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Explore Modern Lisbon

Few International Exhibitions have had as elegant an afterlife as Lisbon’s Expo 98. Its site on the northeastern bank of the Tagus river is now the vibrant city suburb known as Parque das Nações, or Park of Nations; it’s home to some 22,000 residents, as well as luxury hotels, restaurants, museums, art galleries, shops and the International Fair of Lisbon. Buildings designed for Expo98 are among the architectural highlights of the area.

Outstanding among them is the Gare do Oriente, a major transportation hub. Elevated train tracks are crowned by a distinctive grove of metal and glass ‘trees’, dramatically lit at night. The work of the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, Gare do Oriente incorporates a Metro station, a high-speed commuter and regional train hub, a local, national and international bus station along with shops and a food hall. During Expo 98 the station also served as an exhibition venue and is still used for the occasional fair.

An underground passageway links the station to the Vasco da Gama shopping centre opposite, as does a pedestrian road at street level. The entrance to the present day shopping centre was once the main entrance to Expo 98. A walk through the boat-shaped mall leads out to the reflecting pool that was a highlight of expo and where flags still fly.

The two 110 story towers flanking the shopping centre are residential and commercial buildings built in 2000 and 2004. They’re named San Gabriel and San Rafael after twin ships in Vasco do Gama’s armada.

The ‘flying saucer’ building to the left of the fringe of flagpoles is the MEO Pavilion, Portugal’s largest indoor arena. Designed by Portuguese architect Regina Cruz, it is partially below ground and holds up to 20,000 spectators under its giant dome. During Expo’98, the building was called the Pavilion of Utopia and housed the spectacle “Oceans and Utopias”. Re-named the Atlantic Pavilion and now MEO Arena, it hosts visiting bands and artists as well as events such as the Tennis Masters Championships, the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Web Summit. To check what’s on, visit the website at www. arena.meo.pt

A short walk from the MEO, is the Garcia da Orta Garden, named for a 16th century Portuguese doctor who studied and classified Asian plants. Its vegetation represents the regions of the world explored by the Portuguese during the Age of Discovery.

Combine a tour of Park of Nations with a one hour jog. Run in Portugal offers a ‘Modern Lisbon City run’ with a runner-guide. Tours leave from the Vasco da Gama Shopping Mall at 9.00,10.00,19.00 and 20.00 or book one to suit your own schedule: runinportugal.com

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