The Best Art Galleries and Museums in Lisbon

Get a flavour of Lisbon's culture at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo
Get a flavour of Lisbon's culture at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo | © picturelibrary / Alamy
Photo of Reuben Ross
12 July 2021

From a museum dedicated to the Portuguese azulejo tile to a gallery celebrating Lisbon‘s vibrant street art scene, these are our pick of the Portuguese capital’s cultural must-sees, bookable with Culture Trip.

Lisbon has long been a city brimming with art and history, and it has the cultural institutions to prove it. You’ll find museums stuffed with everything from Medieval paintings and classical sculptures to traditional Portuguese tiles and antique horse-drawn carriages. Art lovers are equally well-catered for, with a mix of galleries exhibiting work by proficient Portuguese artists, big international names and exciting up-and-comers in the street art scene. There’s something for everyone in our pick of Lisbon’s best galleries and museums.

Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado

Art Gallery, Museum, Monastery
Map View
Portugal, Lisbon, Chiado, MNAC (Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea do Chiado), paintings by Nadir Afonso (2013) on the left and Teresa Arriaga (1951) on the right
© Hemis / Alamy

The Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado (MNAC) covers the development of Portuguese art from the mid-19th century to the present day. Among the museum’s more recent acquisitions are the distinctly Portuguese, yet Pop art-inspired paintings of Sá Nogueira, pieces by Lisbon-based sculptor José Pedro Croft and the experimental video work of Alexandre Estrela. It has also displayed temporary exhibitions by leading Portuguese artists, including Vasco Araújo’s Botânica, a compelling reflection on Portugal’s colonial legacy.

Museu Nacional dos Coches

Museum
Map View
The Museu Nacional dos Coches has over 70 carriages in its collection
© Endless Travel / Alamy Stock Photo

With a collection of over 70 coaches, (the largest and most valuable collection of its kind in the world) including the carriage King Philip II used to travel from Spain to Portugal in 1619, this museum is among Lisbon’s most visited sights. Formerly housed in the palatial Picadeiro Real (which is possible to visit with an additional ticket), the Museu Nacional dos Coches moved to a brand-new building designed by prize-winning architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha in 2015.

Hangar

Art Gallery
Map View

Hangar is one of Lisbon’s most well-established art centres and gallery spaces, perched on a hillside in the quiet neighbourhood of Graça. It seeks to establish connections between artists, researchers and the public to stimulate the development of new artistic practices and to encourage the critical discussion of emerging contemporary art. In addition to exhibitions, it also hosts a thought-provoking programme of seminars, workshops, performances and film screenings.

Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology

Museum
Map View
MAAT, Lisbon, Portugal, new wing, architects AL_A
© Geoffrey Taunton / Alamy Stock Photo
The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) is Lisbon’s answer to the Tate Modern or MoMA, focussing on the intersection of technology and contemporary art. Housed in two distinctive buildings on the banks of the Tagus – one, a former thermoelectric power plant, and the other, a purpose-built structure inspired by the gentle waves of the river – the MAAT’s dynamic programme of temporary exhibitions and events make it one of Lisbon’s most exciting cultural institutions.

Underdogs Gallery

Art Gallery
Map View
Underdogs Gallery specialises in Portuguese street art
Courtesy of Underdogs Gallery

Opened in 2013 by Vhils, is the country’s most celebrated street artists, Underdogs Gallery has quickly developed a reputation for showing and commissioning innovative street art from Portugal and around the world. You’ll find work by artists such as ±MaisMenos±, whose politically charged designs can be spotted across Portugal and Add Fuel (whose intricate artworks are inspired by Portuguese tile-making traditions). There’s even a store for limited editions and merchandise.

Museu Coleção Berardo

Museum
Map View
'Museu Colecao Berardo Museum of Art', Belem, Lisbon, Portugal, Kunstmuseum ´Museu Colecao Berardo´, Lissabon
Bildagentur-online / Schoening / AlamyZoonar GmbH / Alamy
The Museu Coleção Berardo was established in 2007 to showcase millionaire José Berardo’s collection of modern and contemporary art. Its impressive permanent exhibition comprises over 900 works, providing a comprehensive tour through 20th-century art movements – expect big names such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and many others. Meanwhile, the museum’s excellent temporary exhibitions regularly feature major international artists. The museum offers free admission to its permanent collection every Saturday.

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Museum, Art Gallery
Map View
Portugal tile museum, a woman views a pair of 18th century portraits on blue tile panels - or tapetes - in the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon.
© Michael Brooks / Alamy
If you’re interested in learning more about Portugal’s characteristic azulejo tiles, seen on buildings all over Lisbon, a visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo is a must. The museum’s permanent exhibition, which occupies the rooms of a 500-year-old convent, tells the fascinating story of the Portuguese azulejo from the 16th century through to the present day. Unfortunately, many of Lisbon’s azulejos are now at risk of destruction due to lack of conservation, so the museum’s role in preserving them is all the more important.

Museu do Aljube Resistência e Liberdade

Museum
Map View

Tucked just behind the Sé Cathedral, the Museu do Aljube Resistência e Liberdade is a must-visit if you’re interested in Portugal’s recent political history. Its permanent exhibition covers the four-decade reign of the Estado Novo – led by dictator António de Oliveira Salazar – during which tactics of torture, coercion and censorship were widely employed. Fortunately, the exhibition concludes on a more positive note with a recount of the peaceful Carnation Revolution, before opening out to a café on the top floor, which provides panoramic views of the city and plenty of time to reflect.

Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

Art Gallery, Museum
Map View
The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga has over 40,000 pieces in its collection
© Martin Thomas Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re interested in something with a bit more history, pay a visit to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga to learn about Portugal’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. Founded in 1884 and housed in an imposing 17th-century palace overlooking the Tagus, its massive collection of over 40,000 items includes paintings, sculptures, textiles and metalwork dating back hundreds of years. Be sure to check out treasures such as the Belém Monstrance, made from gold brought back by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama.

Museu do Fado

Museum
Map View
The Museu do Fado opened its doors in 1998
© Marina Watson Peláez / Culture Trip
Before you head to Alfama for a night of live music (and plenty of wine), learn more about Portugal’s famous musical tradition at the Museu do Fado. The word fado means fate, and these hopelessly emotional songs, usually performed in intimate bars, restaurants or special fado houses, are sure to leave you teary-eyed. The museum takes you on a fascinating journey through the history of fado, with plenty of memorabilia on display, so you’ll know your Amália Rodrigues from your Cristina Branco in no time.

The Switch

Art Gallery
Map View

Opened by young French artist Skoya Assemat-Tessandier in late 2016, The Switch is a recent addition to Lisbon’s art scene. Located just outside the city centre in the trendy, residential neighbourhood of Arroios, it occupies a former converted grocery store on an unassuming side street. This small and relatively unpretentious space is just the spot to discover something unexpected, as Assemat-Tessandier ensures a steady supply of eye-catching contemporary art on the gallery’s walls.

This article is an updated version of a story created by Helen Armitage.

Why not make a weekend of it? Book a stay with Culture Trip at one of these stylish boutique hotels and set off to explore the city. Whether you want to tick these must-visit attractions off your bucket list or get lost in the coolest neighbourhoods in Lisbon, there is something for everyone. After a long day, enjoy a delicious meal at one of these top restaurants and end the night with a drink at one of the best bars in Lisbon.

These recommendations were updated on July 12, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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