Are you traveling to Portugal and looking for information on what to see Lisbon?
Well, in this post you can discover my experience, and some tricks to visit the most beautiful and interesting museums in Lisbon.
But first I have to tell you something!
Yes, because to tell the truth, the museums of Lisbon have left me a little dumbfounded. Most of them are very small, and the number of rooms is rather small.
However, this feature is also good because it allows you to visit them quickly. In fact, sometimes I am rather afraid to visit important museums like the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums or the Capitoline Museums, because there are so many beautiful things to see, that at a certain point I don’t know where to look.
In Lisbon, however, the various masterpieces are scattered among different museums so, to see them all, you have to do a little tour and you need some time. But this means that you can focus only on the masterpieces that really interest you, and carefully choose only the Lisbon museums you really want to visit.
Obviously the quality of the exhibited artworks is very high and splendid masterpieces are kept there.
But which are the most interesting museums in Lisbon?
I’ll tell you soon!
Index of topics
Tours and tickets in Lisbon you can book online
How to save with the Lisbon Card
If you want to visit the museums of Lisbon and save money, I recommend buying the Lisbon Card, a card that guarantees you discounts and free admissions in many museums and monuments of the city. You can buy it online or at the tourist office located in the center of Lisbon, near the commercial market.
I recommend it because it cost only € 20 and you will save a lot of money. In fact, it includes transport in Lisbon and also in the close city and various discounts on other attractions, as well as museums.
But here is another advice that will be useful to you!
As I told you, the Lisbon museums are rather small. This, unfortunately, greatly affects the quality of the visit because at certain times of the year they are very crowded. My advice is, therefore, to take advantage of the morning opening at 10:00.
I know, waking up early to visit a museum isn’t exactly on the list of things to do on vacation. But if you can, try to be among the first visitors of the day, you will avoid the crowd and stress!
Finally, you should know that you can buy several combined tickets for the Lisbon museums, such as the Convento dos Jéronimos, the archaeological museum, and the Bélem tower. Obviously this advice is only valid if you want to visit all three of them, but I always look for formulas for more monuments/museums where possible.
Well, now let’s start to understand what the Lisbon Museums you should visit, starting with the largest in all of Portugal!
1 – Museum of ancient art in Lisbon
If you are taking a tour of the museums of Lisbon, you are surely interested in starting from the largest museum of Portugal, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (MNAA), located right on the road to Bélem.
The Palace in which is situated this important Lisbon museum is called the house with green windows (Casaas Jenelas Verdes) and is particularly important for a specific reason. It is indeed here that the Marquis of Plombal, one of the most important figures in Portuguese history, lived.
Despite this, the external appearance of the National Museum of Ancient Art seems rather austere to you, and to be honest, even a bit ugly.
But don’t be fooled!
As had already happened to me at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Lyon, the beauty of this place is entirely within its walls.
Inside you can, in fact, discover the most important art collection in Portugal, with works that start from the Middle Ages up to the 17th century.
But what’s there to see?
The part that I liked the most is definitely the beautiful Pinacoteca. Here you can not only find works by Portuguese artists but also beautiful masterpieces by Durer, Raphael, and Bosch, including the beautiful “temptations of Saint Anthony”.
Absolutely not to be missed!
Then, there are a series of panels from Japan, showing the arrival of the Portuguese caravels. They are especially interesting because they express a different point of view than usual, in which the Portuguese are seen as barbarians, rather shabby.
And the Portuguese works, is there anything beautiful to discover?
Absolutely, do not miss the Adoration of Saint Vincent by Nuno Gonçalves, a true masterpiece of Portuguese art of the fifteenth century.
But there’s more to see in this museum of Lisbon!
Yes, because of the great explorers that they were in the past, the Portuguese had the chance to meet a vast number of cultures. Precisely for this reason, on the ground floor of the museum, there is an entire section dedicated to handicrafts from Africa and the Middle East.
Here is some practical information for the Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon!
Like most museums, it is closed on Mondays, and on the other days of the week, the opening times are from 10:00 to 18:00.
The entrance fee has a cost of € 6 which is free with the Lisbon Card.
2 – The archaeological museums of Lisbon: Museo do teatro romano
Like most European capitals, Lisbon’s past also has ancient roots that reach as far as the Roman Empire. You won’t be surprised if there are numerous archaeological museums in the city.
Well, I already told you about the Carmo church museum in a previous post. Here, instead, I want to introduce you to the beautiful archaeological museum of the castle, and a second archaeological museum centered on the remains of the Roman theater in Lisbon.
It is called Museu do Teatro Romano and was opened in 2015.
The interior is surprisingly modern and here you can discover the different excavation techniques, but also some curiosities about the famous Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Perhaps it seems nonsense for you, but due to the earthquake, not only the city was completely razed to the soil, but it also caused the complete arrest of Portugal’s colonial policy.
But that’s not all!
One of the most interesting things about this museum in Lisbon is discovering how the Romans built in this area of the empire, and you can also have the chance to see a stretch of the original Roman Lisbon pavement, really not to be missed.
And what about the Lisbon Roman theater?
This is certainly one of the most interesting things about the museum. In reality, we do not know the precise date of its construction, but all we know is that the works began under the reign of Augustus in the first century.
One of the most interesting things about this structure is its history.
The Roman theater of Lisbon was in fact completely abandoned in the fourth century, to be rediscovered in 1798 during the works for the reconstruction of the city.
This event was both a fortune and a misfortune.
