The best museums in Lisbon

Lisbon does not have museums of overwhelming size, like the Louvre in Paris or the Prado in Madrid, but it does have a very interesting variety of museum spaces, some of them unique in the world. We have made a selection of those that we think are really worth a visit. There are museums for all tastes, from the most modern and interactive to the most traditional, for lovers of art, history, science, tiles and even... cod.

1 – Lisbon Story Center

The Lisbon Story Center is located in Praça do Comércio and is the most captivating, fun and quick way to get to know Lisbon's history. As the museum's website says, "visitors will travel back in time as if through a picture book brought to life". So, for children, it's great! And both they and adults will never forget the sensation of having the ground shaking underneath them. In fact, everything will tremble for long seconds in this simulation of the 1755 earthquake, which is the highlight of the visit. Simply unforgettable! The museum is very interactive, technology-based and tells, in chronological order, the main events of the city.

2 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is part of a foundation with the same name, created in 1956 by the testament of Calouste Gulbenkian, a philanthropist and oil trader of Armenian origin who settled in Lisbon during World War II. The museum houses one of the most important private collections of international art and includes six thousand works, from antiquity to the early 20th century. There are paintings by Manet, Degas, Renoir and Monet. In addition to the museum, the foundation includes a Modern Art Centre, a bookshop, a vast programme of activities and classical music concerts, as well as a magnificent garden, a paradise of green and peace in the midst of the bustling city.

3 – Museu do Azulejo

It is one of the museums preferred by foreign tourists, due to the uniqueness and beauty of the tiles that still cover many of the buildings in Lisbon. Housed in a former convent from the early 16th century, this museum tells the story of ceramics and tiles in Portugal, "seeking to draw attention to the need and importance of protecting what is the differentiating artistic expression of Portuguese culture in the world", as can be read on the museum's website. Don't miss the chapel covered in gold, which is part of the museum, as well as the giant panel on the top floor, which shows us Lisbon, from the River Tagus, before the 1755 earthquake.

4 – Museu Nacional dos Coches

It is a museum unique in the world. And if, at first glance, it doesn't seem very interesting, by the end of the visit you will be amazed by the coaches and carriages you saw, true masterpieces of art, mostly from the Portuguese Royal Household. It is easy to imagine kings, queens and princesses on parade; it is not so easy to imagine how these animal-drawn vehicles were able to travel thousands of miles, like those used by Filipe II of Spain to visit Lisbon in 1619. The coach used on that occasion by the Spanish monarch is the oldest in the museum's collection, which is currently housed in a modern building in Belém, next to the former Royal Riding Arena, where the museum began in 1905.

5 – Museu Coleção Berardo

If you like modern and contemporary art, this is the museum of reference in Lisbon. The Museu Coleção Berardo is located in the Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB) and presents the most significant artistic movements from the 20th century to the present day. You can appreciate works by famous names such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Francis Bacon or Andy Warhol. In addition to the permanent collection, with nine hundred works, the museum also has a wide range of temporary exhibitions, always of great quality. You can take advantage of your visit to discover the CCB's other spaces and cultural activities.

6 – Museu da Marinha

Located at the western end of the Jerónimos Monastery, in Belém, the Museu da Marinha is a must for anyone interested in the golden period of Portugal's history: the maritime expansion of the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese navigators sailed to meet seas, lands and peoples unknown to Europeans until then. The vessels of the time, the nautical instruments, the daily life on board - all this is covered in the permanent exhibition, which also includes the evolution of the merchant and military navy, as well as naval aviation, represented by the hydroplane "Santa Cruz", in which Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral completed the 1st Air Crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922.

7 – Centro Interpretativo do Bacalhau

How did cod become one of the symbols of Portuguese gastronomy? And what is the best way to cook it? You can find the answer to this and many other questions at the modern and interactive Centro Interpretativo da História do Bacalhau, located in Praça do Comércio. The history of cod fishing and consumption is fascinating. Thousands of men would head out to the cold seas of the north Atlantic every year, spending around six months inside a ship in very harsh conditions, fishing and salting the fish - called the "bread of the seas" during the Estado Novo dictatorship. Besides the exhibition area, the centre also has a grocery store and a restaurant. 

8 - Museu Bordalo Pinheiro

This is not where you will buy the famous Bordalo Pinheiro ceramics, but in this museum you will certainly spend a few hours of fun, which will make you look at the well-known green platters, in the shape of a cabbage or leaf, in an entirely new way. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro was one of the most important personalities of 19th century Portuguese culture, with a remarkable production in the areas of comic drawing, caricature and ceramics. At every corner of the museum you will be surprised by the genius and irreverence of the creator of Zé Povinho, a satirical character, adopted as the personification of the Portuguese people. The museum is located in Campo Grande and also has much of the work of his son, Manuel Gustavo, on display.

9 - Pavilhão do Conhecimento - Centro Ciência Viva

There is only one requirement to visit the Pavilhão do Conhecimento: to be curious! And we guarantee that, if this condition is met, you won't even notice the time passing while you visit the various interactive exhibitions of this science and technology museum, located in Parque das Nações, in the eastern part of the city - where the Lisbon Oceanarium is also located. The Pavilhão do Conhecimento has a strong educational component and many exhibits are designed with the little ones in mind. But adults also love it and learn just as much as the kids. There are always several exhibitions going on. Don't miss the "Dòing Oficina Aumentada", a fun space to create, make, experiment, build and share.

10 – Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is the most important museum of art from the 12th to the 19th centuries in Portugal, housing the most relevant public collection of ancient art in the country. Its collections - around 40,000 pieces - include European painting, sculpture, drawing and decorative arts and also collections of Asian and African art, symbols of the relations established between Europe and the East following the voyages of the Discoveries. It is in this museum, created in 1884 and housed in a beautiful palace overlooking the River Tagus, that the Panels of São Vicente can be appreciated. This is a work of enormous importance, representative of the various social strata of the Portuguese society of the 15th century.


Texto publicado a 26 de janeiro de 2022

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