When it came to visiting Lisbon, there were many more non-museum sites I wanted to see than actual museums. However, I made sure to allocate time for visiting one, although it came down to deciding between a fine arts museum, the impressive Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, or the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (Tile Museum). I opted for the latter since I figured fine arts museums are more common and that the tile is ubiquitous with Portuguese history, culture, and society. However, after visiting the Tile Museum, I somewhat wish I had chosen the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian instead, as I found the tiles found in average spaces (on the streets, on the sides of random buildings) to be more beautiful. Admittance to the Tile Museum was free with the Lisboa card so I can’t really write off our visit; it’s also located in a former convent, the Convento Madre de Deus, dating from the 16th century, which was fascinating to walk around in. However, it did require a bus to get there from the Praca do Comercio area, as it’s about a 15 minute ride from the city center. The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is located in the opposite direction of the Tile Museum and while that too would have required some form of public transportation to get there, I think I may have preferred it more.
While frites (fries) are one of Belgium’s most famous foods, I purposely avoided the fry museum in Brugge. Although I never would call the Tile Museum cheesy or consider it a waste of time like the fry museum probably is, I guess my visit made me feel that there is such thing as a “tile overload.” Azulejos are stunning to look at, especially those that depict a scene, and yet they’re more charming in a natural setting, amongst everyday life, not in a curated exhibit hall at a museum.
- Entrance to the museum is free with the Lisboa card
- Bus 794 from Terreiro do Paco (just each of Praca do Comercio) takes you to the museum (riding on the bus is also free with the Lisboa card)
- Photography without flash is allowed (the lighting is spectacular in numerous rooms and so you should leave the museum with some unforgettable images)
More in this series!