Immerse yourself in History and Art — Here’s the best Museums and Palaces to visit in Lisbon

UXLx: UX Lisbon
8 min readMay 10, 2023

Updated 15 March 2024

With over 30 centuries of history, Lisbon is the perfect place if you want to take a trip back in time.

With more than two hand-fulls of museums where you can deep dive into Portuguese culture and music, feel the 1755 Earthquake, contemplate pieces by national and international artists such as Bosch, Raphael, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Mondrian and Dali, admire sumptuous carriages that once carried royals, and even be transported to the far Orient. The options are immense.

Besides museums, what better way to travel back in time than roaming around centuries-old palaces and castles? You’ll find yourself in magnificent rooms and mesmerising gardens. One curious fact is that some of Lisbon’s museums are actually located in those palaces, bourgeois houses and convents.

🖼 ️Museums

National Museum of Ancient Art

The main museum in Portugal houses the most relevant public collection, from the 12th to the 19th century. With vast collections of painting, sculpture, silver, gold and jewellery, and decorative arts — Portuguese, European, African and Oriental.

The museum displays the largest number of works classified as “national treasures”. Among them, “The Panels of Saint Vicent”, by Nuno Gonçalves, and the Belém Monstrance, symbols of 15th and 16th centuries Portuguese art, and notable paintings by Bosch, Memling, Dürer, Raphael or Piero della Francesca.

With a total of 40.000 items, it’s one of the most visited museums in Portugal.

🕐 Tue to Sun 10h-18h | Closed on Mondays

🏷️ 10€

National Coach Museum

Created by Queen D. Amélia of Orleães and Bragança (the wife of king D. Carlos) as a way to preserve the important collection of vehicles belonging to the Royal House, the National Coach Museum opened at the old riding ring of the Palace of Belém in 1905.

The museum houses one of the finest and most unique collections of historical carriages in the world. It includes vehicles from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries including coaches, berlins, sedan chairs and carriages.

In 2015, the museum moved to a new building just across the street making it possible to display more vehicles. The Old Royal Riding School can still be visited and also presents some pieces of the collection.

🕐 Tue to Sun 10h-18h | Closed on Mondays

🏷️ 8€

National Tile Museum

This museum is dedicated to the “azulejo”, the traditional tile work, possibly Portugal’s most popular art form.

It’s located in a building that was once the Convent of Madre Deus, dating back to 1509. The museum collection features decorative ceramic tiles from the second half of the 15th century to the present day.

One of the most important pieces of the collection is a 35-metre long tile panel portraying a panoramic view of Lisbon before the earthquake that destroyed a great part of the city in 1755.

🕐 Tue to Sun 10h-18h | Closed on Mondays

🏷️ 8€

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

This museum holds one of the most important private collections in the world, belonging to Calouste Gulbenkian. Of Armenian origin, Calouste Gulbenkian built his fortune around the oil business and was one of the 20th century’s wealthiest men. He moved to Lisbon during the Second World War, where he stayed until his death in 1955.

The museum accommodates around six thousand pieces. In display we can see around a thousand pieces divided into groups corresponding to Egyptian art, Greco-Roman art, Mesopotamia, the Islamic Orient, Armenia, the Far East and, where Western art is concerned, sculpture, the art of the book, painting, eighteenth-century French decorative arts, and works by René Lalique.

🕐 Wed to Mon 10h-18h | Closed on Tuesdays

🏷️ 10€

Museum of Contemporary Art MAC/CCB

This museum will take you on a journey through the main art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Berardo collection joins over 1000 works from 500 great masters, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Amedeo Modigliani, Amadeo Souza-Cardoso, Man Ray, and many others.

