Lourinhã, Portugal’s Dinosaur Town

I first discovered the town of Lourinhā by accident when I was sitting in the passenger seat on a road trip and suddenly came upon a roundabout full of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs at the roundabout in Lourinhã, Photo by Becky Gillespie

And then another…

Getting closer to Lourinhã Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie

And then another!

More dinosaurs at the roundabout near Lourinhã Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie

By this point, the Jurassic Park soundtrack had started to play in my head. As I continued to look around Lourinhā while my friend and I were driving through, I noticed several small businesses in town with dinosaur-themed shops in town. Suddenly, a full-scale dinosaur appeared right in front of me. “What is this town?” I thought. “How have I not heard of this place? What is it with all the dinosaurs?”

The town of Lourinhā has fully embraced their dinosaur past, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Residents and dinosaurs live together in Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Let’s find out together today!

History

Lourinhã likely got its name during Roman times due to a local villa. Medieval Lourinhã’s origins are tied to Jordan, a French knight from the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. Granted by King Afonso Henriques, Jordan received Lourinhã as a fief in 1160. The town flourished under the Lisbon Diocese, with churches and monasteries built from the 14th to 16th centuries.

The 20th century truly put Lourinhā on the map for the outside world when the first dinosaurs in Europe were discovered in Lourinhā in a fossil-rich geological formation (now known as the Lourinhā Formation, stretching from Lisbon up the Silver Coast all the way to Porto). 

The Museu da Lourinhā (Lourinhā Museum) was opened in 1984 by Lourinhã’s Group of Ethnology and Archeology (GEAL) and provided the first official place to display dinosaur fossils discovered in the town.

Since then, hundreds of fossils from both the Jurassic and Cretaceous period have been discovered in the geological Lourinhā Formation including fairly complete specimens such as the Lourinhasaurus, a new dinosaur named after the town! Other discoveries in Lourinhā include over 100 well-preserved dinosaur eggs. 

In 2018, Lourinhā had its biggest opening yet with the 10-hectare Lourinhā Dino Park about a 10-minute drive from the center of town. Visitors can see more than 200 full-scale and scientifically proven models divided into six different zones of history. The Lourinhā Dino Park draws more than 25,000 visitors per year and continues to expand.

Arriving at Lourinhā Dino Park

Lourinhā Dino Park is a quick 10-minute drive from the center of Lourinhā. After passing a few dinosaur roundabouts, you will know you have reached the entrance when you encounter a huge dinosaur with an ultra-long tail standing on top of the ticket office. This is the Supersaurus lourinhanensis, a long-necked dinosaur (sauropod) named after the town of Lourinhã!

The entrance to Lourinhã Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Inside the ticket office lies a large majority of the fossils that were previously kept in the Museu da Lourinhā before the Lourinhā Dino Park opened in 2018. Learn more about the dinosaur egg nest discovered in 1993, saber-toothed cats, and massive marine crocodiles, to name a few. You can even watch scientists and volunteers conducting research in a live lab. Signs are in Portuguese and English. 

The Lourinhã Dino Park includes an exhibit area at the beginning, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Exhibits are in Portuguese and English, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Watching researchers in action at Lourinhã Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Park Layout 

Once you exit the ticket office/gift shop and fossil exhibition areas, you emerge onto the edge of a large pine forest behind the main building where over 200 dinosaur models are positioned across six different zones starting in chronological order with the Paleozoic, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. You can also do as I did and start with the Sea Monsters zone closest to the Dinosaur Exhibition and Museum. Ice Age opened in 2023 and features a display of a saber-toothed tiger and a woolly mammoth. Another zone is set to open in 2024.

So many dinosaurs at Lourinhã Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Even more coming to Lourinhã Dino Park in 2024, Photo by Becky Gillespie
No smoking! The dinosaurs are watching!, Photo by Becky Gillespie

The dinosaurs are faithfully recreated based on existing research and you never know what dinosaur you may encounter next as you walk through the zones. The pine forest provides an excellent source of shade and there are signs in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese describing each of the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are painted in bright colors with fine details, and there are even suggested photo spots throughout the park. One standout is the Supersaurus and Jurassic Observation Tower, where you can stand right under the largest model and truly feel the size of how big these dinosaurs actually were! A Jurassic Park moment indeed. 

