International Specialised Expo

22/05/1998 - 30/09/1998

The Oceans: a heritage for the Future

Official Designation
Lisboa Expo’98 – 1998 Lisbon World Exposition

Area (ha)



The theme of the oceans

Beyond the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's arrival in India, Expo 1998 Lisbon, recognised by the BIE General Assembly on 8 June 1994, had a specific theme: "The oceans: a heritage for the future". It was mainly focused on proposing new ethics in relations between man and his natural environment and contributing to raising awareness with regard to respecting the oceans. Indeed, by a declaration of the United Nations, 1998 was the International Year of the Ocean, so the topic fitted well. Thus, besides the Expo's content, the Independent World Commission on the Oceans presented its final report at the Portuguese Pavilion. The simultaneity of these two events made the topic of the oceans a priority on the global political arena.

The Expo was a success, attracting over 10 million visitors. The figures for the participants were also impressive: 143 countries and 14 international organisations were present.

Buildings as remarkable as the Expo

The highlight of the Expo was without any doubt the Oceans Pavilion that sheltered the Oceanarium. With more than 500 species represented and a volume of water equal to four Olympic size swimming pools, the Oceanarium was one of the first aquariums in Europe. Since its opening, more than 12 million tourists visited the Oceanarium. Among the other noteworthy buildings, are namely the "Gare do Oriente", which became one of the main transport hub in Lisbon , the surprising Vasco da Gama Tower, the huge bridge of the same name and the Park of the Nations' cable car, which allowed the visitors to move within the Expo.

A varied cultural programming

Promoting cultural diversity was also one of the Expo's goals. Visitors were spoilt for choice: street performances, opera at Camoes Theatre, 17 stage spaces dedicated to music, activities for children, movable stages... Along with this rich programming, there were two side festivals: 100 Days Festival and Festival Dive into the Future.

An amazing urban redevelopment opportunity

Expo'98 was exceptional because its double legacy: it illustrated Portugal's modernity on the world stage and at the same time completely redesigned the neglected Eastern part of the city. This fantastic redevelopment project enabled the birth of a new neighbourhood using components from the Expo site. This former industrial wasteland is today the main business district of the city and a pleasant place to live.

The Expo: a catalyst for the city and country's development

In addition to the international assertion of Portugal, the Expo had a significant impact on tourism but also on employment and economy. Indeed, according to a survey from the Ministry for Equipment and Planning of Portugal, 1.2% of the GDP and 0.6% of the employment may have been attributable to the Expo in 1998. With regard to a long-term vision it is worth mentioning the tourism boom. Since 1998, in Lisbon, tourism has increased faster than in any other European city.