Lisbon is essentially an outdoors city, so few visit it with a long list of museums to see. That’s despite some wonderful collections such as that of the Berardo or MuDe museums. Most who do go to a museum, often choose the Gulbenkian, the Ancient Art or even the Coaches Museum, overlooking other smaller spaces.
But if you’re coming to Lisbon with culture in mind, you’ll likely want to see quite a number of collections (the Tile Museum is especially magnificent).
Of the smaller or least-visited museums, these are five you may want to consider:
Medeiros e Almeida Museum
After Gulbenkian’s, this is Lisbon’s best private art collection. Housed in a mansion where a rich local businessman used to live, it presents European paintings by names such as Tiepolo and Rubens, as well as a Rembrandt self-portrait, classic European decorative art, and Chinese porcelain.
If you’ve never heard Fado or are not a fan, you’ll surely overlook this museum. However, you just may gain a new appreciation for Lisbon’s music after a visit, or at least will leave with a better sense of the local culture. This is a very well thought-out museum, with a multilingual audio guide and multimedia displays which place the music within the social and political context of 19th and 20th-century Portugal.
This museum suffers from lack of space. Its collection is the biggest of the country’s contemporary artists, but not everything can be displayed at the same time. So it arranges thematic exhibitions with a number of the works of the permanent collection together with other temporary ones. Once a planned expansion is finally completed, it will certainly become one of Lisbon’s best museums.
Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva Museum
Vieira da Silva was one of Portugal’s top contemporary artists, and Arpad Szenes was her Hungarian husband. Although they spent a large part of their artistic life in Paris, they had a studio in Lisbon close to where this museum is now found. It reunites many of the husband-and-wife’s works in a former silk factory, and should not be missed by anyone who enjoys contemporary art.
SÃ£o Roque Museum
Created by the Jesuits in the 17th century, this museum has a small but very rich collection of sacred art, including sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and relics said to be unique in the world. Adjoining the museum is a church with a very plain faÃ§ade but with an extraordinary interior, including “the world’s most expensive chapel,” built in Rome in the 18th century using only the most precious materials.