I consider it super important to know at least a little of the history and culture of each city and country we visit. Each place has its peculiarities and I find it incredible how big and culturally diverse our world is. For these reasons, visiting museums and historic places is almost never left out of my travel itinerary.
One of our destinations this year will be Lisbon, so I could not fail to list some of the main museums in the city. The collections are incredible! Some of them are more classic and traditional, while others follow a more creative and innovative line.
National Museum of Ancient Art
One of the main museums in the city focused on art is the National Museum of Ancient Art, which has been around 130 years in the Alvor Palace. It has the largest Portuguese public art collection, and the collection has more than 40 thousand works. There you will find a little bit of everything – paintings, sculptures and various pieces of decorative art.
Several important works for Portuguese culture are exhibited there, such as the São Vicente panels, made by Nuno Gonçalves. Temporary exhibitions are also usually very interesting, so be sure to visit the entire museum and stop by each hall.
National Tile Museum
Portuguese tiles are always one of the most talked about features when it comes to the country’s typical architecture and decoration. Some of them have abstract designs and others tell a story, full of details and super precise and meticulous touches, making each piece unique.
If you are interested in this type of art, take a walk around the National Tile Museum. There you will find several models of a material so common to decorate both interior spaces and the exterior of some old buildings. Part of them are dated from the 15th century. Besides being beautiful, they are full of history.
Archaeological Museum of Carmo
The church of Convento do Carmo was founded in 1389, but much of it was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. During the reign of D. Maria there was an attempt to rebuild the site, but due to lack of money this process was never completed. Today, the ruins of the convent have become a highly visited tourist spot.
In addition to the convent structure, there is the Carmo Archaeological Museum. The collection on display is made up of medieval tombs, pre-Columbian mummies, Roman pieces and various ancient sculptures. It may seem a little morbid, but it is a super interesting collection!
Berardo Collection Museum
To learn more about contemporary art, be sure to go to the Bernardo Collection Museum. Their collection is incredible, including two works by Picasso and a 23-meter canvas by Chagall. As it is a very important space for this type of art in the city, it is one of the most visited museums in Lisbon!
As for exhibitions, they usually have at least three, two of which are permanent and the other temporary. The collection is super modern, with works that explain a little of the main artistic movements of the 20th century. If you are interested in knowing more about the collection, just click here.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
With one of the most important private collections in Europe, the collection of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is simply incredible. In addition to the Founder’s Collection, the museum also has an amazing modern collection, and the museum’s website claims to have the most complete collection of modern art in the city.
One of the facts that most attracts visitors to the place is the diversity of works, both in styles and also from completely different times. Each exhibition occupies different halls and in a short period of time you will have contact with Egyptian, Greco-Roman and several 20th century British works of art.
How about visiting an extremely beautiful museum on the outside and with an even more interesting art collection? MAAT, as I already told you in the post about places to take incredible pictures in Lisbon, is one of the most beautiful museums in the city. It is geared towards art, architecture and technology, with exhibitions that make the experience more interactive and playful.
Because it is a very large space, they have several temporary exhibitions, all very different and interesting. Take advantage of the end of the visit to the museum to take several photos on the outside. The view is beautiful and the photos will be wonderful 😉
Arpad Szenes Foundation – Vieira da Silva
Created with the aim of transmitting part of the work of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva to the public, the Arpad Szenes Foundation is one of the best places in Lisbon for those who want to know more about the art of Portugal. His works are extremely important for the country, and several of them had international repercussions.
The museum’s permanent collection consists of paintings, drawings, illustrations and other personal articles by the artist. The salons that receive the temporary collections tend to be full of works by Portuguese artists and also some international influences. Everything tends to be aligned with Vieira da Silva’s style!
House of Stories
The Casa das Histórias museum may not have the largest collection in Lisbon, but it is just as interesting as the others. The shape of his architecture is very peculiar, somewhat reminiscent of two large pyramids. The project was made by the Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, who has already designed buildings for different parts of Europe.
The collection consists of works by artist Paula Rego, who donated all of her work to the museum. Many of them are unpublished, never exposed before by the artist. The entire museum revolves around the artist, and the permanent exhibitions are also related to her. Generally, each room seeks to show different perspectives of the works and a more interactive way of exposing the pieces to visitors.
If you enjoy cinema and objects related to this universe, do not leave the Cinemateca de Lisboa out of your script. She was created in the 50s and since then she keeps and disseminates pieces related to cinema. Although it also has films, photographs and other international articles, much of the local collection is made up of national production.
The permanent exhibition tells a little about the history of cinema through cameras, tapes and other creations that allowed all technological advances in this area. Temporary exhibitions usually bring more information about Portuguese cinema and are used to change regularly!
Belém Cultural Center
Even though it is not exactly a museum, the Centro Cultural de Belém could not be left out of that list. Their program is very varied, with art, music, dance, cinema and several other themes focused on the cultural part.
His architecture is also beautiful, with huge windows and walls on the outside reminiscent of old bricks used to build castles, you know? This is a great option for those who enjoy art-oriented activities and are interested in knowing more about what the Portuguese are consuming.
Did you like the museums? Even those who do not enjoy this type of tour should add one or two places like these to the itinerary, because they make all the difference to understand more about the place you are visiting and learn a little about their culture 😉