Sacavém is a former industrial area at the mouth of the Tagus River, in the northeast of Lisbon, next to the ultra-modern National Park. Many industries are based here, but the most nostalgic is the ceramics industry. Now, all but one of the kilns are gone, housed in a fascinating museum that introduces Sacavém’s old business of making tiles and pottery.
Sacavém was the site of the mythical battle of 1147, and the parish church has an interesting relic from that time, allegedly. Your eyes will turn to the riverfront, where Europe’s longest bridge spans the estuary, where you’ll find sights and a fascinating world of architecture created for Lisbon ’98.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Sacavém:
From Sacavém you can roam the Portuguese capital to the fullest.
One way to get to Lisbon’s waterfront is to take the Linha Azambuja commuter train to Santa Apolónia station.
From there you can follow the beautiful winding streets of the Alfama district, resting at the scenic lookouts that make every step of the ascent worthwhile.
Hop on the tram here and visit the Cathedral and St. George’s Castle.
Another way to get into Lisbon is to take the Metro Red Line from Oriente or Moscavide near Sacavém.
In a few minutes you can reach the extraordinary Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the famous Commerce Square and the National Museum of Ancient Art.
2. Museu de Cerâmica de Sacavém
Before closing in 1994, the ceramics factory Fábrica de Loiça de Sacavém was a major employer in the town.
It was closed for six years before the site was reconfigured as a tourist attraction and won the Luigi Micheletti Award for Best European Museum in 2002.
At the core is the factory’s large kiln, which has been restored under a remodeled glass roof that can be inspected from an elevated walkway.
You’ll learn about Sacavém’s 20th-century historical background and see the factory-produced tiles, cookware and pottery.
3. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Purificação
The first stone of the parish church of Sacavém was laid by Miguel de Moura in 1596, when the country was part of the Spanish Empire, and he was governor of the Kingdom of Portugal under King Philip II.
This church was built for the Convento de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires e da Conceição dos Milagres.
It still has its discreet Mannerist appearance, with the image of the Virgin in the niches half of the bell tower.
Baptism fonts have a peculiar backstory. Apparently it was the upturned dome of the lookout used by the Moorish warden of Sacavém during the Islamic period.
After his defeat at the Battle of Sacavém, he converted to Christianity and became the first hermit in the monastery’s former church.
4. Capela de Nossa Senhora da Saúde e de Santo André
This pretty chapel with blue and white walls is located in the historic center of the town, Largo Cinco de Outubro.
The plaza is a place to stop for a few minutes, with several cafes with outdoor seating, as well as local shops like bakeries and green grocers around the corner.
The current chapel was built in the 16th century, but there was one earlier, attached to the Pilgrim Hospital.
The lintel bears an inscription commemorating the restoration work carried out in 1756 after the Lisbon earthquake.
The interior walls are tiled in green and white rhombus patterns, while the 18th-century Baroque altar features five gilded wooden angels.
5. Vasco da Gama Bridge
The viaduct of this 12.3 km long bridge marks the southern border of Sacavém.
Anyway, it’s a gigantic building. It is the longest bridge in Europe and winds its way across the mouth of the Tagus River to Montijo.
The project cost over $1 billion and was completed three years before Expo ’98, Lisbon’s international exhibition that revolutionized the waterfront in northeastern Lisbon.
The purpose of the bridge is to lighten the traffic load on the iconic 25 de Abril bridge and make it so that people crossing Portugal from north to south do not have to pass through the center of Lisbon.
According to the design, Ponte Vasco da Gama opens on the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the passage to India.
6. Jardim do Passeio dos Heróis do Mar
If you don’t know enough about the record-breaking bridge, there’s a park on the riverbank directly below it.
Looking out over the vast estuary and seeing the bridge disappear into the distance, you can truly understand the scale of this beast.
The park has water walks, benches that allow you to gaze in awe at the mighty building next to you, and a fishing pier that juts out into the Tagus River.
7. Jose Pedro House Museum
After investigating the pottery factory, you may be eager to learn more about this quintessential Portuguese craft.
In the old center of Sacavém, in Rua dos Combatentes da Guerra, there is also a smaller museum, located in the home of the chief potter of the factory for 40 years.
José da Silva Pedro, who died in 1981, spent the last 20 years of his life building a miniature village of ceramic buildings and figures in his yard.
