Portugal's Museums: Lisbon Museums
Museums in Lisbon
Lisbon, for a European capital of its size, has a fantastic variety of excellent museums, many of them of world-class standard. See a listing of some of Lisbon's best museums and galleries.
The Belem Tower, in Belem in the west of Lisbon is one of the city's finest historical sites. Easy walking distance from the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Museu Nacional dos Coches, the Belem Tower is best visited out of season or in the early morning before the crowds arrive. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 35m-high Belem Tower was designed by the military architect Francisco de Arruda between 1514 and 1520 as part of a defensive system at the mouth of the River Tagus. The fortress was named the Torre de Sao Vincente de Belem after the patron saint of Lisbon.
The Benfica Museum (Museu Benfica Cosme Damião), at Estádio da Luz, in Lisbon opened in 2013 and has quickly become a popular attraction not just for supporters of Benfica who come to visit from all over Portugal but also foreign tourists interested in Portuguese football. The Benfica Museum is named after Cosme Damião (1885-1947), the man most responsible for the Benfica's birth and a famous player for and coach of the team, which remains Portugal's most well supported club. The Benfica Museum is well curated and can take a couple of hours to see all the exhibits on the three floors.
The Berardo Collection is a showcase for the modern and contemporary art collection of multi-millionaire Jose (Joe) Berardo, one of Portugal's richest men. The works on display in the well-designed galleries cover major movements in 20th and early 21st century modern art. The Berardo Collection includes examples of conceptual art, hyper-realism, minimalism pop art and surrealism with a concentration on American and European works. The collection, valued at over 300 million Euros also comprises works of modern and contemporary Portuguese art.
Casa dos Bicos / Fundação José Saramago
The Casa dos Bicos ("House of Points" or "House of Spikes") in the Alfama district of Lisbon, is now part of the Museu de Lisboa, which also includes the Palácio Pimenta, Santo António, Teatro Romano and the Torreão Poente. The 16th century house is known for its unusual facade lined with over 1,000 diamond-shaped spikes. Casa dos Bicos also contains the José Saramago Foundation (Fundação José Saramago), which is devoted to the life and art of the Nobel Prize-winning author. Personal items from the novelist are on display along with a library for researchers and Saramago's books on sale in a variety of languages.
Casa-Museu Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves
The Casa-Museu Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves is housed in the former residence of the Portuguese painter José Malhoa (1855-1933) in Lisbon close to the Picoas metro station. The house dates from 1904 and contains Gonçalves' eclectic collection of Chinese porcelain from both the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. In addition, the house contains a large display of Portuguese paintings by José Malhoa, Silva Porto, Joao Vaz, Antonio Ramalho, Carlos Reis, Mario Augusto and Marques de Oliveira. The museum's collection also exhibits paintings by Ricardo Hogan, Francisco Vieira Lusitano and Domingos Antonio Sequeira.
Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida
The Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida is the former art-nouveau mansion of businessman António Medeiros e Almeida (1895-1996), who made his money importing British cars to Portugal in the 1930's and later in the aviation and sugar industries. His superb, eclectic collection of around 2,000 pieces displayed in the house consists of Chinese Qing porcelain, paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, a Portuguese silver tea and coffee service used by Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile, fans, luxury silverware, snuff boxes, furniture and an incredible collection of clocks, watches and other timepieces. The original mansion is kept very much as it was when inhabited by Medeiros e Almeida and his family, while a new wing built over the garden in the 1970's houses the main body of his collection.
Centro Cultural de Belem
The Centro Cultural de Belem is a fine example of modern Portuguese architecture and an important venue for a number of the capital's cultural events. The Centro Cultural de Belém houses an Exhibition Centre, a Congress Hall, a Reading Room and a Theatre. The center hosts classical music concerts, opera, jazz, dance and art exhibitions. The Centro Cultural de Belem (CCB) is the largest cultural facilities building in Portugal.
Convento do Carmo
Convento do Carmo is an historic ruin in the Chiado district of Lisbon, which is the city's most striking example of the devastation caused by the 1755 earthquake which struck the city. The Convento do Carmo originally dates from the late 14th century and was founded in 1389 by the Constable D. Nuno Álvares Pereira. Nowadays the ruined Gothic church is used as the Museu Arqueológico do Carmo (Carmo Archaeological Museum). Exhibits include Roman remains (ceramics, mosaics), a Visigothic pillar, as well as a series of tombs including that of King Ferdinand I in the exposed nave.
The Fado Museum (Museu do Fado) in the Alfama region of Lisbon not far from Santa Apolonia Station and Lisbon Cathedral (Sé) is a must for fans of this most traditional style of Portuguese music. Housed in a fine building, the museum exhibits over 14,000 items from Fado performers, including musical instruments, paintings, photographs, records, clothes and magazines. The museum also examines the place of fado in Portuguese culture in a series of paintings by artists such as José Malhoa, Constantino Fernandes and João Vieira. The Museu do Fado also hosts temporary exhibitions - often music-related - as well as proving a school for the practice and performance of the genre.
