Self-Guided Tour of Lisbon Museums (Self Guided), Lisbon

As expected of any European capital city with a rich history, Lisbon has numerous museums. They offer excellent insight into the past and have a rich collection of art: sculpture and paintings. Among the many popular museums and galleries in Lisbon, some are quite unique and not to be missed. Take this tour to visit the most important museums in Lisbon.
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Self-Guided Tour of Lisbon Museums Map

Guide Name: Self-Guided Tour of Lisbon Museums
Guide Location: Portugal » Lisbon (See other walking tours in Lisbon)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Military Museum
  • Fado Museum
  • Decorative Arts Museum
  • The Roman Theater Museum
  • MUDE – Design and Fashion Museum
  • Chiado Museum
  • Marionette Museum
  • National Museum of Ancient Art
  • Oriental Museum
Military Museum

1) Military Museum (must see)

One of the largest museums dedicated to military memorabilia in the world, Lisbon's Museu Militar tells the story of the exploits by the Portuguese armed forces. It has a large collection of artillery, arms, uniforms and military art.

The Military Museum is located on the site of a 16th century shipyard. It has the largest artillery collection in the world and was founded in 1851 by General Jose Baptista da Silva as an artillery museum. Other exhibits with military themes were added and from 1926, it got its present name. Until the early 20th century, the building was also a manufacturing unit for weaponry.

The Museu Militar has a large collection of guns, pistols and swords. Notable among them is a sword belonging to Vasco da Gama and a 14th century cannon. Many of the rooms have magnificent Baroque interiors, tiled mosaics portraying various exploits of the Portuguese military forces through the ages from the Christian defeat of the Moorish rulers till World War I and murals showing the historical voyage and discovery of the sea route to India. The first floor has many exhibits showing the services of the Portuguese armed forces as part of the allied forces in World War I.

Why You Should Visit:
Important not only for its military-themed exhibits, but also for the elaborately decorated rooms.
Surprises await you in each section, with numerous paintings, carvings and tapestry describing Portugal's history.
Ticket price is very reasonable and the route is quite easy to follow, with lots of exhibits you can touch along the way.

From 10 to 12:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings a martial arts club conducts training sessions for its members in European swordsmanship (two-handed swords, not fencing), in the museum's basement vaults. This is well-worth watching for people interested in martial arts, especially if one has any familiarity with fencing or kendo.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Fado Museum

2) Fado Museum

The Fado Museum is dedicated to the soulful songs called Fado that evolved in the City of Lisbon. It has a range of exhibits and displays that showcase a form of music that is unique to the city.

Fado evolved as a form of music unique to Lisbon in 1840. Although another form is sung in the city of Coimbra, the Lisbon version is the earliest and most popular. It evolved from songs sung by sailors that soon became a musical genre loved by the common man and sung by many famous Fado singers from Lisbon.

The Fado Museum is dedicated to the evolution of the form of music and the passion it evokes in Lisbon. It has audiovisual shows, multilingual information panels and a large archive of Fado music. The permanent collection is a journey through the history of the form of music including recordings of famous singers and instruments that accompany them. There is also a model Portuguese guitar workshop where a film shows visitors how a Portuguese guitar is made. A wax figure of a guitar maker and his tools is also found here. Visitors can also enjoy live performances at the small café at the museum or purchase a recording from the museum shop.

Operation hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00-18:00
Decorative Arts Museum

3) Decorative Arts Museum

The Decorative Arts Museum housed in an aristocratic home showcases the life of wealthy citizens of Lisbon in the 18th and 19th centuries. The building is a 17th century palace that was the city residence of the Count of Azurara.

The Decorative Arts Museum was purchased by Portuguese Banker, Ricardo do Espirito Santo Silva whose family was one of the wealthiest in the country in 1947. He then converted it into a museum to house his vast collection. He donated the museum to the city in 1953. The interiors still have their original 17th century wooden floors, painted ceilings and mosaics of Azulejos, a typical Portuguese painted tin glazed form of tile work. Some Azulejos formed part of the palace while others were added while restoring the building to house the banker’s art and decorative objects collection.

The Decorative Arts Museum has tastefully arranged collections of Indo Portuguese, Portuguese, English and French furniture, a large collection of silver objects, faience tin glazed pottery, original Chinese porcelain, Flemish tapestry from the 16th and 18th centuries, an ancient grandfather clock and a horse drawn carriage. There are unique objects from almost every country ruled by the Portuguese when they were a colonial power.

Operation hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00-17:00
The Roman Theater Museum

4) The Roman Theater Museum

The Roman Theatre Museum has objects unearthed from a 1st century Roman Theatre built by the Emperor Augustus. The Roman Theatre Museum was first built as a small theater and was expanded in 57 AD. At this time it could seat 5000 spectators. During the middle ages it disappeared beneath the ground because of neglect and wind and soil erosion. After the 1755 earthquake, parts of the theater resurfaced resulting in renewed interest in the Roman past of Lisbon. Archeological excavations were undertaken and objects unearthed that form the permanent exhibits at the Museum.

The Museum has few exhibits including many columns, stone statues and a small collection of archeological finds. There is a statue of Silenus, the Greek God of wine making and drunkenness and an inscription probably created during its expansion in 57 AD about the dedication of the theater to the Roman Emperor Nero. The most interesting part for visitors is the installation of multilingual video and touch screens that tell the story of Lisbon under the Romans. Although the museum is small and the collection is minimal compared to many other Roman Archeological museums in Europe, it is well arranged and explained through multimedia displays.

