The best Lisbon museums

Looking for a fix of culture but not a clue where to start? Here are ten of the top museums in Lisbon

By Time Out Lisbon editors

Posted: Monday June 26 2017

© Casa das Historias

From Classical art to Modernism, from historic palaces to buildings designed by contemporary architects, here’s a brief guide to the the best Lisbon museums.

© Lydia Evans / Time Out

Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

icon-location-pin Estrela/Lapa/Santos

There is painting, sculpture, Portuguese decorative arts and Asian or African art (that take you back to the Portuguese Discoveries era) from the Middle Ages to the 19th century: there are more than 40 thousand pieces to see at this museum, which has national treasures and renowned works of art. Don’t miss the painted porcelain, the fine jewellery, and the grand São Vicente’s panels, on display at the fantastic rooms of this late 18th century palace.

See The light and the charm of Venice through Canaletto’s painting (or Giovanni Antonio Canal’s), The Grand canal from the campo San Vio,
 on display until July 2nd.

Time Out says
©Museu Nacional dos Coches

Museu Nacional dos Coches

icon-location-pin Belém

Time travel, galloping, into what is considered the most visited Portuguese museum ever. It has a new building since 2015, a wide and modern place, where you can see the carriages, the coaches, the pushchairs and strollers, and other vehicles on wheels – like the one with bullet holes: yes, the same that carried D. Carlos and his heir son D.
 Luís Filipe, both murdered in Terreiro do Paço in 1908. The royal’s life is told among these velvet seats. The museum, at its original location, the Picadeiro Real – just a few yards from the new location – was inaugurated 112 years ago by queen D. Amélia de Orleães and Bragança (a French princess who married a Portuguese king).

See Retrato de um aggressor is
 the plastic art exhibition that brings something completely different to the museum and that’ll be on display until July 31st: it’s about gender violence issues.

Time Out says
©Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

icon-location-pin São Sebastião

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, Armenian, came to Portugal in
 the 1940’s. He was just passing
 by but he became ill and ended
 up staying and that’s when he fell in love with
 Lisbon. Fortunately for the 
city that ever since witnessed
 its newfound patron create 
his foundation and museum
 there. The vast and valuable
 collection encompasses several 
historic centuries: it ranges from 
Egyptian and Greco-Roman art
 to the works of Rembrandt and Manet. You must also visit the
 Centre of Modern Art and get lost in those endless gardens, see the ponds and the ducks.

See Portugal em Flagrante – Operação 1, 2 e 3, a semi-permanent collection that narrates, throughout its three floors (designs, paintings, and sculptures) the history of art and culture in Portugal from the beginning of the 20th century until the present day with the fundamental works of its artists.

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©Museu do Oriente

Museu do Oriente

icon-location-pin Estrela/Lapa/Santos
The Museum of the Orient illustrates the long history of Portugal’s relations with Asia, with sumptuous works from the age of the maritime Discoveries but also some rare and unusual pieces, such as the Namban hat in lacquered paper that the Japanese invented in imitation of the pointed hats of Portuguese traders. On Sundays the museum restaurant does brunch with a river view, featuring specialities from Asia.
Time Out says
© Ana Luzia
Art, Design

MUDE - Museu do Design e da Moda

icon-location-pin Baixa Pombalina
Building work from July at the Museum of Design and Fashion means displays will be moved to another space in the city for the latter half of 2016, but until then exhibitions are on at this former bank building on Rua Augusta. Items range from a radio designed by the Castiglioni brothers and a giant lamp by Gaetano Pesce to furniture by Le Corbusier and clothing by Gautier... and even an audio cassette player.
Time Out says
©Paulo Raimundo

Museu Colecção Berardo

icon-location-pin Belém

Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Neo-Dada or Pop Art. Don’t
 be intimidated and trust your senses. Museu Colecção Berardo collects colourful
 art of all shapes, sizes and textures, from paintings to installation art, with the ability to communicate easily. It’s through the works it presents that the history of art and its timeline, from the 20th century to the present day, is told. Boldness and exuberance 
are the adjectives of this permanent exposition, which features Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol or Helena Almeida’s works. Integrated into Centro Cultural de Belém’s building, the museum was baptized with the name of its collector, the madeirense Joe Berardo.

