Dozens of public and private collections, many housed in former palaces and convents that would be worth a visit even without their museum displays. That's the case of the Tile Museum and the Decorative Arts Museum, where visitors end up spending much more time than they anticipate. As expected in a great European capital, Lisbon has a wealth of excellent museums, from the world-class Calouste Gulbenkian Museum to the outstanding Ancient Art Museum, and the more recent and acclaimed Design Museum. Other museums have some of the world's most valuable collections of their kind like the Coaches Museum and the Maritime Museum in the Belem district, also home to the Archaeology Museum and the lavish collection inside Ajuda Palace. Lisbon entices the visitor with a superb choice of museums, variously dedicated to ancient and contemporary art, fashion and design, and industry and exploration, among other themes. How to Get There
1. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu Nacional do Azulejo .
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. The earliest examples date from the early 16th century, their multi-coloured design influenced by Moorish azulejo patterns. A huge panel, the Nossa Senhora da Vida altarpiece - a museum highlight - exemplifies the development of Portugal's own style. Another notable piece is the extraordinary 35-metre tiled panorama depicting Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake - the longest azulejo in Portugal! Admission to the museum also grants visitors entry to the church of Madre de Deus, celebrated for its ornate and gilded decoration. Date/time: Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. and Tuesdays 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Price: 5€. Location: Rua da Madre de Deus 4, Lisboa
2. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu dos Сoches.
The National Coach Museum is one of the most visited museums in Lisbon. It shelters a unique collection of royal coaches (and adjoining accessories: uniforms, cloths, harnesses) dating back to the modern era (the 17th to the 19th century). The collection comprises horse-drawn carriages which used to belong to the Portuguese royal families, as well as to the European ones, English and Spanish alike. Date/time: Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Price: 6€ Location: Avenida da Índia 136, 1300-300 Lisboa
3. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.
Portugal's national gallery houses the largest collection of Portuguese 15th- and 16th-century paintings in the country, but this revered museum 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. You could spend half a day browsing the extensive collection, set over several floors. Must-sees include the stunning Panels of St Vincent, painted around 1470 and attributed to Nuno Gonçalves, and Hieronymus Bosch's disturbing The Temptations of St Anthony. Date/time: Tuesdays from 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Price: 6€ Location: Rua das Janelas Verdes, 1249-017, Lisboa
4. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu Coleccão Berardo.
Admirers of modern art will be suitably impressed by the outstanding collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture housed in a gallery that constitutes the Berardo Collection. 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 (CCB). Some of the most celebrated exponents of contemporary art are represented, and Berardo's priceless stash includes works by Picasso, Miró, Dali, Bacon and Hockney. The collection is so comprehensive that the exhibition is rotated. However, visitors are usually regaled with treats such as Andy Warhol's evocative Judy Garland and Roy Lichenstein's dotty Interior with Restful Painting. Canvases by Portugal's very own weird and wonderful Paulo Rego are often given an airing. Date/time: Open every day from Monday to Sunday 10:00-19:00 (last admission: 18:30) Price: To visit some of the temporary exhibitions it may be necessary to purchase a ticket. Location: Centro Cultural de Belém, Praça do Império, 1449-003, Lisboa
5. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu da Electricidade.
A decommissioned early 20th-century electricity generating station has been transformed in to one of Lisbon's most original and fascinating 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 - steam turbines, furnaces, consoles and piping - is all original and imaginatively lit. Date/time: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 am - 06:00 pm Price: Free Location: Avenida Brasília (Edifício Central Tejo), Lisboa
6. Best museums in Lisbon - Fundação Calouste Gulbekian.
The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian has one of the finest collections of art in Europe. There are over 6,000 individual pieces displayed here, exhibits that span over 4,000 years, from Antiquity to the 19th century. Incredibly, they all used to belong to one man, Armenian oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian. On his death in 1955 the multi-millionaire bequeathed his entire estate to the nation. A foundation was established in his name, and a museum inaugurated in 1960 to house the vast inventory of priceless artefacts. Date/time: Tuesday to Sunday between 10.00 a.m.- 5.45 p.m. Location: Av. de Berna, 45A, 1067-001 Lisboa Price: 5€
7. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu do Fado.
