Best museums in Lisbon
Best museums in Lisbon
Best museums in Lisbon

Best museums in Lisbon

So, you’ve finally decided that Lisbon is your next holiday destination. Lisbon is a gorgeous city, with pastel-coloured buildings, steep cobblestone streets and boat-loads of history (if you’ll pardon the Columbus pun).

Lisbon is a city you can get lost in. Everything is photogenic; from the palaces, to the churches and of course, the castle. The seafood is great, the people are friendly and the Fado is incredibly touching. Fado, or ‘destiny’ in Portuguese, is the traditional Portuguese music form that precedes the American Blues. Lisbon is famous for its Fado, so much so that it has a museum for it (which we’ll get to in a bit).

Lisbon is the second oldest capital city in Europe. The port used for many different voyages of discovery, including the return of Columbus’s journey to find a new route to India that didn’t go as planned.

The draw that Lisbon gets, for many travellers is due to its ideal location for weather and climate, incredible sights, but most importantly the cost. Lisbon has amazing quality food and accommodation for a fraction of the price of other cities just like it. It’s great for budget holidays, and it attracts younger generations for that exact reason. According to a survey conducted by müvTravel, Lisbon is the most popular travel destination for millennials.

Unlike Rome, which has at least 6 options for tourist package cards on offer, making it a lot more difficult than it should be, Lisbon just has the ‘Lisboa card.’ With the Lisboa card, you can get access to many of the main attractions and museums, as well as free use of all public transport. Since Lisbon is quite hilly, you’ll know how worth it getting the pass is, when you realise how much cardio you’ll end up doing in direct sunlight if you don’t. The card is inclusive of many trip opportunities, such as excursions to nearby Cascais and Sintra.

Whether inclusive of the Lisboa card or not, there are a variety of museums that Lisbon has to offer. Whether you’re into art, history, sport or even modes of transport, Lisbon has you covered. Whether, you’re a millennial or not, Lisbon caters for everyone’s wants and needs.

With that being said, here is our list of the best museums in sunny Lisbon!

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

As part of the 36th wealthiest foundation in the world, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum houses one of the world’s largest private collections of artwork. The Gulbenkian Foundation is the frontrunner of all Portuguese institutions that honour Portuguese heritage and art. Not only that, but it also houses an encyclopaedic collection of world art. From the Greco-Roman circuit to the modernist art room, this gallery holds an incredibly diverse collection.

Many visitors praise the number of Portuguese artists displayed alongside such famous European artists as Monet, Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Manet, Turner and Renoir, just down the hall from the modernist collection housing works by great Portuguese artists like Fernando Pessoa, Almada Negreiros, or Mário de Sá Carneiro.

Although the museum displays mostly contemporary art from 1983 onwards, national and international, it’s the largest collection of Portuguese modern art that attracts the most visitors. The exhibitions, even the permanent ones, are never static, which means what you see today will most certainly not be the same you’ll see a few months later.

Gulbenkian’s motto was “only the best”, and it shows with this stunning gallery. I would rate this as 10/10 for art aficionados, but if you’re not the arty type, or you don’t want a Louvre-style 4-hour experience, I’d probably prioritise another museum or gallery.

This attraction is 20% off with the Lisboa card.

National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)

With Lisbon, and with Portugal as a whole for that matter, visitors soon realise how extremely proud the locals are about their culture and heritage. When you hear a Fado guitar in the distance as you amble along the cobbled streets, when you marvel at the monuments lined across the city, it’s extremely heart-warming to see the passion that the locals have.

This passion is particularly prevalent at this museum; the tile museum. Perhaps considered a Portuguese art form, the style of tile-painting known as ‘Azulejo’ is over a thousand years old. Dating back to the Moors era, the iconic blue-painted white tiles have hundreds if not thousands of iterations. From traditional to Flemish, they’re all housed inside the exhibition rooms, that themselves surround the cloister to an old convent.

The highlights of the museum include a playful Azulejo of an animal wedding, including a hen as the bride, as well as the impressive 35m Azulejo of the Lisbon waterfront. The ‘Panorama de Lisboa’ depicts the Lisbon that was mostly devastated due to a major earthquake in 1755. You can see which buildings survived, and what the old harbour looked like hundreds of years ago. With so much history, character, and cultural propensity, this museum is unique and not one you should miss!

Just outside the convent is a lovely gardens area, ideal for anyone considering packing a picnic lunch. I would plan a day around this museum, since it’s also in such a lovely location.

This attraction is free with the Lisboa card.


The MUDE is one of the leading European galleries of fashion, art and design. Reopened in a new museum space in 2009, it houses some incredible feats of design. The new building is a five-storey art deco former bank, giving it the mesmerising backdrop that the collection deserves.

Named as the Design and Fashion Museum or simply MuDe (which also means “change” in Portuguese), it houses the fashion collection of Francisco Capelo. His fashion collection is made up of 1200 couture pieces, including a famous Jean Desses gown that Renée Zellweger wore to the 2001 Oscars and Christian Dior’s landmark 1947 New Look.

