The Palace in Sintra

Pena Palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Portugal. It’s certainly the biggest outside of Lisbon, with good reason. It’s a monumental “castle” on top of a hill in Sintra, it was originally the summer residence of a king of Portugal. During my visit, which included a harrowing trip up the hill through tight switchbacks and narrow roads in a full-size bus, there were quite a few visitors even on a cool day in early May. Because of all the visitors and a lack of a drone or helicopter (hah), it was hard to take big scenic pictures. Instead, I focused on a somewhat color-warped display of pieces of the Palace. Here’s a slideshow.

The Oceanário de Lisboa

The Oceanário de Lisboa

Europe’s largest aquarium or oceanarium, depending on what word you prefer, is also renowned as one of the best in the world. Typical of Portugal, the building itself is an architectural spectacle, with huge effort put into appearance and experience. Crowds enter through a long suspended walkway as if they were boarding a ship.

Gondola Lift Lisbon

Even before reaching the oceanarium itself, the Gondola Lift Lisbon, which carries cabins of eight people on a 1200 meter ride 30 meters in the air, adds to the anticipation. The lift contributes to the feeling of otherworldliness of this seaside strip. There’s also a walkway underneath.

Submerged Forest

A temporary exhibition, “Submerged Forests by Takashi Amano,” was the start of our visit. The exhibition presents Amano’s take on the underwater forests found in the ocean. It’s an interpretation and it’s quite beautiful. Click here for a video about how Takashi Amono built his underwater forests.

Lisbon Oceanarium

Once in the main exhibit area, a huge tank holds a wide variety of fish. The manta rays, some looking just huge, and the sharks are the first to grab attention, but there is a wide variety of fish large and small in the tank. Viewing can be done on two levels and little windows into various segments of the tank occur regularly while wandering through other exhibits.

Lisbon Oceanarium

Looked at as a tableau instead of fish, it’s fun to find scenes resembling abstract art. The bright colors, the variety of shapes and sizes, and the clusters of sea life could be hung on a wall at an art museum.

Lisbon Oceanaria

And the unreality of underwater scenes can be stunning. Salvador Dali would have been pleased to have painted something like this.

Lisbon Oceanarium

It’s a photographer’s paradise, to be honest, it’s not that difficult to snap away and get some amazing results. The exhibits are so well-executed that there’s an opportunity around every bend. The colors, the shapes, the strangeness of seeing the bottom of the “ocean,” these all contribute to that surreal feeling.

Fountain Oriente


Even after leaving, walking across to the mall where the subway station is located, there is a sense of Lisbon’s design. Lisbon truly embraces the modern along with its antiquity, and this odd fountain is typical of the kind of modern sensibility found everywhere, even in the subway stations.

A tip for photographing in aquariums: if you are using a camera, put the lens against the glass, with a phone, get the phone up close to the glass, it will eliminate reflections and defocus dirt on the glass and give much clearer photos.

The Cemetery

The Cemetery

We live just a few blocks from the Cemiterio dos Prazeres, the largest cemetery in Lisbon. It’s mostly (maybe all) above ground burials with mausoleums from small to huge. It’s only open from 9 to 5 now, and even in the summer only from 9 to 6, so the light can be a little intense except when it’s raining. The cemetery was built in 1833 when the cholera epidemic raged, so there are people here who died in the 1700s.

Cemiterio dos Prazeres

The cemetery is like a little town, with streets, steps, and beautiful lookout views to the south. It’s a constant surprise to find another little street of mausoleums and other forms of burial. And families are gathered together after they die inside the buildings in this small town.

Cemiterio dos Prazeres

There are fresh flowers and well-tended mausoleums and gravestones and there are ones showing signs of neglect. The neglected ones probably belong to families who have moved, whose lineage ended, or who lost connection with ancestors over the years. There’s a lot of contrast, some of the abandoned mausoleums are even open enough to reach in and touch the caskets.

The Cemetery Entrance

Anyone visiting the city can easily get to the cemetery by riding the 25 or 28 tram to the end in Campo de Ourique. The entrance is just across the street from the line termination. Give me a shout and I will come out and act as a tour guide!

Here’s a slideshow with way too many photos, some through windows or broken glass and some just outside: