Museo Calouste Gulbenkian
Famous for its outstanding quality and breadth, the world-class Museu Calouste Gulbenkian showcases an epic collection of Western and Eastern art – from Egyptian treasures to Old Master and Impressionist paintings.
The chronological romp kicks off with highlights such as gilded Egyptian mummy masks, Mesopotamian urns, elaborate Persian carpets, Qing porcelain (note the grinning Dogs of Fo) and a fascinating Roman gold-medallion collection. Going west, art buffs admire masterpieces by Rembrandt (Portrait of an Old Man), Van Dyck and Rubens (including the frantic Loves of the Centaurs). Be sure to glimpse Rodin’s passionate Eternal Springtime.
The grand finale is the collection of exquisite René Lalique jewellery, including the otherworldly Dragonfly.
Museo Nacional de Arte Antiga
Set in a lemon-fronted, 17th-century palace, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is Lapa’s biggest draw. It presents a star-studded collection of European and Asian paintings and decorative arts.
Keep an eye out for highlights such as Nuno Gonçalves’ naturalistic Panels of São Vicente, Dürer’s St Jerome and Lucas Cranach’s haunting Salomé as well as period furniture pieces like King Afonso V’s ceremonial 1470s armchair and the elaborate lacquered wood, silver-gilt and bronze late-16th-century casket.
Other gems include golden wonder the Monstrance of Belém, a souvenir from Vasco da Gama’s second voyage, and 16th-century Japanese screens depicting the arrival of the Namban (southern barbarians), namely big-nosed Portuguese explorers.
Biannual temporary themed exhibitions (priced separately at around €7) are reached via a second entrance on Rua das Janelas Verdes; as is the stone-arched cafe and wonderfully peaceful gardens with river views.
Museu Nacional dos Coches
Cinderella wannabes delight in Portugal’s most-visited museum, which dazzles with its world-class collection of 70 17th- to 19th-century coaches in a new ultramodern (and some might say inappropriately contrasting) space that debuted in 2015.
Don’t miss Pope Clement XI’s stunning ride, the scarlet-and-gold Coach of the Oceans, or the old royal riding school, Antigo Picadeiro Real, across the street. The easily missable upper level hosts temporary contemporary-art exhibitions.
Museu da Marioneta
Discover your inner child at the surprisingly enchanting Museu da Marioneta, a veritable Geppetto’s workshop housed in the 17th-century Convento das Bernardas. Alongside superstars such as impish Punch and his Portuguese equivalent Dom Roberto are rarities: Vietnamese water puppets, Sicilian opera marionettes and intricate Burmese shadow puppets. Check out the fascinating exhibit of the making of the animation film, A Suspeita.
Tots can try their hand at puppetry. The museum also hosts puppet-making workshops, free weekend puppet shows from October to December and charged shows in the open-air cloister in summer.