When Portugal handed Macao over to China in 1999, it was remembered that the Portuguese were the first Europeans in Asia, and the last ones to leave. In that long shared history, Portugal and the East established a relationship and a cultural exchange that essentially started what we now call globalization. It started with Vasco da Gamaâ€™s voyage to India, then came the lucrative spice trade, then the first European contact with Japan, and the Christianization of the East.
As the city that introduced many of the Asian treasures to the rest of Europe, it was surprising that Lisbon always lacked a space devoted to telling that story — until earlier this year. The Orient Museum opened in May in a renovated warehouse after a multi-million euro makeover, showcasing thousands of pieces of Asian art. There are ceramics, paintings, furniture, and textiles among other pieces, along with Hindu and Buddhist items donated by the Kwok On collection.
When the rainy days start in October youâ€™ll likely be looking for shelter, and going to a museum sounds like the best idea. The Orient Museum is a great choice if youâ€™re in Lisbon on one of those days. Itâ€™s located halfway between downtown and Belem, and the best time to visit are Fridays between 6PM and 10PM when entrance is free.