In order to learn all there is to know about the history of this musical genre, its evolution, its influences on other forms of art (cinema included), major fado singers and composers, as well as in order to find out about the importance of the fado houses for the preservation and popularization of the celebrated traditional Portuguese songs, the Fado Museum is a destination not to be missed out. The collection sheltered by the museum is complemented by the documentation center which can be visited on appointment only. The museum also organizes live performances meant to entertain the guests and to illustrate the emotional depths thematically explored by fado. Date/time: Every Day 10:00 am - 06:00 pm Location: Largo do Chafariz de Dentro, N.º 1, 1100-139, Lisboa Price: 5€
8. Best museums in Lisbon - MUDE — Museu do Design e da Moda.
The Museu Design Moda is one of Lisbon's more unusual museums in that it's housed in a former bank. The interior of the financial institution was gutted to make way for a rotating collection of design and fashion classics, with the emphasis on vintage apparel. 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. Creations by savvy street fashionistas such as Mary Quant and Vivien Westwood are also given an airing, as is clothing by the likes of Paco Rabanne and Georgio Armani. The museum also showcases celebrated interior designers including Phillipe Starck and Charles and Ray Eames. There's usually the odd surprise in store like the classic Italian scooter by Piaggio that looks as though it's arrived straight out of La Dolca Vita. Date/time: Tuesday to Sunday (10:00 am - 6:00 pm) closed Mondays Location: Rua Augusta, 24, Lisboa Price: Free
9. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu do Chiado.
Tucked away in a quiet lane in Lisbon's Chiado district, this absorbing museum is renowned 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, a former warehouse, dates from the 1800s but a swanky 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 marvellous decorative panels by Jose de Almada Negreiros and O Grupo do Leao by Columbo-Bordalo Pinheiro. Scattered amongst the displays are works by international artists, notably a portfolio of drawings by Rodin. Date/time: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 am - 06:00 pm Location: Rua Serpa Pinto, 4 1200-444 Lisboa Price: 4€.
10. Best museums in Lisbon - Fundação Oriente.
The Orient Museum's permanent collection, exhibited under the banner 'Portuguese Presence in Asia - Heritage. Memory. Collections' brings together a rare and priceless cache of artefacts from Eastern Europe, the Far East and Indian subcontinent. Arranged according to their country of origin, each piece effectively traces the cultural links forged by Portugal with the Orient. Indeed, the influential Fundação Oriente is responsible for curating the exhibition. Visitors should seek out highlights such as the beautiful 17th-century Namban screen depicting Portuguese explorers arriving in Japan. Another standout exhibit is the enormous, intricately carved teak door found in India. Trimmed with bronze and iron, it's believed to date from the 18th century. Other singular pieces include an exquisite child's cradle from Macau shaped like a boat. And look out for the delicate silver alloy bracelets crafted in East Timor in the early part of the 20th century. Location: Lisboa, Doca de Alcantara (Norte), Avenida Brasilia, Museu do Oriente. Date/time: Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00-18.00. Friday: 10.00-22.00 (Free entry from 18.00 to 22.00) Closed: Monday, 1 January and 25 December. Price: 6€
11. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu da Marinha.
Anyone with a fascination for maritime history will certainly appreciate this engaging museum, which pays tribute to Portugal's proud seafaring tradition. Housed in the west wing of the Jerónimos monastery, tours begin in the Discoveries Hall dedicated for the most part to the history of ship-building from mid-15th century onwards. The hall displays dozens of intricately detailed model ships displayed in glass cabinets. Of singular note is a terrestrial globe crafted by Willem Jansz Blaeu in 1645. The collection of astrolabes is the world's largest. The main building also houses a seaplane, the "Santa Cruz", which made the first trans-South Atlantic flight in 1922. Location: Lisboa, Praca do Imperio. Date/time: Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Price: 5€
12. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu Nacional de Arqueologia.
The museum’s collection is displayed in the nave and the apse of the convent, consisting of exhibits which piece out the history of Portugal, without claiming to offer a thorough approach. The collection is quite miscellaneous, in fact, but some of its highlights refer to the archeological findings excavated from a fortress near Azambuja (these findings date back to 3,500 to 1,500 BC), to a series of royal Gothic tombs, a collection of azulejos (glazed tiles) and a statue allegedly rendering Afonso Henriques (a 12th century king of Portugal). Location: Praça do Império (Mosterio Dos Jerónimos) Date/time: Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. and Tuesdays 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Price: 3.50€
13. Best museums in Lisbon - Museu da Marioneta de Lisboa.
This is a wonderful venue to visit for people of all ages, since the exhibits manage to fascinate both the grownups and, understandably enough, the little ones. The collection consists of more the 1,000 puppets gathered from Portugal, as well as from other countries: China, Indonesia, India, Italy, and New Zealand. Location: Lisboa, Rua Esperanca, 146. Date/time: Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Price: 7.5€