Best Family-Friendly Museums in Lisbon

Family-Friendly Museums in Lisbon, for Kids and Grown-Ups

Family-friendly museums in Lisbon number some of the city’s most celebrated cultural institutions. They also include smaller, more specialised visitor attractions and one or two specially refurbished buildings and industrial complexes. The impressive Museu do Electricidade in Belém is a perfect example where a former power station has been transformed in to an award-winning museum. Lisbon’s Lapa district is home to the Museu da Marioneta, a quirky puppet museum. Kids will also be enthralled by the Pavilhão do Conhecimento-Ciência Viva in Parque das Nações. This interactive adventure playground teaches youngsters (and grownup) all about science in a playful and educative way. The underground D. Dinis Wall and Interpretation Centre in the Baixa reveals city life as it was in the 13th century while at nearby MUDE the emphasis is on fashion and design. Both will fascinate young minds. Again in Belém is the delightful Museu de Marinha where the collection includes fantastic scale model ships. The decorative tiles on display at Museu Nacional do Azulejo will no doubt appeal to older children while youngsters into football should take their parents over to Benfica and the Museu Benfica Cosme Damião, a unique museum that pays homage to Benfica football club, complete with a hoard of silverware. Back in the city, the excellent Museu do Oriente is best appreciated by mature family groups, and everyone will have fun admiring the ceramic caricatures and cartoons exhibited at the Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro Museum. 


Campo Grande/Campo Pequeno

Those with a mischievous sense of humour and a penchant for satire will appreciate the wonderfully quirky and irreverent exhibits in this delightful little museum. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (1846--1905) was born in Lisbon and is one of the most remarkable artistic figures in Portuguese culture. He drew inspiration from the cultural and socio-political climate of the time and turned what he saw into an expression for the concerns of the average Portuguese working man. Using his considerable skills as a graphic and decorative artist, potter and as an exponent of plastic art, he produced an impressive, multi-faceted body of work during his lifetime. He was also adept at developing the caricature and the cartoon as forms of artistic expression. The museum's permanent collection of Pinheiro's most important pieces is regularly complemented by temporary exhibitions.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The famous "Take That" ceramic figurine featuring the Everyman Zé Povinho is among the exhibits.

Paul's expert tip: The museum offers a 50% discount for families (min 1 adult 1 child) and there's free entry for all every 18 May.

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24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara

The Museum of the Orient celebrates Portugal's presence in Asia with a multifaceted exhibition that encompasses 500 years of history, from the 15th century to the modern era. The scope and depth of the display is extraordinary, with the relationship between the country and the Far East explored through a series of galleries and themed collections of stunning beauty and considerable rarity. The exhibits will fascinate adults and older children – younger minds will have a lot to take it. Highlights include the Macau gallery where four magnificent antique Chinese folding silk screens enrich the floorspace. Nearby, paintings, sculpture and rare 16th-century Ming porcelain together with graceful Japanese and Korean terracotta figurines further highlight the ancient heritage of this corner of the globe. Other pieces of note include the delicate crucifixes encrusted with mother-of-pearl unearthed in the Holy Land and the bizarre Nepalese exorcism doll.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: This is one of the city's greatest museums, matched only by the Gulbenkian for the sheer exuberance of the collections.

Paul's expert tip: Family tickets (two adults with up to three children under 18) are available, and guided tours can be arranged in advance.

Read more about Museu do Oriente →

Here's one for football fans. Benfica is one of the biggest club's in Portugal, and the new Museu Benfica Cosme Damião showcases its illustrious history with a permanent exhibition of polished silverware, memorabilia and other club paraphernalia such as original shirts and match-day programmes. The museum is named after Cosme Damião, one of the club's original 24 founders and a legendary name in Portuguese football. The exhibition, set over three floors, is arranged thematically and chronologically and covers the entire history of the club, from 1904 to the present day. Great Portuguese players like Vitor Silva from the 1930s and the legendary World Cup star Eusébio are honoured along with managers and a host of foreign footballers that have played for the club. One of the most popular exhibits is the Trophy Room, where shelves of gleaming cups, medals and glassware are displayed. And for the football mad, it's possible to combine a visit to the museum with a tour of the stadium.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: This unique, interactive exhibition has been designed with visitors of impaired sight and hearing in mind, as well as those mobility issues.

Paul's expert tip: The lads will love it but if the ladies aren't game, the huge Colombo Shopping mall across the road will probably be their goal.

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The National Tile Museum enjoys a beautiful setting within the cloisters of the 16th-century Convento da Madre de Deus in the eastern suburbs of the city. This is one of Portugal's most important cultural institutions and as such visitors often include animated groups of school kids eager to learn more about this unique art form. The museum houses an outstanding collection of decorative panels and tiles (azulejos) including rare early 15th-century examples that borrow Moorish design influences for their pattern. Other pieces draw on Italian, Spanish and Flemish decorative techniques. The patterns and figurative compositions that define 17th-century Portuguese tilework – the blue and white azulejos that embellish many of Lisbon's religious buildings, historic monuments, some restaurants and even one or two caf–s – will be more familiar to the eye.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: A tour of the museum also takes in the neighbouring Madre de Deus church, renowned for its dazzling gilded wood interior and elaborate altarpiece.

Paul's expert tip: Free admission for children under 14, 50% discount for those aged 15--18 accompanied by parents.

