4 Portuguese Museums Everyone Should Visit

Have you ever set foot in the sunniest country in Europe? With over 3,000 sunny hours each year, Portugal is one of the most visited country of its parent continent on and off season. Yet for those of you who have had their share of beaches and protruding hills, we are going to present four grandiose cultural establishments that must not be left out. So, without further ado, let us hop right into it!

1. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum:
Known officially as “Sede e Museu da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian/Centro de Arte Moderna”, Lisbon’s Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is one of the most prominent art museums in Portugal. Established according to the last will of British-Armenian businessman and philanthropist, Calouste Gulbenkian, the museum houses a large collection of ancient and modern art (more of the former than the latter). The collection pertains to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and it boasts with items hearkening back to Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Armenian and Persian times. Some works even reach into the bounds of Islamic times and, by all means, they are exquisite. Another section of the establishment harbours the works of European artists and there are countless artists represented there such as: Andrea della Robbia, Rodin, Carpeaux, Houdon, Renoir, Dierick Bouts, Claude Monet, Vittore Carpaccio, Cima da Conegliano, Van Dyck, Corot, Degas, Nattier, George Romney, Thomas Gainsborough, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Édouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Jean-François Millet, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Rembrandt, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Giovanni Battista Moroni, Ruisdael, Boucher, Largillière, Pisanello, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Antonio Rossellino, André-Charles Boulle, Charles Cressent, Oeben, Riesener, Antoine-Sébastien Durand, Charles Spire, Jean Deforges, Rubens, and many others. A joint-operation between architects Yvor Richards, Alberto Pessoa, Pedro Cid, Ruy Jervis d’Athouguia, Artur Rosa, and Sir John Leslie Martin, the museum was finalised in 1968. If you truly wish to delve into not only the local culture but also that of the world, we highly recommend that you spend a few hours at Lisbon’s finest!

2. Biscainhos Museum:
You may have noticed already that Portugal is full of old structures that evoke times long gone yet not forgotten. Such a building is the Biscainhos Palace of the historic city of Braga, built between the 16th and the 17th centuries (though it was further improved upon for another 100 years) and adhering to the subtle standards of the Baroque architectural style. Built for the Portuguese aristocracy and maintained by them for at least 300 years, it was purchased by the state in 1967. Opened to the public in 1978 as the Biscainhos Palace and Museum, it is one of the most vivid recreations of an 18th-century Northern House Manor. Interior decorations also make up a large chunk of the exhibition and they strive to cast you back into the past with their grandeur. After you are done with the interior, we recommend that you explore the gardens of the palace and its walls (do keep a lookout for exquisite sentries and buttresses while you’re at it). The maze-like gardens also present viewers with a vast plethora of plants among which the tulip poplar is the most well-known. Definitely a must-explore!

3. Soares dos Reis National Museum:
Known officially as the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, the Soares dos Reis National Museum is an important pillar when it comes to the preservation of Portuguese art. Located in the northern parts of the city of Porto, within the bounds of the Cedofeita, Santo Ildefonso, Sé, Miragaia, São Nicolau e Vitória civil parish, the establishment was founded in 1833 by King Peter IV as “Museum Portuense”. Dedicated to 19th-20th-century national art (as mentioned above), the museum has a huge collection of Sculptures, Ceramics, Jewellry, Furniture, Paintings, Textiles, Engravings, and exquisite Glassware. Notable artists whose works are represented include: António Carvalho de Silva Porto, Domingos Sequeira, Vieira Portuense, Miguel Ângelo Lupi, Rodolfo Pinto do Couto, Marques de Oliveira, Aurélia de Souza, Dórdio Gomes, Júlio Resende, Soares do Reis, Henrique Pousão, Augusto Santo, António Teixeira Lopes, Augusto Roquemont, and numerous others. Oh, and did we mention that the whole museum is harboured by the 18th-century Palace of the Carrancas? We got you interested now, didn’t we?

4. Machado de Castro National Museum:
And finally, we recommend that you breach the bounds of the Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (its official name), located in Coimbra and named after the renowned Portuguese sculptor Joaquim Machado de Castro. Dedicated to archaeology, sculpture, applied arts and paintings, the museum has a significant collection that should be examined with care. Notable objects on display include the Portrait of Agripina, the Portrait of Trajan, the “Deposition of Christ” by João de Ruão, “St. Geronimo and Pope St. Gregory” by Olivier de Gand, “The assumption of the Virgin” by the Sardoal Masters, and many others. First opened in 1913, the establishment won the Piranesi/Prix de Rome Prize in 2014.

Did you enjoy our list? Which of the aforementioned museums have you visited and what aftertaste have they left you with? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about it! Happy culture-hunting (wink)!

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