Fundação Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva
The Fundação Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva is housed in the former 18th century Royal Silk Factory at the Jardim das Amoreiras and is dedicated to the work of artists Arpad Szenes (1897-1985) and Vieira da Silva (1908-1992). Arpad Szenes of Hungarian-Jewish descent and Vieira da Silva from Lisbon in Portugal married in Paris in 1930. Both were abstractionist painters. The two story museum's collection covers a long period of painting and drawing by the two artists: from 1911 to 1985, for Árpád Szenes, and from 1926 to 1986, for Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, as well as engravings by Vieira da Silva from 1990-1991, just before her death.
The Gulbenkian Museum (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum) is Portugal's finest museum and one of the best collections of classical art anywhere in Europe. The over 6,000 pieces (with around 1,000 on permanent display) housed in a renovated 1960s building were the eclectic collection of Armenian oil magnate and multi-millionaire, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869-1995). On his death in Lisbon, Gulbenkian bequeathed his vast acquisitions of art to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian).
Gulbenkian Museum: Modern Collection
The Gulbenkian Museum Modern Collection is part of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and exhibits modern European art from the latter years of the 19th century to the present day with strong representation by artists from Portugal, Britain and also Armenia. Works include pieces by Sara Afonso (1899-1983), José de Almada Negreiros (1893-1970), Paula Rego, Sonia Delaunay, Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (1887-1918), Arshile Gorky (1904-1948), Vieira da Silva and Arpad Szenes, Graham Sutherland (1903-1980), Bill Woodrow, Anthony Gormley and David Hockney.
Mãe d'Água (Museu da Água)
The Mãe d'Água ("Mother of Water") is at the end of the impressive Aqueduto das Águas Livres and is a huge 18th century reservoir designed by the Hungarian architect Carlos Mardel in 1746. The central water tank is approximately 7.5 metres deep with a capacity of 5500m³. It is possible to climb on to the flat roof of the reservoir for fantastic views over the area and as far as the River Tagus. The Casa do Registo at Rua da Amoreiras, controlled the flow of water for the supply of the city's fountains, convents and palaces.
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT)
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) is housed in a former red-brick coal-powered Tejo power station that was formerly the Museum of Electricity (Museu da Electricidade) and once provided power for the whole of Lisbon. Visitors can tour the various rooms and their giant pieces of machinery where the processes involved in power generation took place. Signage in both Portuguese and English offers comprehensive explanations and there are video quizzes for kids and hands-on scientific games at the end of your walk around the vast space.
Museu da Carris
Museu da Carris is a homage to the company's long history of public transport provision in Lisbon since 1872. On display are historic trams and buses, including double-deckers as well as documents relating to the development of public transport in Lisbon. The museum, which opened in 1999, is divided into two sections with the old documents and small objects such as maps, tickets and uniforms in one building and the vehicles and carriages in another. You travel from one part to the next on a free tram ride.
The Maritime Museum (Museu de Marinha) or Navy Museum is located in the west wing of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos close to Belem Tower in the Belem district of Lisbon. The Museu de Marinha, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, is dedicated to the history of Portuguese ships, shipbuilding, seafarers and nautical navigation particularly during the Age of Discoveries, when Portuguese boats traversed the oceans of the globe on sea routes to India, Africa, Asia and South America reaching such far flung places as Macau and Japan.
MUDE - Museu do Design e da Moda
The Museu do Design e da Moda (MUDE) is dedicated to modern design and contemporary fashion of the 20th and 21st centuries since around 1930. The museum's core exhibits include the 1,200 piece haute couture fashion collection of businessman Francisco Capelo as well as the work of over 200 modern designers: Masanori Umeda, Phillipe Starck, Paul Henningsen and Henning Koppel among them. Visitors can also enjoy the clothes of such famous fashion gurus as Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Paco Rabanne and Vivienne Westwood.
Museu Bordalo Pinheiro
The Museu Bordalo Pinheiro is dedicated the life and art of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (1846-1905). Bordalo Pinheiro is known for his prolific output of ceramics, sculpture, illustration and caricatures. Active also in the literary arts, Bordalo Pinheiro founded several periodicals where he could showcase his illustrations and cartoons including his iconic Zé Povinho character - a rustic, Portuguese everyman. Bordalo Pinheiro came from an artistic family. His father, Manuel Maria and his brother Columbano were both successful painters.
Museu da Presidencia da Republica
Museu da Presidencia da Republica (Museum of the President of the Republic) is situated in the Belem district of western Lisbon close to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem Tower, the Maritime Museum and the Monument to the Discoveries. The Museu da Presidencia da Republica is housed in Belem Palace (Palácio de Belém), the official residence of the President of Portugal and previously the official residence of Portuguese monarchs. The Museu da Presidencia da Republica is modern facility and opened in 2004.