Read more about Museu Nacional do Azulejo →

Set sail on a voyage of discovery as you plot a course through this excellent museum. The exhibition charts the history behind the great maritime adventures of Portugal's intrepid 16th-century navigators and beyond, showcasing the country's cherished maritime heritage The model caravels, the sturdy vessels that tamed some of the planet's wildest oceans, are displayed in glorious filigree detail, while a veritable Davy Jones' Locker of armillary spheres, astrolabes, ancient sea charts and other nautical paraphernalia keep adults and kids alike amused and intrigued for hours (look out for Vasco da Gama's portable wooden altar, a revered and priceless exhibit). The museum is housed in the west wing of the Jerónimos monastery but the modern pavilion, which houses a collection of original royal barges, is located on the other side of the concourse.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: No other museum in Portugal houses such a vast collection of maritime artifacts – there's even an historic seaplane among the exhibits.

Paul's expert tip: Family tickets are available, and there's a reduced admission fee using the visitor discount Lisbon Card.

Read more about Museu de Marinha →

Youngsters with a budding interest in fashion and design should persuade their parents to visit MUDE, the Museu do Design e da Moda. This shouldn't be hard to do given there's no entrance fee, which makes MUDE one of the city's great bargains. The museum is home to an ever-changing exhibition of apparel, classic haute couture dating from the 1950s, '60s and '70s from celebrated designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. More contemporary are the examples tailored by Vivien Westwood and Georgio Armani. MUDE is also home to an astonishing variety of vintage homeware, items like chairs, radios and vacuum cleaners designed by Harry Bertoia, Phillipe Starck et al.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The rotating exhibition at MUDE means there's always something different to see: the interior design collection is permanent. The Museum's appeal, however, is universal.

Paul's expert tip: Downstairs is devoted to showcasing the vault and strong room that was part of a bank, the premises of which now house the museum.

Read more about MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda →

One of the city's more unusual museum facilities, the D. Dinis Wall and Interpretation Centre provides visitors with a fascinating glimpse of 13th-century Lisbon. Furthermore, this archaeological wonder is situated below the streets of the Portuguese capital, which only adds to its secretive allure. The medieval wall was discovered during major a refurbishment of the Bank of Portugal headquarters and forms part of a defensive structure built on the orders of King Dinis. Delving into the bowels of the city is an adventure in itself, and besides the ancient ribbon of masonry, the public can admire an exhibition of all sorts of historical artefacts unearthed as the wall was excavated. The museum is as good a history lesson as you'll ever likely to get, the kids will love the spooky setting while grown ups will appreciate the money saved – this wonderful attraction is absolutely free to visit!

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: A fantastic example of how an important archaeological site can be incorporated into an existing building, the D. Dinis Wall enriches the Lisbon visitor experience.

Paul's expert tip: Take time to wander the deconsecrated church set above the Interpretation Centre, itself part of the Bank of Portugal's former premises. And look out for the old bank vault.

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OK, so it's not strictly a museum, but this "Science Alive" centre is a veritable playhouse for youngsters, and adults can join in the fun as well. Here it's all about "see, do and learn", where maths, physics and science in general can be explored through a fascinating series of interactive exhibitions, modules and technological play stations designed especially for inquiring young minds – grown ups just make up the numbers! Kids can "launch" their own hydrogen rocket, dish up a plate of knowledge in the kitchen lab – where test tubes are replaced by pots and pans – or enter a mysterious world where dinosaurs roam. A favourite exhibit is the lofty high-wire bicycle that takes young brave hearts from one side of the pavilion to the other.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: At the Pavilion of Knowledge-Science Alive centre children of all nationalities can learn about the scientific building blocks that bind the world together.

Paul's expert tip: Visit during lunch or snack time and enjoy a 50% reduction in the ticket price.

Read more about Pavilhão do Conhecimento –Ciência Viva →


The historic 17th-century Convento das Bernardes in Lapa is home to the delightfully eccentric puppet museum, the only one of its kind in Portugal. The fascination and diverse collection of colourful marionettes includes examples from 17th- and 18th-century Portuguese theatre and opera – the museum is dedicated to the interpretation and dissemination of the history of puppets and puppet theatre. The exhibits are all finely handcrafted and attired in beautiful costumes, miniature works of art of the stringed, gloved and stick varieties. The collection also features mannequins from across Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. There's a separate gallery displaying an array of fantastic masks, some with extraordinarily delicate features, others with gruesome and contorted faces.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Its unique status as Portugal's only museum dedicated to puppets is enhanced by the workshops and puppet shows staged for the public.

Paul's expert tip: Kids will love the Punch and Judy duo, and look out, too, for the fragile Burmese shadow puppets. The Family Ticket and Lisbon Card allows for generous discounts (and children under two are admitted for free).

Read more about Museu da Marioneta →

A decommissioned early 20th-century electricity generating station has been transformed in to one of Lisbon's most original and fascinating museums. The building itself is a beautiful example of industrial architecture, but it's the interior that truly impresses. Visitors enter through the Low Pressure Boiler Room, the cathedral-like generating hall. The vintage machinery – steam turbines, furnaces, consoles and piping – is all original and imaginatively lit. The lower level conceals an excellent museum that chronicles the discovery of electricity, with a section devoted to the work of Michael Faraday, who pioneered the development of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. An inter-active exhibition aimed at youngsters allows budding scientists to take part in an array of hands-on experiments that are great fun and wholly educative. In complete contrast to the theme of the museum, the building also hosts a regular series of contemporary art exhibitions and installations.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: There's a special interactive section for kids where they can learn more about science through a series of hands-on exhibits and displays.

Paul's expert tip: Entrance is via the new next door MAAT - Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia

Read more about Museu da Electricidade →


Meet Paul Bernhardt

Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul