One of the biggest aquariums in Europe is the Oceanário de Lisboa, which opened as part of the 1998 World Expo. We visited during the holidays, and were amazed to be the only people there! Not a single screaming child, pushy mother or frazzled father; nope, just us, gloriously alone with the animals. (If you’re not picking up on the sarcasm, it’s time to readjust your irony detector.)
Hosted in the former Convent of Bernardas in downtown Lisbon, the Museu da Marioneta features a collection of puppets from around the world, with a special focus on Portuguese dolls. This is an excellent excursion if you’re entertaining a kid, but even adults will find plenty to love.
Just around the corner from the Miradouro de São António is the Igreja de São Roque. You’d never guess from its plain facade, but this is considered to be among the city’s most beautiful churches. Next to the church, in a former Jesuit residence, is a small but excellent museum of religious artifacts.
Situated adjacent to the city cathedral, the Aljube was a notorious political prison during the dictatorship of Juan Antonio Salazar. Today, it’s been converted into an excellent museum about the struggle against fascism and colonialism.
One of the oldest structures in Lisbon, the Convento do Carmo was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. Well… almost completely destroyed. The roof collapsed, but a handful of the supporting arches survived, along with some chambers. Today, the ruined remains of the church have been preserved as a striking memorial to the biggest natural disaster in Portuguese history.
Portugal’s premiere art museum is the MNAA, or Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga. With 65 rooms in its permanent collection, thousands of works of art spanning the length of Portuguese history, and ever-changing temporary exhibits, this is the kind of place for which you’ll want to have plenty of time and energy.
Located within the old Barbadinhos Pumping Station, the Museu da Agua introduces visitors to the once-painful process of bringing drinking water to the people of Lisbon. The museum’s highlight is its engine room, where 19th-century steam-powered pumping machines have been preserved in magnificent condition.
Set within a 17th-century palace across from the popular Miradouro das Portas do Sol, a viewpoint that looks over Alfama and the cruise ship docks, the Museu de Artes Decorativas (also called the Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva, or FRISS) introduces visitors to the exquisite furniture and design of Lisbon during the Age of Exploration.
A gem hidden in plain sight, the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa has been operating for almost 150 years, in a beautiful hall in the center of Lisbon. It’s worth stepping inside to see the ethnographic collection cobbled together from around the world, as well as to check out the elegant headquarters of the society.