Of the 5 months I spent in Europe, 5 weeks were spent in Portugal. So far, it is my favourite country visited. Yet with 5 weeks in this beautiful country, I still did not have the opportunity to see all that it has to offer – a couple more trips are warranted in the future.
I did not have a chance to visit all the museums but I will give my opinion on those I was able to get to.
Gulbenkian Museum (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian)
This museum is sponsored by the Gulbenkian family and their collection of art. They have pieces from all over the world dating back many centuries. They have an extensive Asian art and Middle Eastern art collection – the largest I have seen yet. Often there is a special exhibit on the premises – currently they have Rembrandt art for all to view. The price is very modest – 5 euros; Sunday admission is free for all. I needed 4-5 hours to go through the whole museums – if you are only interested in some exhibits then naturally the tour will take less time. You can visit their site here for more details: Gulbenkian Museum
MUDE (Museu do Design e da Moda)
This is a lovely museum located down by the river in downtown Lisbon. It is the Museum of Style and Design. When I was visiting there was a temporary exhibition on the costumes of Fado musicians – I developed a fondness for this style of music so this exhibit was perfect. The exhibits rotate and feature ideas in fashion and interior design. It is a unique collection and before seeing it in Portugal I had not seen this type of museum elsewhere. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays and entry is free at all times. If you’re going for a stroll on Rua Augusta, this is a nice pit stop. See their website for details on current exhibits: MUDE
The monastery was commissioned by King Manuel I in 1501 to celebrate the success of Portugal’s seafarers around the world – especially Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India. The structure was completed around 1600 and was almost destroyed in an earthquake in 1775.
I had passed this monastery on a motorcycle tour with my friend Zé and was, perhaps, the most excited at the prospect of visiting it at a later date. I found the architecture and design breathtaking, and the surrounding green space is splendidly laid out.
You’re free to walk around the museum at your own pace and relish the peacefulness in the courtyard. I spent some time in the chapel – everything was made of solid wood and there were no sounds from the outside. You could almost picture people 300 years ago sitting in the that same room not giving a second thought to where they were sitting. Today, we appreciate the beauty of places like this monastery because they are external to our daily way of life.
I feel that visiting this monastery is a must if you are in Lisbon. Down the street you will find Pastéis de Belém, originating in 1837, where you will eat the best pastries in Portugal (try an espresso too). And close by is the Museu Coleção Beardo, a free admission modern art gallery.
Museu Coleção Beardo
I truly enjoyed this modern art exhibit. It was spacious and the pieces were well laid out. There wasn’t too much congestion either, making for a very serene experience. The gallery exhibits specific artists and rotates through them throughout the year. I admit that I am not a huge art fan or expert; if you share my sentiments I would recommend this gallery. It was engaging and pleasant to walk through. Many of the pieces were eye catching and energetic.
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