Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant capital, is an absolute treasure with culture, history, and art. Imagine stepping into a world where ancient artifacts whisper tales of bygone eras, and every corner turned leads you to a new revelation. That’s the magic of museums in Lisbon.
Whether you’re a history buff, an art connoisseur, or a curious soul hungry for new experiences, there’s a museum in Lisbon just waiting to sweep you off your feet.
In this travel guide, I share some of the best museums Lisbon has to offer!
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
Often, I’ve lost myself in the grandeur of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, a sanctuary of art where East meets West in a breathtaking blend.
Yet, the allure of the Gulbenkian extends beyond its Western art collections.
Some exhibits you shouldn’t miss are the Egyptian artworks, the Persian tapestry from the 16th century, and a captivating 12th-century Buddha statue.
This fusion of Eastern and Western art sets the Gulbenkian apart, leaving every visitor with an unshakeable sense of awe.
National Tile Museum
Tucked away from the bustling city center lies Lisbon’s National Tile Museum.
This hidden gem chronicles the evolution of Portuguese tile art and designs through a stunning collection of over 5000 pieces.
Each visit feels like a trip down Portugal’s historical and cultural lanes, as encapsulated by the tiles.
I always find the museum’s collection of Azulejos—the iconic blue and white tiles synonymous with Portuguese architecture— particularly captivating.
One sight you can’t afford to miss is the “Great Panorama of Lisbon.” This 23-meter-long tile mural offers an unprecedented bird’s-eye view of the city.
From tile panels and geometric patterns to intricate figurative scenes, the museum showcases the remarkable versatility and creativity of Portuguese tile makers.
National Coach Museum
Few places capture Portugal’s regal past as poignantly as the National Coach Museum.
The museum is a throwback to a bygone era of opulence and grandeur, housing the world’s most extensive collection of royal coaches and carriages.
From stately 17th-century royal carriages to 19th-century English stagecoaches, you can find a treasure trove of historic vehicles here.
One of my favorites is the golden coach used by King John VI, an epitome of royal luxury.
Standing on the banks of the Tagus River, the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology) is a bold and cutting-edge symbol of Lisbon’s vibrant contemporary art scene.
The iconic wave-like rooftop, appearing to hover above the waters, offers a picturesque backdrop that leaves a lasting impression.
Showcasing innovative contemporary exhibits from around the world, MAAT invites you to ponder on the dynamic interplay between humans, machines, and the environment.
Make sure to climb up to the rooftop terrace for panoramic views of the river and the city.
Tips: You can get a 15% discount on MAAT with Lisbon Card. This card also gives unlimited rides on transportation, and free entry to several attractions.
Museu de Marinha
The Museu de Marinha (Maritime Museum) is a fascinating museum in Lisbon that beckons visitors to embark on a captivating voyage through Portugal’s seafaring past.
As soon as you step in, you’ll see a veritable armada of crafted model ships, antique navigational tools, and ancient maps.
For me, it was like going back to a time when Portugal was a maritime superpower!
Among the museum’s most awe-inspiring exhibits are life-size ships and submarines, allowing you to experience the thrill of standing on the decks of legendary vessels like the “Dom Fernando II e Glória”.
Another captivating piece is the “Portuguese School of Navigation,” a 16th-century masterpiece depicting the voyages of intrepid explorers like Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias.
This exhibit, more than any other, encapsulates the spirit of adventure and discovery that has defined Portugal’s past.
Museu do Fado
Museu do Fado (Fado Museum) is a must-visit for anyone wanting to delve into Portugal’s soulful musical tradition.
This museum is a testament to the evolution and cultural significance of Fado, a genre of music deeply embedded in the Portuguese psyche.
What makes the Fado Museum special to me is its audiovisual archives, housing many Fado performances from various eras.
Listening to these allows visitors to witness the evolution of this heart-wrenching music genre.
Be sure not to miss the Guitarra exhibit—this traditional Portuguese guitar, with its unique timbre, is the backbone of any Fado performance.
After visiting Fado Museum, I highly recommend stopping by one of the Fado houses to listen to the live performance. My favorite one is Fado in Chiado, famous for soulful tunes of various performers singing classic Fado songs.
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Founded in 1884, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art) is a gateway to Portugal’s artistic past.
Housing exhibitions dating back to the 12th century, this museum is the guardian of Portuguese artistic heritage.
As you navigate the museum, you will encounter several art forms, from paintings and sculptures to textiles and decorative arts.
Standout pieces include “The Temptations of St. Anthony” by Hieronymus Bosch, a vivid portrayal of St. Anthony’s struggles against demonic forces, and “Adoration of the Magi” by Domingos Sequeira.
Museu Coleção Berardo
Last but certainly not least, the Museu Coleção Berardo (Berardo Collection Museum) is a vibrant display of modern and contemporary art.
Home to over 1000 artworks, this museum celebrates the audacious creativity of artists from across the globe, including icons such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Salvador Dali.
As an avid art lover, I appreciate the museum’s emphasis on Portuguese artists like Paula Rego, Joana Vasconcelos, and Helena Almeida, who have left an indelible mark on the canvas of contemporary art.
With guided tours, workshops, and lectures, the Museu Coleção Berardo offers an in-depth understanding of the historical progression of modern art and its key contributors.
Thoughts about museums in Lisbon
Each of these museums in Lisbon is a unique doorway, leading to fascinating narratives about the city’s history, art, and culture.
From the timeless charm of the National Museum of Ancient Art to the dynamic vibrancy of the Contemporary Art Museum, there’s a world of wonder awaiting your exploration.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Lisbon or a seasoned traveler, these museums should be at the top of your list. So, arm yourself with a sense of curiosity and start your trip!