Inaugurated in 1898, the Vasco da Gama Aquarium is one of Lisbon’s oldest science institutes. Don Carlos I, a Portuguese diplomat, naturalist and a pioneer in oceanography founded the aquarium and named it in honor of famed Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. However, the aquarium was dedicated to displaying Carlos I’s findings from a dozen marine exploration missions he led off the Portuguese coast around the turn of the 20th century.
Today, the aquarium is divided into two parts: the live exhibit and the museum. The museum is still home to artifacts and samples he collected on his groundbreaking journeys exploring Portugal’s rich marine life. The museum section features Carlos I’s old charts, notes, laboratory equipment and preserved invertebrates, sharks, fish, and sea shells. The live animal exhibits focus on marine life of the cool waters of the North Atlantic Portuguese coast, but also has creatures from tropical waters. Visitors can experience life under the sea with exhibits featuring seals, otters, sea turtles, amphibians, octopi and tropical fish.
This small aquarium and oceanography museum is off Lisbon’s traditional tourist trail and is particularly fun for kids and those interested in the early days of marine research. Don’t miss the massive coy pond outside the aquarium — for a small fee,
visitors can get fish food and feed the brightly colored coy.
The Vasco da Gama Aquarium is located at Rua Direita do Dafundo, 1495-718 Cruz Quebrada – Dafundo and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 4.75 € for adults, 2.40 € for seniors over 65 and for children and teenagers ages 6–17. Admission is free for children under 6.