Operation hours: Tue -Sun: 10:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 18:00
MUDE – Design and Fashion Museum

5) MUDE – Design and Fashion Museum (must see)

Editor's Note: The museum building is temporarily closed for works of integral rehabilitation. While the works take place they continue to develop a cultural and exhibition program in the city and in the country, that they call MUDE OUTSIDE.

"Mude" which means "change" in Portuguese is the name given to the Design and Fashion Museum in Lisbon that boasts an impressive collection of design & fashion classics from the 1930s to the present.

MUDE is located in the Palacio Verride, an 18th-century palace that later became a bank. The old vault of the bank that was installed nearly 80 years ago is still located in the basement. It became the Design and Fashion Museum in 2009. In keeping with its name, exhibits at MUDE keep changing with new themes and new design displays at different times.

The collection consists of works of over 230 designers from all over the world. A notable collection is that of Portuguese businessman, Francisco Capelo that includes 1200 dresses including the Jean Desses gown worn by Renée Zellweger to the 2001 Oscars and the 1947 New Look gown by Christian Dior. There is all an impressive collection of furnishings, jewelry and glass in addition to clothes. The underground vault and 2nd floor host temporary changing exhibitions while the ground floor has displays of experimental and iconic clothing, furnishings and household objects. Visitors can view the creations of some of the best-known names in the fashion business including Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Chiado Museum

6) Chiado Museum

The Chiado Museum is the National Gallery of Contemporary Art with a large permanent collection of works by modern Portuguese and international artists. It has exhibits from the middle of the 19th century to the present.

The Chiado Museum was first established in the building that was once the Convent of Saint Francis in 1911. It was closed in 1988 and redesigned by French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte so that objects could be placed in thematic order from the Romantic Age to the Modern. Most of the works are by 19th, 20th century and contemporary Portuguese artists and international pieces include 19th century French sculpture and works by Rodin. Notable works in the permanent collection are Rodin’s masterpiece called the Bronze Age, a self portrait by Portuguese artist, Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro and art deco pieces by Almada Negreiros. Temporary exhibitions are held at the museum frequently including a recent one dedicated to politics and poetry in art with works from artists from around the world. The exhibition was accompanied by an art video presentation to help visitors understand the meaning behind the works displayed.

Chiado Museum has a small café that overlooks a serene garden and terrace with spectacular views over the city. The specialty of the café is Sunday brunch.

Operation hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00-17:30.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Marionette Museum

7) Marionette Museum

The Marionette Museum gives visitors a comprehensive view of the world of puppets and puppetry. It is an enjoyable museum for visitors of all ages and has an impressive collection of Portuguese and international puppets.

The Marionette Museum is housed in an eighteenth century building that was once the St. Bernardas Convent. The building was constructed after the 1755 earthquake in 1758. In 1834, religious orders were banned and the convent was closed. It was used as a school, cinema and concert hall. Later it the convent was converted into apartments for a short time. From 1998 it has housed the Marionette Museum, retail space and one of Lisbon’s famous restaurants.

The Marionette Museum has a large collection of Portuguese puppets. It also has exhibits relevant to Portuguese puppetry and puppet theaters. Visitors can see the different types of puppetry including shadow, oriental and mask puppetry. Figures of knights, princesses and devils that are typically used in Portuguese puppetry are on display. The museum also has a collection of marionettes and masks from all over the world especially from Indonesia, India, Italy, New Zealand and China. Puppet shows are frequently held to entertain young visitors and puppetry classes are also held at the museum.

Operation hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00-13:00; 14:00-18:00
National Museum of Ancient Art

8) National Museum of Ancient Art (must see)

The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (also known as MNAA) is the most important art museum in Portugal. It is located in the Palácio de Alvor-Pombal, a former palace of the Count of Alvor later purchased by the Marquis of Pombal. It is the best museum in which to learn about the development of Portuguese art prior to the early 19th century. The collections, especially those for the 15th and 16th centuries, are particularly important regarding the history of Portuguese painting, sculpture, and metalwork.

Why You Should Visit:
If you are into antiquities and love ebony and ivory, inlay and embroidery this is your place.
The cafe (on the lower level) is a nice place to take a break by a nice tranquil garden with spectacular views of the water & the city as its backdrop.

Probably best to start at the top and work your way down through the galleries.

Operation hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Oriental Museum

9) Oriental Museum

The Oriental Museum is dedicated to displaying Asian art and artifacts with a particular emphasis on Portugal as a colonial power in Asia. It houses the collection of the Oriental Foundation with objects brought by Portuguese ships from their many voyages to Asia.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to make commercial and cultural contact with Asia. Besides establishing colonies in India and China, they were also the first Europeans to sail to Japan. The Portuguese took with them plants and weapons to trade with Asians and members of the Society of Jesus who accompanied the fleet attempted to convert Asians to Christianity. They returned with spices, silks and artifacts.

The oriental museum displays exhibits on two floors of a seven storey building that was once a warehouse. It was opened to the public in 2006. The rest of the building is used for research, seminars and conferences. There is also a 360 seat auditorium where Asian music recitals are held and a café serving Asian cuisine. The first floor has items and paintings brought back by Portuguese fleets. The second floor has an exhibition of idols of Gods worshipped in different parts of Asia. There is also a large collection of Japanese Samurai weaponry displayed at the museum.

Operation hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00-18.00; Friday: 10.00-22.00 (Free entry from 18.00 to 22.00).

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