Changing face of Lisbon

Judith Baker visits MAAT, the Muesu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia, a new contemporary arts museum which is an exciting addition to the city’s vibrant cultural scene

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


A new museum exploring contemporary culture opened on October 5th in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. MAAT – The Muesu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia – is spread over two buildings along the river Tagus. The first is the newly renovated Tejo power station, which previously housed the Museum of Electricity and still retains the heavy industrial machinery that powered the city. Alongside is the new main building, an ambitious sweeping design by the British architect Amanda Levete. Its undulating form mimic the bend of the river

The new museum will develop collections of Portuguese art as well as international contemporary art. The first exhibition was Pynchon Park, an installation by French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster based on a dystopian fairy-tale (until 12 March 2017) MAAT is funded by the EDP Foundation and directed by Pedro Gadhano, the former curator of contemporary architecture at the Museum of Modern art (MOMA) in New York.

The Money Museum

The opening of MAAT represents Lisbon’s latest boost to its cultural offering – the city has opened a number of new museums already this year. The Money Museum, which opened in April, uses numismatics and collections from The bank of Portugal to give visitors an educational experience of the evolution of money. It is located in the former church of St Julian and is also home to the only known archaeological remains of Lisbon’s 13th century wall, which were revealed during the renovation works

The National Coach Museum

Although Lisbon’s catastrophic earthquake of 1755 has been well documented, not many people know that the city has been affected by numerous fires throughout its history. This lesser-known fact is being explored in a new temporary exhibition by the National Coach Museum. Running until April 2017, the exhibition displays a wide sample of fire engines and equipment from the 18th to the 20th century. The museum’s recently opened extension won the prestigious CICA Architecture Prize last year, and has one of the world’s largest collections of historical carriages belonging to the Portuguese royal family and nobility.

Coming up in 2017

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum, dedicated to the history of Judaism in Portugal, is scheduled to open in the first half of 2017. The museum will be located in Moorish Alfama, the city’s oldest neighbourhood and an important Jewish quarter in the 15th century.

The new museums add to Lisbon’s existing cultural and historical appeal. Must-sees include the UNESCO World Heritage fortress Torre de Belem and the picturesque Jeronimos Monastery, begun in 1501. Any tour of the city includes the spectacular S. Jorge Castle, which dates back to the 5th century and, sitting atop one of the seven hills, has the best views over the city – taking in The 25th April Bridge and the river Tagus. Climb to the top of the triumphal Arch Augusta, completed in 1875, and then visit the Praca do Comercio, the jewel in the city’s crown rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. The best way to get around Lisbon is by the famous 28 tram which trundles its way around the key sights.

Dine out at many of the restaurant serving good seafood and don’t miss the famous Pasteis de Belem. The custard tarts are made from an ancient recipe from the monastery at Belem and can be enjoyed at the nearby Antiga de Confeitaria.

For more information about Lisbon go to

From the UK, direct flights to Lisbon operate from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Bristol with TAP Portugal, British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Monarch. From Ireland, direct flights to Lisbon operate from Dublin with Aer Lingus and Ryanair.