Portugal is an alluring country, not only for its strategic coastal position, but also for its numerous sights and cultural landmarks. In a country with nine centuries, museums are a strong point. But not only in past lives the Portuguese capital! The present and the future also give cards. We offer you a selection of top museums in Lisbon to help you discover the culture of our amazing country!
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Northeast of Eduardo VII Park is the Gulbenkian Museum, one of the world’s great museums and one of Europe’s unsung treasures. The museum has one of the finest collections of art in Europe and its Antiquity dates the 19th century. It houses a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian, and European art. It was substantially renovated and modernized in 2001 (many of its masterpieces were on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art during renovation), and can’t be missed during a visit to Lisbon.
National Museum of Ancient Art
Portugal’s national gallery houses the largest collection of Portuguese 15th and 16th century paintings, but is also home to a glittering array of European art from the middle Ages to the late 19th century. It’s also known for its rich display of applied art, much of it themed around Portugal’s discoveries era and colonial explorations. The museum is suitably housed in a 17th-century palace, which was built over the site of the St Albert Carmelite monastery, destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. Fortunately the chapel survived and is now integrated into the building.
National Coach Museum
National Coach Museum presents the extravagant transportation vehicles of Portuguese royalty. It is housed in the old Horse Riding Arena of the Belém Palace, formerly a Royal Palace which is now the official residence of the President of Portugal, and represents the world’s largest and most valuable collection of this type and contains dozens of magnificent state carriages, some decorated with depictions of Portugal’s maritime discoveries. One of the vehicles acquired historical fame: it is the landau where the King Carlos and heir to the throne were murdered in 1908.
Berardo Museum at Centro Cultural de Belém
Admirers of modern art will be suitably impressed by the outstanding collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture, the home of one of the finest modern and contemporary art collections which includes works by Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Duchamp and Magritte. Named after a wealthy Portuguese entrepreneur, Joe Berardo, the private collection is on permanent display in a dedicated hall set within the Centro Cultural de Belém. The collection is so comprehensive that the exhibition is rotated.
Inserted in a quiet lane in the trendy Lisbon’s Chiado district, this fascinating museum is famous for hosting some truly modern and innovative temporary exhibitions that provide an interesting contrast against the permanent collection of Portuguese art from the 19th century onwards. The building is a former warehouse and dates from the 1800 but a glamorous makeover has seen the interior transformed into a stylish cultural space. The collection comprises painting and sculpture, the work of some of the country’s most influential artists. Pieces to look out for include the brilliant decorative panels by Jose de Almada Negreiros and O Grupo do Leão by Columbo-Bordalo Pinheiro.
A decommissioned early 20th century electricity generating station has been transformed in to one of Lisbon’s most original museums. The building itself is a beautiful example of industrial architecture, but it’s the interior that truly impresses. Visitors enter through the Low Pressure Boiler Room, the cathedral-like generating hall. The vintage machinery is all original and imaginatively lit. In complete contrast to the theme of the museum, the building also hosts a regular series of contemporary art exhibitions and installations.
Lisbon’s Orient Museum is dedicated to Asian art with a special emphasis on the Portuguese presence in the East. The collection belongs to Portugal’s Orient Foundation and includes Indo-Portuguese pieces, Chinese, Japanese, and Indonesian ceramics, textiles, furnishings, paintings, and masks. In addition to being a museum, this is also a cultural center, with a program of live shows in its auditorium and an education center offering courses in Asian cooking and culture. Asian food is served at the restaurant located on the top floor, and there is also a cafe on the lower level, and a shop by the entrance.
National Tile’s Museum
The only museum in Portugal dedicated to the azulejo, the decorative tile, this superb cultural facility is set in and around the beautiful cloisters of the Convento da Madre de Deus, founded in 1509. The collection showcases the evolution of tile-making and is exhibited chronologically. A huge panel, the Nossa Senhora da Vida altarpiece exemplifies the development of Portugal’s own style.
MUDE Design and Fashion Museum
More than a mere place, the MUDE is also a time in history: a museum where you can discover the objects that helped define the 20th century. Some of the most illustrious names in haute couture from the 1950s and 1960s are represented, designers such as Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Opened in 2009 in a former bank’s headquarters and is one of Lisbon’s most surprising spaces, recognized as one of the world’s leading design and fashion museums.