8. National Parks
Parque das Nações is located south of Jardim do Passeio dos Heróis do Mar, just five minutes from the centre of Sacavém, where Expo 98 took place. It transformed disused industrial land into a futuristic urban landscape with towers, exhibition halls, Portugal’s largest indoor arena, modern art installations and a shopping mall.
There is now a luxurious new marina for quality time with dozens of bars and restaurants, riverside trails and the whole family.
It is highly recommended that everything is lit up at night and you can stroll along the river from Sacavém for a meal or a drink.
9. Lisbon Oceanarium
The main attraction in the park is this sensational aquarium, which is stranded in the water and connected to the pier by a pedestrian bridge.
It’s the most popular day in Lisbon and the largest indoor aquarium in Europe.
There are plenty of tanks and enclosures here, but the attraction’s name is the magnificent Oceanarium, a 5,000-cubic-meter tank that’s 7 meters deep and mimics a marine environment.
This aquarium alone is home to over 100 different marine species, including an astonishing number of sunfish, sharks, barracuda and rays.
In addition, there are penguins and otters, and coral reefs inhabited by starfish, seahorses and a kaleidoscope of tropical fish.
10. Pavilhão do Conhecimento
After lunch, you can turn it into an educational duo and visit this kid-friendly science museum next door to the Aquarium.
This is one of a new generation of attractions that encourages children to learn through experimentation and interaction.
It won’t feel like work to them, but they will gain insights into technology, mathematics, physics and the natural world.
You can ride a bike on a high-speed train, make giant soap bubbles, test your nerves on a stun roulette, and build your own power station.
11. Teleférico da Expo
Take a cable car for a bird’s-eye view of Parque das Nações and admire the majesty of the estuary and bridges.
As the viewing platform of the sail-shaped Vasco da Gama Tower is closed after the exhibition, this is the only way to get a panoramic view of the site.
The cable car goes through the pier and goes down from the tower to the marine aquarium.
The round-trip fee is EUR 5.90 and the attraction operates until 18:00 in winter, 19:00 in spring and autumn, and 20:00 in summer.
12. MEO Arena
There’s always something going on on this 20,000-seat stage, whether it’s an international sporting event, or a big convention for big-name concerts.
Over the past 18 years, dozens of pop artists including Lady Gaga, Shakira, Adele and Justin Bieber have performed here, as well as a range of rock bands.
But if you’re here at any other time, it’s another exciting monument in Parque das Nações.
The architect is Regino Cruz, who took inspiration from the sea to create a roof made of wood rather than reinforced concrete and designed it to resemble a truck, in homage to Portugal’s age of sailing, according to the theme of the expo.
13. Parque Linear Ribeirinho Do Estuario Do Tejo
Away from this massive bridge, the Tagus Estuary is also a natural treasure, home to numerous birds that roost year-round, stopping during migrations or simply wintering in warmer climates.
A few minutes from Sacavém is a park, opened in 2013, with access to 6 kilometers of river, most of which are impassable due to wetlands.
A raised boardwalk takes you along most of the route, with interpretive boards telling you about the stilts, egrets and herons that thrive on the reeds and mudflats.
If you just need a place for a morning jog, the expansive skies over the estuary should keep you energized.
14. Quinta Municipal da Piedade
“Quintas”, rural mansions with their own farmland, used to be plentiful around Sacavém, but industrialized and expanding residential areas made up the majority.
A nearby survivor is the Quinta Municipal da Piedade, which, as the name suggests, is owned by the municipality, turning an 18th-century mansion into an event venue and the grounds a park.
The park is a real treat, with chapels and chapels, one of which is the Teatro San Jeronimo, painted in blue and white enamel.
You can also take your little ones to meet goats, donkeys and chickens on educational farms in olive groves and pine forests.
15. Vasco da Gama Center
Opened in 1999, this mall in Parque das Nações is the best place in your area if you’re looking for some mid-range high street shopping.
Just a 5-minute drive from Sacavém, the center, with Iberian brands such as Oysho, Bershka, Mango and Zara, is now found in almost every major European city.
There’s also a food court with cafes and fast food outlets like Subway and McDonald’s, and a movie theater where every Hollywood movie is in English except for the usually dubbed children’s movies.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Sacavim, Portugal
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