Lisbon Culture on the Cheap, Part 2: Museums

There are dozens of museums in Portugal’s capital and within a short drive, and almost all charge admission. Here are a few tips to do it on the cheap - or for free.

Continued from Part 1: Music, Dance, and Theater

UPDATED Jan. 12, 2019.

Lisbon, city of learning, city of art! There are dozens of museums in Portugal’s capital and within a short drive, and almost all charge admission. They’re never as expensive as the ones in New York or Paris, but still — here are a few tips to do it on the cheap or completely for free.

The Lisboa Viva transit card (see Concerts on the Cheap for more detail) gets you 20% off at Museu Fundação Oriente, Museu da Marioneta, Museu Arqueológico do Carmo and 25% off guided visits at CCB.

Many Lisbon museums offer free or discounted admission to the press, if you’re registered and call ahead, or if you’re unemployed, which you’ll have to prove as well. Seniors and kids normally get a few bucks off too.

The Cartão Circuitos Ciência Viva came to our attention recently as a pretty good deal if you like science and culture. It comes with a ton of goodies such as maps, an app, and more. For the sake of this article, here’s what you need to know: the 50€ annual card is valid for a couple and their kids under 17 and gets you many discounts. For example, 20% off entry to the quirky Vasco da Gama Aquarium, the Gulbenkian, the Water Museum and even 10% off on those overpriced Telecabine things in Parque das Nações. The card offers even more discounts at venues all around Portugal, including the Açores. See the full list of discounts here.

And most Lisbon museums open their doors at least once a month for free to everyone. The first Sunday of every month is free before 14h at the Coaches Museum, Museu de Arte Antiga, Museu de Arte Popular, the Tile Museum, which is certainly worth going out of your way for, the wonderfully creepy Museu da Marioneta and the magnificent Maritime Museum. The list also covers Lisbon’s landmarks Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower, although expect long lines. Or opt for less competition at one of several smaller museums, such as Museu Nacional do Traje, Museu Nacional do Teatro e da Dança, Museu Nacional da Etnologia, Museu Nacional de Arqueologia and Museu  Nacional da Música.

Lisbon’s sparkling-new art space, Museu de Arte Arquitetura Tecnologia (MAAT), is free the whole day on the first Sunday of every month.

The Gulbenkian is free every Sunday, but only after 14h. People under 30 and over 65 get 50% off, and those with the Lisboa Card (see below) get 20% off. Museu do Oriente is free Fridays from 18h to 22h, and they have a bar upstairs.

We don’t fail to see the irony in this: two of Lisbon’s three always-free museums… are owned by banks. They probably figure that they’ll get your money in other ways. This includes the well-curated collection of archeology, money, and contemporary art at the Museum of Money and the small but pleasant exhibit of Roman artificats at Núcleo Arqueológico.

The third museum that used to be always free was MUDE, which focused on design and fashion and had rotating noteworthy shows. It closed “temporarily” in 2016 and is undergoing renovation. Our guess is it will no longer be free when — if — it reopens.

CCB’s Colecção Berardo, an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art that includes everyone from Picasso to Gerhard Richter, is no longer free, no matter what you read online, unfortunately. It’s still just 5€, though, and it’s free every Saturday. The collection is also half-off to students and people over 65 as well as those with reduced mobility.

Finally, if you want to knock out a ton of museums and get over to Sintra or Cascais for free too, as well as ride all the Lisbon elevadores, trams, trolleys, and buses for free, the Lisboa Card could be the ticket. For adults, it starts at 19€ for 24 hours and up to 40€ for 72 hours, and about half that for kids under 15. The card gets you free admission to several museums, such as MAAT, Casa Museu Anastacio Goncalves, Museu da Musica, Museu do Chiado, Panteao Nacional, the magnificent Palacio de Mafra, and our favorite Lisbon garden to escape to, Estufa Fria. Mostly, however, you’ll get a few bucks off. See the full list of discounts to decide whether it’s worth it.

One final tip if you’re itching to go to Lisbon’s Oceanarium or the zoo, which are both rather expensive: discount sites such as Goodlife often run promotions for family packs. Go to the site or try this search to see if anything’s available. UPDATE 2019: Lisbon Zoo offers a 5% discount for tickets bought online all through January. You can purchase them here, and Atlas gets a small commission!

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