See Pablo Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil (métamorphose), valued at 18 million euros, it’s one the most valuable pieces of this collection.

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Museu Do Aljube

icon-location-pin Santa Maria Maior
This little museum near the Sé Cathedral opened in 2015 in a building with some dark memories. The Aljube was an ecclesiastical prison, then a jail for women and, from 1928, a place where political prisoners were held by the dictatorship of António Oliveira Salazar. The secret police were key to the regime’s functioning, and the museum’s collections include documents that reveal their role and that of censorship. You can also 'attend' a 3D underground meeting with pamphlets tapped out on a typewriter shielded with wood, to deaden the sound of the keys.
© Ana Luzia

Casa das Histórias

icon-location-pin Cascais
This building designed by prize- winning Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura is the jewel in the crown of the Bairro dos Museus in Cascais, a ‘Museum District’ created to generate synergies between 12 local institutions. It stages two temporary exhibitions a year but 22 paintings and 29 drawings by Rego, one of Portugal’s best- known artists are permanently on display; among highlights are Centaur (1964) and Angel (1998).
©Palácio Nacional da Ajuda

Palácio Nacional da Ajuda

icon-location-pin Ajuda
It is hard now to imagine the shack made of wood and cloth that Dom José I, king at the time of the 1755 Earthquake, had built here in the aftermath of the disaster. This, Portugal’s last royal palace, was built on the site of that shack and today houses items dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Since 2014 it has been possible to visit the queen’s private chapel, where you can see a late work by El Greco, The Veil of Veronica,thatistheonly painting by the artist in Portugal.
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©Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

icon-location-pin Beato
In the former Convent of Madre Deus, built in the 15th century, visitors are transported back in time to when mosaics progressed rom being pavements to become decorative elements in their own right, thanks to Moorish influence. Dom Manuel I started the fashion in 1508, when he ordered 10,000 azulejos (ceramic tiles) from Seville for his new royal palace in Sintra. But this museum has lots more to offer, including a 23-metre tile panel depicting the city of Lisbon before the 1755 Earthquale.
Time Out says
Fotografia: Arlindo Camacho

MAAT - Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia

icon-location-pin Belém

Whether seen from the top,
 the side or from the inside, Lisbon’s new cultural space is a guaranteed jaw-dropper. The beauty and elegance of the structure, projected by the British architect Amanda Levete, matches perfectly with the modern and dynamic interior that promotes contemplation and dialogue about the works of art produced since the mid 20th century: over 250 national artists are part of this collection. The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology invites artists, architects and intellectuals alike to think about the subjects and the tendencies of contemporaneity – inaugurated in October 2016, it intends to present over 20 new exhibitions per year.

See Utopia/Distopia, that uses
 Thomas Moore’s most iconic book’s 500th anniversary as an excuse to discourse about the state of things with the help of over 60 works of art (until August 21st ).


Museu de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado

icon-location-pin Chiado

It’s right at the centre of the commercial commotion and that’s why it’s the best place to give consumerism a break. Built where the old São Francisco da Cidade convent used to be, the museum has a prized and diverse collection, which reflects the movements and the artists from the second half of the 19th century and how it evolved – this means that you cannot only learn from Romanticism, Naturalism or Surrealism through paintings and sculptures, but you can also admire the videos and installation of Portuguese artists.

See A Sedução da modernidade,
 on display until April 15th of 2018.
 The paintings and landscapes are determinant for you to think about this particular epoch when the paintbrush was the chosen instrument for boldness and provocation.

©Bruno Lopes
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