Portugal's Museums: The Algarve
Museums in the Algarve
Aljezur Municipal Museum
The Aljezur Municipal Museum has a little bit of everything housed in an historic building - the old blue and white Town Hall that dates from 1883. There are the usual archaeological remains from the area around town dating back to the Neolithic period, Islamic period ceramics and ethnographic exhibits reflecting the lifestyle of the local inhabitants. These include farming implements, brightly-painted fishing boats, fishing nets, ploughs, domestic crafts and an old horse-drawn carriage.
Aljezur Museum of Sacred Art
The Aljezur Museum of Sacred Art (Museum de Arte Sacra), adjacent to the pretty 16th century Igreja da Misericórdia, exhibits various religious artifacts donated by locally-born Monsignor Canon Manuel Francisco Pardal (1896-1979). On display are paintings, sculptures, and other religious artifacts from the Igreja da Misericórdia and other churches in the area around Aljezur.
Originally the Museu Antoniano building was a chapel built in the 17th century before the 1755 earthquake after which it became the parish church of Aljezur (Igreja Matriz). From 1809 until 1995 the building was a private home. The building was then taken over by the city council and became a museum in 1998. This small, sacred space hosts exhibits dedicated to St. Anthony as well as pictures, paintings, engravings, books and ancient coins.
Casa Museu Pintor José Cercas
The Casa Museu Pintor José Cercas (House of José Cercas) is the former residence of the locally born painter José Cercas (1914-1992) during the last days of his life. The house contains a collection of both Portuguese and foreign ceramics, sacred art, sculptures as well as period furniture. Some of the artist's work and paintings by other Portuguese artists are also on display. The house was left to the municipality of Aljezur and converted into a museum in 1995. it is one of the four museums in Aljezur that can be visited on a combined ticket.
Faro Municipal Museum
Infante Dom Henrique Archaeological Museum, housed in the former convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção in Faro just behind Faro Cathedral is more commonly referred to as the Municipal Museum of Faro. Situated in Praça Afonso III behind an impressive statue of the Portuguese king, the museum is probably Faro's most interesting sight and definitely worth a visit. The Museu Municipal de Faro's permanent exhibits include a range of artifacts from prehistoric Portugal to neoclassical times including pottery, paintings and a large 3rd century Roman mosaic showing Oceanus, the god of the sea, which was discovered near Faro Railway Station.
Ruinas de Milreu
The Ruinas de Milreu take less than an hour to wander and include a number of well-preserved mosaics featuring fish in the bathing area, a nymphaerium or water sanctuary that was later converted into a church by the Visigoths in the 3rd century and a small museum with interesting panel displays explaining the history of the ruins and a number of objects that were discovered on site.
Faro Cathedral (Sé) was built over remnants of a Roman temple, Visigoth church and then a Moorish mosque and was completed in 1251. Except for the tower gate and two chapels, the original cathedral was damaged in the English raid of 1596, destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 and subsequently rebuilt in a hotchpotch of styles, which include Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance.
Slave Museum Lagos
Slave Museum Lagos - the former Slave Market (Mercado de Escravos) located in the old town of Lagos on the Algarve is a fascinating new museum that re-opened in 2016. The museum traces the history of slavery in Lagos and the Algarve from the arrival of the first slaves in the mid 15th century. Black African slaves were first brought to Lagos from the western coast of Africa in 1444. The building now containing the museum was built in the 17th century to house the Royal Overseer's office and from 1755 onwards, the customs house.
Municipal Museum Lagos
Municipal Museum Lagos - is housed in the annex of the Igreja de Santo António in the center of the old town in Lagos. The Museu Municipal Dr. Jose Formosinho (to give the museum its full title) contains a quirky and eclectic collection of archaeological remains from the Neolithic, Visigothic, Roman and Islamic periods alongside Age of Discoveries era swords, muskets and cannonballs, a large display of coins from Portugal and Portuguese ex-colonies plus local agricultural implements as well as temporary exhibitions of modern art.
Portuguese Discoveries Wax Museum
Portuguese Discoveries Wax Museum (Museu de Cera dos Descobrimentos) opened in 2014 in the swanky Lagos Marina. The quirky museum has 22 life-size wax figures presented in 16 historical scenes including Henry the Navigator - the "father of the Age of Discoveries", Vasco da Gama, Portugal's most renown navigator, explorer and adventurer, Gil Eanes, who was born in Lagos and was one of the very first captains to explore the coast of Africa, Bartolomeu Dias, Luís de Camões, author of the classic Os Lusíadas and Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) the Portuguese navigator and explorer who is credited as being the first European to sail across the Pacific Ocean.
Museu de Portimao
Museu de Portimão (Portimão Museum) is located on the riverfront in Portimão in the converted 19th/20th century São Francisco sardine and mackerel canning factory. The Museu de Portimão has been expanded and modernized and as well as exhibits on the area's archaeology has a superb interactive recreation of the production lines and the daily working life in the sardine cannery during its heyday, utilizing extensive video and sound effects within the original, restored space.
Albufeira Municipal Archaeological Museum
Albufeira Municipal Archaeological Museum (Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Albufeira) is a small, but interesting, museum in the old town of Albufeira on the cliff overlooking the beaches of Praia do Peneco and Praia dos Pescadores. The Municipal Archaeological Museum contains the usual mix of archaeological exhibits found in the Algarve: Roman, Visigothic and Moorish and also hosts temporary exhibitions in the rooms on its upper floor.
Albufeira Museu de Arte Sacra
Albufeira Museu de Arte Sacra (Museum of Sacred Art) in the old town of Albufeira is a lovely space in the restored 18th century Chapel of San Sebastian (Capela de São Sebastião). The Museu de Arte Sacra exhibits religious art collected from surrounding churches that survived the 1755 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the region. Highlights of the collections include a beautiful gilded wooden altar along with images of Francisco Xavier, the famous Jesuit, who was active in Asia and Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order.
Silves Municipal Archaeological Museum
Silves Municipal Archaeological Museum (Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves) has exhibits on the history and archaeology of Silves from prehistoric times to the 17th century. Opened in 1990, the Silves Municipal Archaeological Museum is located just below Silves Cathedral and Silves Castle. The museum is built over an 18m-deep, 4m wide well that dates from the Almohad establishment of the city in the 11th century. The site was formerly occupied by a 19th century residence before the building was demolished to form the museum.
Museu de Cidade de Olhão
The Museu de Cidade de Olhão (Olhão Municipal Museum) has various exhibits relating to the history and culture of Olhão as a fishing port in the Algarve since Roman times. These include model boats, beautiful embroidery, clothes worn by the local fisher folk, Roman archaeological remains, black and white photographs of Olhão's distinctive Moorish-style architecture and exhibits on the salt industry, which has remained of great importance in the town's economy over the centuries from the Romans on. As well as the small permanent collection of exhibits, the Museu de Cidade also stages temporary exhibitions.
Faro Maritime Museum
Faro Maritime Museum (Museu Maritimo) is located in the marina (Doca de Recreio) area of Faro. The museum shows the importance of the sea to the region of the Algarve with displays of model ships, including the boats that took part in Portugal's "Age of the Discoveries," nautical instruments, fishing tackle, sea shells, naval knots, and marine life. Only a small fee to enter.