Following up on the previous guide of our favourite destinations in Portugal, this week we bring you the best museums in Lisbon. Portugal’s capital is nothing short of cultural options – we could say it is a huge open-air museum – for you to immerse yourself in its heritage. With so many galleries, museums and historical buildings, choosing which ones to add to the top of your list can be tricky. To help you in this arduous task of exploring Lisbon’s cultural scene, we’ve picked our must-go spots.
It’s impossible not to be amazed by the setting and architecture of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT). Located by the River Tagus in the historic district of Belém, the museum comprises two buildings – a repurposed power station which is an example of the industrial architecture back in the days, and a modern site designed by a London-based architecture studio. If that isn’t enough reason for you to visit, you can expect to see exhibitions that stimulate debates, critical discourse and creative practice.
Still in the scenic area of Belém, just a short stroll from the famous Jeronimos Monastery and from the Monument to the Discoveries, the Berardo Collection is the main modern and contemporary art museum in Portugal. You can find works by Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian and Joan Miró, to name a few, in one of their four exhibitions currently on view – they host two permanent and two temporary exhibitions – that celebrate the artistic movements from the twentieth century until the present.
There aren’t many things that remind us of Portuguese culture and identity more than Azulejos – or glazed tiles. You can spot them in façades, historical buildings or as home decorations. It’s only fair they have their own dedicated museum – an ancient monastery that tells the history of the Azulejos in Portugal from over five centuries. We can guarantee you’ll be amazed not only by the tiles’ rich details and motives but also by the Baroque characteristics of the surroundings.
Its six thousand-piece collection spans over centuries of art history. You can expect to view Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian and Decorative Arts, on your visit to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. The namesake foundation behind it is committed to improving people’s lives through art, charity, science and education – they also have an orchestra and choir, art library and archive, and even a scientific research institute. We’d highly recommend you explore their beautiful garden – an oasis of peacefulness and calm in the middle of the city.
The House of Stories – or Casa das Histórias – is a hidden gem located in the scenic area of Cascais. It celebrates the Portuguese artist Paula Rego’s art legacy – drawings, engravings and paintings from different periods of her over 50-year career, some of which were never seen until the museum’s opening in 2011. Her powerful work often reflects social and political criticism – abortion, feminism and human trafficking are some of her recurrent themes – both in abstract and representational styles. Besides the artist’s collection, which is shown on a rotational basis, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and features an auditorium that runs events like talks and documentaries.
By Manuela Rio Tinto
Have you visited any of these museums or have any other recommendations? Let us know!