From the urbanistic point of view, in fact, the finding of the theater was a blessing, because the bronze statues were recast for the reconstruction of the city. The misfortune is that, precisely for this reason, no statue has arrived intact up to the present day.
What do you say, did I convince you to visit this corner of the city?
If you need an extra incentive, know that the ticket price is € 1.50, a more than reasonable price!
3 – Lisbon Azulejos Museum
If you don’t have time to visit all the museums in Lisbon, one of those that you really shouldn’t miss is the splendid azulejos museum, which takes its name from the typical traditional ceramics of Portugal.
The first reason concerns the place where it is hosted!
The azulejos museum in Lisbon is in fact located inside a convent of the XVI, built-in Manueline style as the famous Convento do Cristo. It is the Madre de Deus convent and the exhibition halls are located all around the beautiful central cloister. The interior is a real haven of peace, so much so that you won’t even feel like you’re in the city.
The second reason concerns the display of azulejos instead.
This particular art is, in fact, present only in Portugal. These are glazed tiles with white and blue colors, apparently very simple, but probably one of the most famous forms of popular art in this country.
If you notice, you will find them practically everywhere, from the decorations of the most important buildings to the normal city houses.
You’re in love, aren’t you?
Well, at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo you will have the opportunity to discover how this form of painting was born, and its evolution through the centuries … as well as the rarest and beautiful pieces.
Here’s what not to lose!
The most beautiful work of the museum is the famous “panorama de Lisboa”. It is an azulejo of 35 meters that faithfully depicts the city’s waterfront. The most interesting thing is that the work predates the terrible earthquake I told you about, and is, therefore, an important testimony to discover how Lisbon was before the earthquake.
But here’s a curiosity!
The art of the Azulejos has introduced in Portugal in the 10th century thanks to the domination of the Moors. Initially, these were simple geometric representations, because the Islamic religion forbids the representation of human figures. Only later it changed appearance, reaching its maximum expression during the Art Nouveau.
Ah, entry to the museum costs € 5, but it’s free with the use of the Lisbon Card.
4 – Lisbon Gulbenkian Museum
The Gulbenkian is one of those museums in Lisbon that unfortunately, I have not had time to see during my trip to Portugal. Unfortunately I have not arrived in time at the box office and they didn’t let me in.
Such a pity
But then, why I recommend it?
Simple, it is perhaps the only museum in Lisbon that can compete with the Museum of Ancient Art in terms of quality and the number of works kept!
Inside this museum, the entire private collection of Mr. Calouste Gulbenkian, a rich Armenian oilman who decided to move to Lisbon during the Second World War, is in fact kept. The man was so rich that he began to accumulate works of art of great rarity and beauty, starting from Greek artifacts until the European Renaissance, without neglecting even some objects of oriental origin.
What he has created is simply one of the most beautiful and important private collections in the world!
But what to see?
Do not forget to look for the “Portrait of an old man” by Rembrandt (1645) or even the beautiful sculpture of Diana, made for Catherine II of Russia in 1780.
But not only.
Yes, because the entire collection has a really huge number of works. Think that there are more than 6000 of them including some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens, Manet, and Degas as well as the beautiful unique pieces of Art Nouveau you will fall in love with.
Let me give you a piece of advice!
I suggest you take advantage of the visit to the Gulbenkian Museum also to take a lunch break inside its lovely little gardens and ponds. I assure you that they are the ideal place to recover after the endless walks in the center of Lisbon.
The admission price to the Gulbenkian is € 5, reduced to € 4 by purchasing the Lisbon Card. Children under 12 instead enter for free.
To get to the museum there are several buses, but I advise you to go by metro, stop S. Sebastião or Praça de Espanha.
Unlike the other Lisbon Museums, the Gulbenkian is closed on Tuesdays, while other days it is open from 10:00 to 18:00.
5 – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporãnea do Chiado
The Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporãnea do Chiado is really special because it is located inside an ancient Franciscan convent from the 13th century.
Located in one of the historic districts of Lisbon, the Chiado Museum will take you on a journey that starts from the 1850s to the present day, with works ranging from sculpture to painting to drawing.
This museum is also interesting for another reason!
In 1988, in fact, the neighborhood where the museum is located was the victim of a terrible fire that also damaged the convent. I know what you’re thinking, in Lisbon, they don’t have to be particularly lucky.
Due to this incident, the Contemporary Art Museum in Lisbon was reopened only in 1994, with several modern modifications by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
The most important thing is that the restructuring of the complex was not at all invasive, rather it faithfully reflects the monastic lines of the convent, although reinterpreting them according to the modern style.
Want to know and what to see inside it?
As I explained to you, most of the most modern works of Portuguese art are preserved here. The most beautiful is perhaps the beautiful landscapes of Cristino da Silva, but you will also find many masterpieces of symbolist and surrealist art.
In short, if you are a lover of modern art, this is just the place for you.
If I have convinced you to visit it, the Chiato Museum is closed only on Mondays, and the visiting hours on the other days are from 10:00 to 18:00.
The ticket has a cost of only € 4.50 but this museum is also free with the Lisbon Card.
In Lisbon, there are obviously many other interesting museums like the characteristic Carriage Museum or the Berardo Museum, where one of the most important collections of contemporary art in the world is kept.
Are you planning to visit Lisbon and need some other advice?
If you are looking for hotels in Lisbon, you want to book some activities or tickets, please write to me in the comments about the budget you have available and the dates you are interested in.
I will help you to find the best solutions for your needs.