Learning about so many different dinosaurs, Photo by Becky Gillespie
No smoking! The dinosaurs are watching!, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Photo by Becky Gillespie
Photo by Becky Gillespie
Baby dinosaurs, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Man vs. Dinosaur, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Life-size dinosaurs at Lourinhã Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Kids will be endlessly entertained as they pick their favorite dinosaurs around the park, check out the playground, chisel dinosaurs out of fossils in the activities hall, and try a dino-burger or some dino pasta near the park’s exit. Families can also bring a picnic and eat in a large picnic area near the Activities Hall. 

Finding a dinosaur in the rocks, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Entrance to the Ice Age area, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Lourinhã Dino Park is an amazing place for children, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Plenty of space for a picnic at Lourinhā Dino Park, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Hungry for a dino burger?, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Impressions

Adults and children alike can enjoy the Lourinhā Dino Park. It was much bigger than I expected and was well-maintained. Walking through the pine trees made the land of the dinosaurs come to life. I personally would’ve enjoyed more dino sound effects, as they only seemed to be provided in the Sea Monsters zone. I also would’ve loved to see more animatronics or dinosaurs moving around to add to the entertainment factor (or maybe I’ve just seen Jurassic Park too many times).

Lourinhā Dino Park provides several hours of entertainment and the passion for dinosaurs permeating throughout the park will make you want to return again and again! Be sure to check out Jurassic Nights every Saturday in November if you want to catch a nocturnal glimpse of these fascinating creatures. T-rex in the dark, anyone?

Finally found the T-Rex, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Museu da Lourinhā

After spending a few hours in the Lourinhā Dino Park, I stopped by the Museu da Lourinhā, the original home to the dinosaur fossils in Lourinhā.

History

Opened in 1984 in the former town courthouse, the Museu da Lourinhã focuses on three areas: Ethnography, Archeology, and Paleontology, attracting many visitors and students. Its paleontology section is particularly impressive, with many unique discoveries in and around Lourinhā that have made key contributions to our current global knowledge of dinosaurs.

Visitors to the museum embark on a journey through time starting 250 million years ago. The exhibits showcase various life forms and their activities across different eras – from dinosaurs to modern humans.

Museu da Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie

The museum begins with a walk through a Jurassic garden with plants that are living representatives of flora existing in this period, ranging from cycads and ferns to horsetails and gingko biloba trees.

In addition to several dinosaur models and an outdoor area displaying dinosaur footprints, there is also a thorough breakdown of the different early human ancestors. Many other exhibits on paleontology are now on display in the Lourinhā Dino Park as of 2018.

Dinosaurs at Museu da Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Museu da Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Full-scale model of Lourinhanosaurus antunesi, a unique species discovered in Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Lourinhanosaurus antunesi, a unique species discovered in Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Since I visited the Museu da Lourinhā after the Lourinhā Dino Park, I was most struck by the Ethnography section of the museum, which includes a reconstruction of a historical Portuguese house from the late 19th century. After climbing the stairs and entering an adjoining building, you can see a marvelous collection of artifacts from different trades in Portugal. There are sections on cobblers, potters, carpenters, and even barbers, to name only a few. The spotlight on small details of daily life in Portuguese society is really impressive and may delight you just as much as the dinosaurs. 

The Museu da Lourinhā also includes a history of the town of Lourinhā and common jobs in Portugal, Photo by Becky Gillespie

The museum organizes guided tours, both indoors and in the field, with special programs for schools focusing on geology and fossil formation. It also hosts temporary and traveling exhibitions, displaying original fossils and replicas. Local and international volunteers and paleontology students work with the museum, and educational opportunities are provided through internship programs for secondary school and university students.

Dining with a Dinosaur Bone

Just before leaving the town of Lourinhā, I stopped by a cafe for a quick espresso and pastry. While there were no dinosaur-shaped cookies or dino-themed treats of any kind, I was delighted when I found a replica of a dinosaur bone just next to the baked goods. Lourinhā really does celebrate their dinosaur heritage in the most unexpected ways.

