Places to go wild in Lisbon

May 6, 2013

Tourists traveling to Lisbon with young children may want to look beyond the cathedrals, museums and shops. Most in the 10 and younger set do not care that the world’s most expensive chapel, The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist, can be found inside the São Roque Church or that the Belem Tower stands as a world heritage site, honoring the Age of Discovery. Instead, parents may want to mix up the history and architecture lessons with some fun and entertainment for the kids at Lisbon Zoo and Lisbon Oceanarium.

Lisbon Oceanarium

From the flipping sea lions to the gliding manta rays, the Lisbon Oceanarium provides a family-friendly underwater animal experience. On April 13, 2013, the oceanarium celebrated 17 million visitors to the world’s largest indoor aquarium.

The two-story building allows guests to view animals that live at or near the ocean’s surface, like penguins and sea otters, before traveling to the second level to view the animals living deeper in the sea, like jellyfish and eels. The four exhibits, North Atlantic, Antarctic, Pacific and Indian, are at the corners of the aquarium while the world ocean, a two-story tank, dominates the middle.

“It does a lot with a lovely minimal concept, a very straightforward concept. Our planet is one place,” said Peter Chermayeff, the aquarium’s architect.

Check out the sunfish, a rare and primitive creature, in the world ocean. Looking like a pancake with fins at the top and bottom of its body, rather than on the sides, it may remind children of an alien or prehistoric beast.

Additionally, the oceanarium specializes in programs for the whole family, and kids can host birthday parties here, sleep with the sharks, and participate in an underwater CSI investigation, according to the website. Additionally, the oceanarium hosts frequent concerts tailored to infants.

“Bring your kid, wife, grandmother. There’s a lot of connection that’s

made,” Chermayeff said. “It brings people together to find common ground: a shared interest in animals.”

Lisbon Zoo

A thirty minute metro ride away lies the Lisbon Zoo, which was founded in 1884, and once served as the king’s Royal Menagerie. Currently it houses about 2,000 animals, including lions, elephants, orangutans, pythons and cheetahs.

“We have one of the most diverse collections of animals in Europe,” said Marina Duarte, a member of the zoo’s educational department.

The gorilla exhibit provides a shaded spot for guests to enjoy the animals. Three apes, a spunky male and two older, relaxed females, make up the glassed-in exhibit.

“I could watch them for hours,” Duarte said.

Take a ride on the cable cars to see an aerial view of the zoo. Rides are included in park admission.

Let the kids see an animal that’s close to their own size at the pygmy hippo exhibit. These pint-sized creatures are two and a half feet tall and sweat pink, like their larger counterparts, as a form of sunscreen. These animals, along with the others in outdoor exhibits, are most active in moderate weather, like 65 degrees.

Additionally, outside the zoological area one can find the Animax, which is a free entrance area that offers many amusements, restaurants and shops.