Museums are some of the most popular things to do in Lisbon, and the city has a wide range of exhibits from classical art to modernism, from historic palaces to buildings designed by contemporary architects.
The following are some of the best.
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The Best Museums in Lisbon
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Museu do Oriente
Av. Brasília 352
Dedicated to the long history of Portugal’s relations with (and exploration of) Asia, the Museum of the Orient is dedicated to Asian art with a special emphasis on the Portuguese presence in the East.
It is housed in a refurbished industrial building on the Alcântara waterfront. The collection includes rare and priceless artefacts like Indonesian textiles, Japanese screens, antique snuff bottles, crucifixes made in Asia for Western export, and the Kwok On Collection of masks, costumes, and accessories.
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.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo
R. Me. Deus 4
Known as the National Tile Museum, this is a ceramics museum dedicated to the azulejo (decorative tile). There is a beautiful collection of mosaics, and you can learn different techniques and styles which date back to the 16th century
It is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus, founded by Queen D. Leonor in 1509. Besides tiles, it includes ceramics, porcelain and faience from the 19th to the 20th century. Its permanent exhibition starts with a display of the materials and techniques used for manufacturing tiles. After this the exhibition route follows a chronological order.
National Museum of Ancient Art
R. das Janelas Verdes
Also known as MNAA, this is an ancient art museum on the Rua das Janelas Verdes in a modernized, 17th-century palace (Palácio de Alvor-Pombal). The historic collection includes painting, sculpture, metalwork, textiles, furniture, drawings, and other decorative art forms from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century.
There is a large collection of Portuguese paintings from 15th & 16th century, as well as historic European art too. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 6pm, with standard admission costing €6.
Palace of Ajuda
Largo Ajuda 1349-021
The Palace of Ajuda is Portugal’s last royal palace – previously the home of the the Portuguese monarchy, though today a museum that focuses heavily on the palace itself and on decorative arts before the 20th century: jewelery, tapestry, furniture, glass and ceramics, as well as collections of paintings, engravings, sculptures and photography.
It is one of the most decadent and magnificent royal palaces in Europe, with amazing colours and furnishings, and an incredible view over the river Tagus. You can visit the queen’s private chapel and see El Greco’s “The Veil of Veronica”.
Lisboa Story Centre
Praça do Comércio 78
A great introduction to the city, Lisboa Story Centre is an interactive museum which showcases the main events in Lisbon which have shaped the city’s history right up until today.
National Museum of Coaches
Av. da Índia 136
Created in 1905 by Queen Amélia to house an extensive collection of carriages belonging to the Portuguese royal family and nobility, the National Museum of Coaches is one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world and one of the city’s most visited museums.
These royal European coaches will fulfill any fairytale!
Museu e Igreja de São Roque
Largo Trindade Coelho 1200-470
Next to the Church of Sao Roque, this museum houses church relics and sacred artwork as well as orient pieces from the Middle East, India, Japan and China.
The Church itself is stunning; the plain 16th century facade belies its dazzling interior of gold, marble and Florentine azulejos – bankrolled by Brazilian riches.
Museu Colecção Berardo
Praça do Império
Opened in 2011, named after José Berardo and his Berardo Collection, the museum is located at the Exhibition Center of the Centro Cultural de Belém, with a collection comprising over 1000 works of modern art on permanent display and temporary exhibitions.
The collection reads like a who’s who of modern and contemporary art with works by Pablo Picasso, Hans Bellmer, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt, Bridget Riley, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly and literally hundreds of other heavyweights.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Av. de Berna 45A
One of the best private art collections in Europe, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum houses a collection of both modern and historic art. You’ll find Eyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian, and European art, and of the many highlights is a haunting gold Egyptian mummy mask.
The collection was amassed over a period of 40 years by oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian, who was one of the 20th century’s wealthiest men. In his later years he adopted Portugal as his home, and donated his art to the country when he died in 1955.
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Photo credits: Museu Nacional do Azulejo by Lisboa Cool via Flickr. National Museum of Coaches by Harvey Barrison.
I spent a week exploring Lisbon but I have to admit that I didn’t go to any museums… Maybe next time :D
Perfect excuse for a return trip at some point :D
We were recently in Lisbon and went to the coach museum, some pretty fancy carriages (not exactly understated). The Modern art gallery was also very good and free entry too.
The Coach Museum is probably my favorite of the lot – I’m a massive rom com girl, obsessed with fairytales and royal history :D Glad to hear you enjoyed the Modern art gallery too!
Here’s to patrons like Calouste Gulbenkian. Hopefully some of that are currently hoarding modern and contemporary art will do the same. Sooner rather than later.
Absolutely – to make such a collection available for the public is an incredible thing :)
Not a museum kind of guy but a Museum for coaches seems interesting. That will take you back in time. Will have to Google this one out.
I never thought of myself as a museum gal either, though the museums in Amsterdam really changed my view. Loved the exhibitions and displays and really fell in love with galleries. I think it will always depend on whether or not you’re interested in the subject matter on display. I agree, the Museum of Coaches is one of my favorites too :D
Great List! I had seen the blue and white tiled convent before but never knew it had been turned into a tiling museum. What a fitting place!
Happy continued travels!
Thanks Carola :) Yes, the National Tile Museum is a beautiful place – they’ve done a really good job!
Lisbon is on my list for this year’s travels. I haven’t thought about visiting any museums, but your article makes me change my mind. I’d love to visit the National Museum of Coaches.
Awesome Violeta, it’s such a fun city, cull of so much culture and life, you’ll have a wonderful time :) Yes, we highly recommend carving out some time for a couple of museum stops. National Museum of Coaches is my personal fav :D
We really love museums. They are windows that reveal interesting facets of the culture, history and heritage of a place. Portugal is a country with such a rich history and interesting past that I am sure its museums must indeed be a great revelation. Hope to get there soon and get a peek into this enigmatic country’s rich history.
Completely agree Sandy & Vyjay … beautifully worded as to the importance and relevance of museums today :)
Wishing you a wonderful trip to Portugal in the future
I have been twice to Lisbon and I have never visited any of its museums, shame on me! Next time, I will be sure I visit O Museo dos Azulhejos, it looks pretty cool and it is very characteristic of the city. Thanks for the list :-)
Third time’s the charm right :D! Highly recommend Lisbon’s museum scene if you do head back in the future – Museo dos Azulhejos is such a beautiful place to start :)
I m not a big museum goer, but the tile museum sounds great, as well as the Palace of Ajuda and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. I m planning a long weekend in Portugal and I will make sure to visit these places some time this year.
I like to think that the Lisbon museum scene is the exemption for those who don’t usually consider themselves museum goers. Enjoy your long weekend in Portugal – definitely consider visiting some of these while you’re there :)
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about Lisbon lately and you just made me crave more! I love museums so much! As in! I need to really put this on my list! Thanks Meg!
Glad we could help! If you’re a fan of museums, you should definitely consider Lisbon for your next trip – some of the most unique and diverse displays / exhibitions that you’ll see elsewhere :) Happy travels!