🕐 Tue to Sun 10h to 19h | Closed on Mondays

🏷️ 12€

Other museums

  • Lisbon Story CentreWith elaborate sets, multimedia and sensory experiences, you’ll be taken on a journey through the history of the city.
  • QuakeAn immersive experience through Lisbon’s most dramatic and transformative event — the Earthquake of 1755.
  • Royal Treasure Museum — A collection of unique jewels of the former Crown Treasure.
  • MAAT Museum of Art, Architecture and TechnologyAn iconic piece of modern architecture on the waterfront that presents temporary exhibitions.
  • MuDe Design and Fashion MuseumTemporarily closed.
  • Maritime MuseumThe museum occupies part of the Jerónimos Monastery and it’s dedicated to all aspects of the history of navigation in Portugal.
  • National Museum of ArchaeologyClosed until 2025 for remodelling.
  • National Museum of Contemporary ArtLocated in Chiado, this museum specialises in 19th- and 20th-century Portuguese contemporary art.
  • Museum of LisbonLocated in the 18th-century Pimenta Palace, the museum tells the story of Lisbon’s long history from prehistoric times to the present day.
  • Orient MuseumDevoted to preserving the heritage of several Asian countries through the testimonies of its two collections: Portuguese Presence in Asia and Kwok On.
  • Decorative Arts MuseumThe museum recreates the ambience of an 18th-century house of the Portuguese nobility.
  • Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves House-MuseumIt showcases the collection of physician Anastácio Gonçalves, which includes about 3.000 works of art.
  • Medeiros e Almeida MuseumAn important decorative arts collection displayed in the collectors bourgeois house from the early 20th century.
  • Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva MuseumA museum exhibiting the work of Portuguese modernist Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and her Hungarian husband and fellow painter Arpad Szenes.
  • Money MuseumUsing multimedia technology to display its collection, this museum introduces visitors to the history of money.
  • Knowledge PavilionA scientific and technological space with fun interactive displays and simulations.
  • Fado MuseumAn interactive museum to see, hear and feel Fado — Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • Military MuseumThe collection of artillery, one of the largest in the world, and war-related pieces are displayed in 34 rich Baroque rooms.
  • Puppet MuseumA museum solely dedicated to the interpretation and dissemination of the history of puppets and puppet theatre.
  • Aljube Museum — Dedicated to the history and memory of the fight against the dictatorship and the recognition of resistance in favor of freedom and democracy.
  • Museu Bordalo Pinheiro — A remarkable collection of the artistic work of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro and his son, Manuel Gustavo.

🏰 Palaces and Castles

National Palace of Ajuda

This Neoclassical building, built in the first half of the 19th century, was the residence of the Portuguese royal family until the end of the monarchy in 1910.

One interesting fact is that the original arrangement and decoration of the rooms, have been preserved to this day.

🕐 Thu to Tue 10h-18h | Closed on Wednesdays

🏷️ 8€

National Palace of Queluz

Queluz Palace was built as a summer retreat for Don Pedro de Bragança (future King Pedro III) in the 18th century. It eventually served as a royal residence following a fire that destroyed Ajuda Palace.

Although fairly smaller, the palace is often referred to as the “Portuguese Versailles”. It combines combines Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical architecture. When strolling through the gardens you’ll find beautiful fountains and ornamental pounds.

The palace is located between Lisbon and Sintra so if you’re staying in the city centre the best way to reach it is by train. It will take around 30–40 minutes.

🕐 Every day 9h-18h

🏷️ 13€

Fronteira Palace

The Fronteira palace was built in the 17th century as a second residence and hunting lodge for Dom João de Mascarenhas, the first Marquis of Fronteira. Today it’s a privately owned Museum-House, being the home of his descendants.

The palace is preserved in a form very close to its original design and holds the largest collection of 17th century “azulejos” (Portuguese tiles) preserved in situ.

🕐 All visits are guided tours (visiting hours are available on the website)

🏷️ 15€ (Palace+Gardens) | 7€ (Gardens only)

St. George’s Castle

At the top of Lisbon’s highest hill sits St. George’s Castle, one of the most emblematic landmarks of the city.

Althought the castle itself was founded in the 10th and 11th centuries, Archaeological evidence has shown traces of the presence of Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Muslims, confirming the human occupation of this area since very remote times.

The castle underwent major restoration work in the 20th century, which left it with its present-day appearance.

Inside the walls, you can enjoy great views of the city and the Tagus River. In the Tower of Ulysses you’ll find a camera obscura with a giant periscope that allows you to enjoy a 360º panoramic view of the city in real time.

🕐 Every day 9h-21h

🏷️ 15€

Other palaces:

Belém Palace (on the left) and São Bento Palace (on the right)
  • Belém PalaceIt’s the official residence of Portugal’s president since 1910. The palace may be visited on Saturdays. Part of the palace houses the Presidency Museum and can be visited every day (except Mondays).
  • São Bento Palace — A Neoclassical building that dates back to the 16th century, it’s the seat of Portugal’s parliament since 1834. It’s only possible to visit when parliament is in session and debates are open to the public.

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