In 2013, I embarked on my first journey beyond the borders of the USA, touring Europe for six weeks with my son and my first stop was Lisbon. I did not anticipate that I would call Lisbon home six years later. The initial allure of Lisbon struck me during my visit to the Parque das Nações (or Expo) area. The contemporary architecture, well-designed services, natural beauty, captivating artwork, and proximity to the river created an impression of an ideal place to live.
Fast forward to 2018, my wife and I visited Lisbon on a somewhat exploratory trip, though we were not considering any foreign country to live in. Revisiting the Expo area with my wife, its charm persisted. The following year unfolded as a whirlwind as we took the necessary steps and moved to Lisbon for an earlier-than-anticipated retirement. Of course, we moved to Parque das Nações. It is the only neighborhood we have lived in for more than 4 years in Portugal.
Location and Architecture
Parque das Nações is situated on the outskirts of the Lisbon city limits. However, it is a fifteen-minute car ride to the Praça do Comércio in light traffic. The area is flat, which makes walking around easier. There are not as many tourists in the area as the main attractions are the Oceanarium and Oriente train station for travel connections. There are also no cars directly along the riverfront, just people walking and biking. The entire area was developed for the 1998 World Expo and all of the previous industrial and manufacturing buildings were removed. The area has a nautical theme, many commercial and residential buildings reflect that in their design. Some of the more prominent icons are the Vasco da Gama Mall, The San Rafeal and San Gabriel luxury apartment buildings, and the Vasco da Gama Tower / Myriad Hotel.
Nature and Walkability
I enjoy the proximity to nature, and we live two blocks from the Tejo River. It’s a great location to watch a sunrise and we have done this on most New Year’s Day. While we don’t have a great river view, once we make the short trip there, we can walk or ride our bikes several miles in each direction. The riverfront towards either the north or south has numerous restaurants and kiosks, many targeting locals and with reasonable prices. There are a variety of unique nature and artistic areas with places to sit and relax. The area is great for people-watching or having a conversation with friends. We live near the marina and a houseboat rental facility. Recently with several new construction projects underway, more restaurants and kiosks have opened.
Transportation is easy and abundant in the area. We have the 728 bus that stops literally outside the door of our building and this will go towards Belem and the Jeronimo Monastery passing by the Praça do Comércio and Cais do Sodre areas. Going in the other direction we can get to the nearby Oriente Station which has buses, the metro, and trains. The end of the 728 line is in Moscavide, an older neighborhood primarily with Portuguese residents. You can catch a reasonably priced bus at the Oriente Station to many places in Portugal such as Porto, Nazare, Setubal, the Algarve, and even cities in Spain such as Madrid and Seville. The country’s trains are also here and high-speed routes to the north towards Porto and Braga and the south to Albufeira and Faro run multiple times a day. Recently the city of Lisboa included their Gira bike system in the monthly transit pass which is another great benefit I have used frequently.
Dining, Entertainment and Shopping
Restaurants, cafés, bars, and kiosks are in abundance. We live in Parque das Nações Sul (south) which has fewer options than the northern section of the district. Two of my favorite restaurants are Tacho do Pescador, which has traditional Portuguese dishes, and I love the various options served in small pots. Tacho do Pescador is located on what I affectionally call “Restaurant Row” as there are more than 20 eateries in a row along the riverfront ranging in cuisine and price. My go-to restaurant near home is Perto Bento. They have sushi and Thai cuisine, and the staff is wonderful. At this point, they know me as soon as I approach the door and ask if I want the Thai Ramen soup I get frequently.
We frequent the Blue Tapas Bar along the river which has consistently had the strongest Sangria I have found. It is the perfect place to gather with friends and spend 4 or 5 hours just enjoying life.
Because this is Portugal there are so numerous bakeries throughout the neighborhood, I sometimes have a hard time deciding where to go. Of course, there are many others but listing them all would take too much time. We do find ourselves even eating at the food court at the mall as it is quick, and the view is fantastic from the terrace.
The entertainment options are great at the Expo with the Oceanarium, Casino Lisboa, Altice Area, and the FIL Pavilhão all within a 10-minute walk. We have often visited the Oceanarium, especially when friends visit from out of town. While I am not a gambling person, I have been to the Casino Lisboa to see a live concert and a comedy show. We have attended several large concerts at Altice Arena and many events in the FIL such as wine tasting, Christmas fair, Pet Exhibit, and Dog Show. My wife also attended a fashion event and ComicCon. WebSummit, a large and popular tech convention is held in the area annually.
The Vasco da Gama Mall is a good shopping destination. While not the biggest one in the city it has enough brands to satisfy most needs such as Zara Home, C&A, H&M, Pull&Bear, Mango, SportZone, a large Continente grocery store, fitness center, and a movie complex. There are more shops within Oriente Station as well as kiosks.
Likes / Not Likes
At a high level, there is so much I love about this area. The feeling of a modern city which I prefer though with close access to historical locations within the city. The ability to get home easily using a variety of methods on public transportation or an inexpensive Uber/Bolt ride. The overwhelming options of restaurants to choose from, many with great views of the river.
The area does not have many tourists though the Hop-On Hop-Off buses go right past our kitchen window. Most people don’t get off the bus unless they go to the Oceanarium. One interesting tidbit is that every Thursday morning before noon, a group of horses rides past our kitchen window with cars escorting them. It never gets old to me. Marathons and 5K’s also go past regularly using the same route.
I do enjoy being within walking distance of many government offices like the neighborhood Junta, a Tax Office, a post office, and our Internet provider storefront. We are a 4-minute walk to a private hospital with great doctors, staff, and equipment. I feel I can get to almost all my basic needs with a 10-minute walk. Access is so convenient I have never driven in Portugal even though I have a Portuguese Driver’s License.
I like the access to the bike paths and many walkways near our apartment. Between two main roundabouts, anchored on each end by statues of the 98 Expo mascot Gil, are different-colored volcanoes that erupt with water during the day at roughly 30-minute intervals.
I am not particularly fond of the prices in some of the restaurants and bars. Parque das Nações is considered an affluent area, and many places cater to that demographic. An example would be the Sky Bar on top of the Tivoli Hotel. It has breathtaking views, but the drink prices are breathtaking too! Like other areas in Lisboa, there is much more smoking and vaping than I would prefer. This is worse in the summer as it is allowed outside on terraces, which is where you want to be.
Due to its infrastructure, Parque das Nacões does host many large events. This may lead to overcrowding temporarily on the public transportation systems in the district as well as large numbers gathering for activities. A recent example was the papal visit that brought an estimated 1.5 million people to the overall area of Parque das Nações, Moscavide, and Sacavem for a two-day period.
However, even these things I consider occasional minor inconveniences, and none detract from the enjoyment of living in Parque das Nações.
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