It's difficult to know where to start in this, one of Europe's leading fine arts museums, with exhibits dating from 2000 BC to the early 20th century. From the ancient world come Egyptian scarabs, Greco-Roman jewellery and a giant ninth century BC Assyrian bas-relief in alabaster of a warrior.
Perhaps the two outstanding rooms are those containing Islamic and Oriental art: carpets, robes, tapestries, tiles and glassware, mainly from 16th- and 17th-century Persia, Turkey, Syria and India; and porcelain, jade, paintings and lacquered boxes from China and Japan. The section on European art displays medieval manuscripts, and ivory and wood diptychs. Further on are Italian Renaissance majolica ware and tapestries, and a selection of 18th-century French furniture and silverware. Among the painters represented are Domenico Ghirlandaio, Rubens, Hals and Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Manet and Corot. Save time for the final room and its breathtaking glass and metal art nouveau jewellery by René Lalique.
Audio-guides are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese to help you get the most from the experience. There are also excellent temporary exhibitions, with pieces lent by institutions around the world. Downstairs is an art library (which often hosts midday classical recitals on Sundays), an excellent café and a small gift shop. There's a larger bookshop in the lobby of the main building. Don't miss the Centro de Arte Moderna at the southern end of the park.