If you would like to stare at a replica of the tibia of a Torvosaurus while eating a delicious pastry, stop by Nellus Pasteleria at Praça Marquês de Pombal, 2530-127

Even cafés in Lourinhā display dinosaur bones, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Final Thoughts

As my time came to an end during my day trip to Lourinhā, I found myself grateful for those dinosaur roundabouts that helped me discover this gem of a small town and its huge prehistoric past. It is certainly worth a visit and many re-visits with your dino-loving friends and family, or even those just looking for a lovely stroll through the pine trees. The way that the town of Lourinhā has embraced its dinosaur past is delightful, and I’m sure it makes everyday life more fun. With new fossils being discovered nearby every year, this town’s past and present have a bright future.

Dinosaurs have taken over the town of Lourinhā, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Visiting Times & Tickets

Lourinhā Dino Park

Address: R. Vale dos Dinossauros 25, 2530-059

Tickets for Adults (13 years+) cost €13.21 (including VAT).

Children (4-12 years old) cost €9.43 (including VAT).

Every Saturday in November, Lourinhã Dino Park hosts “Dinosaur Nights” where you can see the dinosaurs at night until 9:00 PM. As of 2023, ticket prices were as follows: 

Tickets for Adults (13 years+) cost €14 including all-day access.

Children (4-12 years old) cost €10 including all day access.

Tickets can be purchased online at a 15% discount here.

The opening hours for Lourinhã Dino Park (open every day) are as follows:

  • January, February, October, November, December: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Last entry at 3:30 PM)
  • March, April, May: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Last entry at 4:30 PM)
  • June, July, August, September: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Last entry at 5:30 PM)
  • Open every day of the year

Museu da Lourinhā

Address: R. João Luís de Moura 95, 2530-158 Lourinhā, Portugal

Please note that you get a 50% discount on tickets with proof of purchase of a ticket to the Lourinhā Dino Park.

Tickets for adults (12-64 years old) cost €5.

Youth (6-11 years old), seniors (66-79 years old), and those with Youth and Student cards cost €3.

Children 5 and under and press tickets are free.

Tickets for those in a group of more than 10 people cost €2.

Family tickets are also available as follows:

(2 adults + 1 child) costs €10.40.

(2 adults + 2 children or 1 adult + 2 children) costs €12.80.

(2 adults + 3 children) costs €15.20.

Tickets, including different tour options, can be reserved online here.

The opening hours for Museu da Lourinhã (open every day) are as follows:

  • September-June: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM – 6:00 PM (Last entry at 5:30 PM)
  • July and August: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM – 6:30 PM (Last entry at 6:00 PM)
  • Open Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Mondays (except July and August)

Closed:

  • January 1st
  • Easter Sunday
  • May 1st
  • December 25th

How to Get to Lourinhā Dino Park

Coming from the south (Lisbon), use the A8 highway. Exit at N8-2, then follow signs to Lourinhã. Drive on road N247 towards Peniche for about 7km. At the intersection, turn right onto N247-1. Continue for 2.5km to reach Dino Park.

From the north, take the A8 highway and exit at IP6-Peniche. Proceed to the Atouguia da Baleia/Lourinhã exit. Follow the road for 7km. At the intersection, turn left onto N247-1. Drive 2.5km to Dino Park.

Related Tours

Stay up to date
Subscribe To Portugal.com's Newsletter

Receive the latest news, travel information, stories, offers and more!

Invalid email address
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Location

Join our FB group Portugal Travel & Living for all things Portugal and news updates

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Follow Us

405FansLike
297FollowersFollow
159FollowersFollow

Most Popular

Time required to get Portuguese citizenship reduced by 12-18 months

Portuguese residents waiting to apply for citizenship can now breathe a huge sigh of relief! The Portuguese Parliament passed significant amendments on March 5th...

Spain vs Portugal: Which Golden Visa Program is Best?

There has been a lot of talk of Golden Visa schemes over the last few years. Each scheme has different rules and varying levels...

Life After NHR: Latest 2024 Update

Well, there is no doubt that 2023 was a rocky year in Portugal’s rich political history. The year saw changes to the very popular...

Latest Articles