You can easily spend half a day in Parque das Nações, but if you have the time and want to see the aquarium, a full day would be time well spent.
My favorite thing to do at the Parque das Nações is to walk along the waterfront on the promenade. From there you get amazing views of the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the Tagus River, the cablecar funicular, and the modern buildings in the neighborhood.
There’s also several mini parks along with walk filled with shady trees and other plants along with places to sit and relax. The most interesting pocket park is the Jardim Garcia de Orta which is filled with flora from exotic Portuguese islands like the Azores and Madeira as well as former colonies like Goa (India), Brazil, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé.
For the best views of Parque das Nações, take the Telecabine Lisboa (Cable Car). You can ride roundtrip on the Telecabine, but I like to start at the Telecabine South Station and buy a one way ticket. You’ll ride over Parque das Nações for about a mile and be dropped off at the North Station.
From there, you’re right next to the Oceanário de Lisboa (Aquarium) or, for some adult fun, walk to the Casino Lisboa. Walking back, there’s a lovely boardwalk revealing some spectacular views of Parque das Nações.
There’s several spots to see outdoor works of art in Parque das Nações. A couple of the most striking, a sculpture of a cat called “Iberian Lynx” by artist Bordalo II and Rizoma by Antony Gormley are in Rossio dos Olivais where the flags of the nations are displayed. It’s fun to look at the long line of banners and see how many you can identify.
Places to eat in Parque das Nações
Since Parque das Nações is a residential neighborhood (over 30,000 people live here), there are several good places to eat. At the very top end is Fifty Seconds, a restaurant sporting a coveted Michelin star. The location is also incredible being on the top of the Vasco da Gama tower in the Myriad Hotel. The space resembles the crow’s nest of a sailing ship giving a nod to Portugal’s sea faring heritage. Fifty Seconds is a big splurge with the tasting menu running about 200 bucks and appetizers starting at about 50. But, oh, those views.
Nearby is another architectural gem, the Torre Vasco da Gama (Vasco da Gama Tower). These twin buildings resemble sails fully unfurled and are a striking part of the skyline. Sadly, they are residential buildings so you can’t visit unless you live there or know someone who does.
Vegetarian Parque das Nações
For such a small neighborhood, Parque das Nações certainly isn’t lacking for good veg. options. My favorite place is Vegan Story, a small place a couple blocks up from the water. Their menu changes daily, but everything I’ve had has been outstanding and I especially like their selections of desserts, many of which are delightfully served in Mason Jars.
Just a two minute walk from Vegan Story is another vegan restaurant, M Butterfly by Miss Saigon. They have a more international menu featuring lots of grains, tofu, and vegetables. The menu changes every couple of days and it’s normally prix fixe.
Another great option is The Green Affair. They have 3 locations in Lisbon and one in Cascais. They have great salads and the burgers are decadent.
Finally, daTerra is a Portuguese chain of vegetarian buffet restaurants with locations in Lisbon and Porto. Reliably good.
Getting to Parque das Nações
If you’re in Lisbon, the easiest way to get to Getting to Parque das Nações is to take the Red Line (Linha Vermelha) of the Metro to Oriente. The Red Line is the same one that goes to the Lisbon Airport.
Oriente is a major transportation hub with bus and train service as well as the Metro. In addition, there are local buses that arrive and depart at the nearby Parque Nações Sul bus stop.
From Oriente, you head south, walk through the Vasco da Gama Shopping Center (Centro Vasco da Gama) and across the street to Rossio dos Olivais where the flags of the nations are displayed, putting you in the middle of Parque das Nações.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Monsaraz, and Batalha, Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.