Museu de Lisboa
Museu de Lisboa (Museum of Lisbon), close to Lisbon University, is the new name for the former Museu de Cidade (City Museum). The Museu de Lisboa is now spread over five locations: the Palácio Pimenta, Santo António, Teatro Romano, Casa dos Bicos and the Torreão Poente (which holds temporary exhibitions). The Museu de Lisboa is headquartered in the beautiful 18th century Palácio Pimenta and its gardens and dedicated to the history and culture of Portugal's capital from prehistory to the present day.
Museu Militar (Military Museum) is the largest in the country and among the largest in the world. It housed in a grand building that was formerly the Royal Arsenal, where foundries were established to build artillery pieces and cannons from the late 15th century of Portuguese history. The museum displays an extensive collection of armour, weapons, paintings, uniforms and historical military documents. One room in the museum is dedicated to the explorer Vasco da Gama with a collection of old cannons and modern murals depicting the discovery of the sea route to India. Vasco da Gama's sword is also on display here. Another room is dedicated to the Peninsular War, fought by Portuguese and British troops against Napoleon.
Museu do Aljube
Museu do Aljube is a must-see for visitors interested in the contemporary history of Portugal and the country's transition from authoritarianism under António de Oliveira Salazar and the Estado Novo (New State) to freedom and democracy in the 1970's following the Carnation Revolution. The sombre and thought-provoking Aljube Museum - Resistance & Freedom is dedicated to the memory of the fight against dictatorship in Portugal and the resistance for freedom and democracy.
Museu do Combatente
Museu do Combatente is located in an 18th century fort guarding the approach to Lisbon on the River Tagus and is dedicated to the men and women killed in action among the Portuguese armed forces from their bloody involvement in World War I through equally grisly conflicts in colonial Angola and Mozambique. The Museu Do Combatente displays a collection of uniforms, arms, a tank, the cockpit of a Fiat G91 aircraft widely used by the Portuguese Airforce during the Guerra do Ultramar (Colonial Wars) in Africa, many World War II vintage model aircraft and a number of pieces of artillery.
Museu de Arte Popular
Museu de Arte Popular was inaugurated in 1948, following the reconstruction of the "Secção da Vida Popular" pavilion built for the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition (Exposição do Mundo Português) of which the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) was a major symbol. The various rooms of the museum recreate the various regions of Portugal and were designed to display local folk art. The outside of the building is also designed in a rural Portuguese style.
National Coach Museum
The National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) in Belem is the best museum of its type in the world dedicated to historic horse-drawn coaches and is a very popular attraction in Lisbon. Following a recent redevelopment a new building designed by Portuguese architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, opened in 2015 in a space that was occupied by the Oficinas Gerais do Exército (old General Military Workshops). This striking modern building now houses the main collection of around 70 beautiful 17-19th century horse-drawn coaches, berlins, chaises, cabriolets as wells sedan chairs and litters.
National Tile Museum
The National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) could lay claim to be the city's most beautiful museum, housed as it is in the former convent of Madre de Deus, founded in 1509 by the widow of King Joao II, Dona Leonor of Lancaster. All that remains of the original structure is the fine Manueline doorway but the 18th century interior is a perfect backdrop to the national collection of azulejos (tiles). The museum displays azulejos from the 15th century to the present day including a 37m-long panorama of pre-earthquake Lisbon made in 1730. Other works come from as far away as the Ottoman Empire and Goa in India.
The superb Orient Museum (Museu de Oriente) was established by the Fundação Oriente (Oriental Foundation) in 1988 to foster ties between Portugal and the nations touched by Portuguese expansion and exploration in Asia, typically Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka and India. The Fundação Oriente was primarily funded by gambling revenue from Macau until the 1990's. The Museu de Oriente sets out the Portuguese presence in East Asia with an excellent collection of Asian art and artifacts including Namban (southern barbarian) art from Japan (exaggerated depictions of foreigners by Japanese artists), porcelain from China, furniture from Goa, India and folding screens from both China and Japan. Other exhibits include textiles, paintings, religious icons and oratories, masks, weapons, suits of samurai armor, a large collection of exquisite Japanese inro and netsuke plus old sea charts and documents.
The Puppet Museum (Museu da Marioneta) is housed in the elegant and historic Convento das Bernardas, just a short distance north west of Cais do Sodre Station. The Museu da Marioneta is Portugal's only museum dedicated to puppets, puppetry and puppet theatre and has been at its present location since 2001. From 2008, the Museu da Marioneta also began to display puppets from other parts of the world particularly from Asia (notably Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam) as well as Africa to showcase a collection donated by puppet enthusiast Francisco Capelo.
The Sporting Museum is dedicated not just to the football team but a total of 32 different sports teams that represent the Sporting name. The museum is divided into eight areas including exhibits on the founding of the club by José Alvalade aka José Alfredo Holtreman Roquette (1885-1918). Other sections include the early history of the club and its various stadia across Lisbon and the many trophies won by the different sporting disciplines of Sporting. A further section is dedicated to the many stars of Sporting including Cristiano Ronaldo, who played for Sporting before his transfer to Manchester United and then Real Madrid. Other Sporting greats include José Travassos, Luis Figo and Alberto Acosta.