The design collection consists of works by some 230 designers representing trends in design from around the world. There are pieces by design icons such as Phillipe Starck, Charles Eames, George Nelson, Arne Jacobsen, Paul Henningsen, Vener Panton, Masanori Umeda, Henning Koppel, and Tom Dixon, and includes almost 200 design classics embracing innovative furnishings, glass, and jewellery from 1937 to the present.

Before you leave, ask to visit the classic 60’s bank vault in the basement. You’ll thank us for mentioning!

This attraction has no affiliation with the Lisboa card.


MAAT, which stands for the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, is one of the many incredible modern art spaces found in cosmopolitan European cities. Situated on the banks of the Tagus, this modern art museum is as pensively artistic from the outside as it is on the walls on the inside.

One building, a former thermoelectric power plant, contains a fascinating exhibition on its history, as well as space for art exhibitions. The other, a purpose-built structure inspired by the gentle waves of the Tagus, has over 3,000 square metres of gallery space.

It’s Portugal’s answer to the MOMA, the Tate Modern, or the MAXXI. An art institution that’s here to stay for the Portuguese people. As is stated on their website, “the new building rises on the riverfront with an architectural narrative that is sensitive to the city’s cultural heritage and future, offering, among other features, a pedestrian roof that offers a privileged view of Lisbon and the Tagus, and which immediately became an iconic location.”

MAAT’s ambition is to present national and international exhibitions by contemporary artists, architects and thinkers. An art space as well as a cultural space, it holds seminars and debate spaces for the verisimilitude of Portuguese culture.

This attraction is free with the Lisboa card.

Museu do Fado

I told you I’d mention this again!

Borne from the deepest melancholic longing for land, the men that sailed out of the Lisbon harbour had what the Portuguese describe as ‘saudade.’ Saudade is “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia” and the Portuguese are the only ones who have such a word to express this kind of feeling.
Fado was lauded by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011, so you know you’re dealing with a deeply cultural art form. In the Fado Museum, you can discover its story, what it means and you can listen to the greatest singers of Fado singing the most popular Fado songs.

The museum also features a rare collection of posters, music scores, contracts, photos and other documents that will make you an aficionado to your friends in no time. Also, whilst your there, ask if you can view the secret Roman cistern hidden underneath the building. You’ll thank us for mentioning (again)!

This attraction is 20% off with the Lisboa card.

National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga)

The oldest art museum in Lisbon, MNAA has been housed in the same palace since its foundation in 1884. Four floors of paintings, sculptures, and furniture from all corners of the globe makes for a solid afternoon visit for all art enthusiasts.

If you don’t have an interest in art from a specific period or origin, or you want to make a whistle-stop tour on your way to somewhere else you’ve planned to visit, you can opt to follow one of the 12 Choices’ routes. These are collections of hand-picked artworks that make sure you see the essentials of the gallery. After all, there are over 40,000 pieces housed within the palace, so it would take a rather long time to view every single piece.

Highlights include ‘Saint Vincent’s panels’ and ‘Temptations of Saint Antony.’

This attraction is free with the Lisboa card.

National Coach Museum

The National Coach Museum has about forty-five coaches and carriages on display from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. This sounds rather miniscule, but trust us, in person these coaches are in no way ‘miniscule.’

Most of these carriages were used by many different European royal families, including the French, Spanish and of course Portuguese. Lavishly decorated with incredible upholstery, woodcarving and just general craftsmanship, this museum is one of Lisbon’s hidden gems.

Along with the namesake coaches and carriages, there is also a collection of accessories; such as coach harnesses, beautiful saddles and even an eighteenth-century war drum. You can also see a pink velvet mantle of Queen Amélia, the founder of the museum.

This attraction is free with the Lisboa card.

Museum of Benfica (Cosme Damião) + Sporting Lisbon Museum and Tour

Not many visitors to the beautiful cobbles of Lisbon will be interested in its football, but Portuguese football has seen a massive resurgence recently. With the men’s national team winning the European Championship in 2016 and the Nations League in 2019, Portuguese football has been at its best.

Two major ‘Primeira Liga’ teams, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, are considered two of the best clubs in Portugal and regularly finish their league campaigns within the top four. Benfica, aka the ‘eagles’, have won the most league titles compared to their green-coloured rivals Sporting. As the current league champions, and winners of the most league titles, Benfica are undisputedly the best Portuguese football club. They also featured in seven European Cup finals, winning two.

The Benfica Museum and stadium tour is the perfect opportunity for fans and followers to learn about the club’s history and honours. With interactive touchscreens, trophy cabinets and match-worn shirts, this is perfect for the football fan in you.

In contrast to the Benfica museum, crosstown rivals Sporting have their own museum and stadium tour too. The ‘World of Sporting Museum’ is dedicated not just to the football team but a total of 32 different sports teams that represent the Sporting name.

The museum is divided into eight areas including exhibits on the founding of the club by José Alvalade. Other sections include the early history of the club, its various stadia across Lisbon and the many trophies won by the different sporting disciplines of Sporting. A further section is dedicated to the many stars of Sporting including Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo.

The Sporting Museum is 40% off with the Lisboa card and the Cosme Damião is 15% off.