Our first day in Lisbon and after a delicious breakfast at the hotel, we armed ourselves with our Europe Guide and Trip Advisor tips and headed out to explore.
The first thing we discovered upon leaving our air-conditioned room was that it was absolutely baking hot. I knew it was going to be hot, I’m not an idiot, it was August in Portugal, but I thought it would be closer to 35 degrees than 43+.
The problem with heat like that (especially for me as the sun hates me) is that it becomes very hard to do any activities outside. Taking a seat on the only bench we could find with shade, we checked the guide-book again and came up with a plan B.
The Gulbenkian Museum was just a ten minute walk from where we were staying and with its high rating on Trip Advisor (and promise of air con) we went to check it out.
We opted to take the audio tour (€4 and leave your ID for security) and seeing the ‘no pictures’ sign; put everything into the free cloakroom.
There are 14 different collections, plus the impressive gardens to see. The audio tour was worth every cent and then some. Not only were there several really interesting talks on the museum and Calouste Gulbenkian himself (click-through here and have a read about him – he was a fascinating man), it also gave a huge amount of detail about the artefacts we were looking at.
Arranged in chronological order (which gets two thumbs up from me), we started with Egyptian Art and then the Greco-Roman Art collection. Unfortunately it wasn’t until we reached the Eastern Islamic collection, that I realised the ‘no photography’ sign was actually ‘no flash photography’ and of course I had checked my camera in, so the pictures I took are with my iPod (so I will definitely go back and visit again, with my proper camera).
I loved the Far Eastern Art Collection, all the jade, the colourful patterns and intricate designs on all the pieces and that screen, absolutely stunning.
The only collection that I personally wasn’t overly fond of, were the more religious items included in ‘European Ivories and Illuminated Manuscripts’ although I can’t deny the skill that must have gone into making them.
After looking at a gorgeous collection of ’15th to 17th Century Painting and Sculpture’, we turned the corner and were bang into ‘Decorative Arts of the Renaissance’ All the pieces were so opulent and so very beautiful. I could just imagine the French Aristocracy lounging around!
I was really impressed with how that section was displayed as well. The wooden floors really added to the effect. They had arranged some of the items into ‘rooms’, it was like attending the fanciest Ideal Home Show ever.
Once we had checked out the gold and silver room (the size of those silver centerpieces, I don’t know how many people it took to move them, but that must have been an impressive workout) we reached the more ‘modern’ art of the 19th century.
I would have been happy to spend the entire afternoon just wandering around looking at these; Monet and Manet, Rubens, Guardi, Gainsborough and Turner; it was fantastic.
There were quite a few visitors getting told off my very stern looking security guards for stepping over the little white line on the floor in front of the paintings.
The works of Rene Lalique was the final collection, it is a shame that they are housed in such a small room, as they were very popular, so it was crowded and hard to get close up to take a look at these gorgeous pieces. I did manage to get a few though… I mean can you imagine wearing this jewellery – just beautiful.
I love museums but I usually save them for the rainy days and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I visited the Gulbenkian. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the artefacts on display and just how well they had been curated. Our visit lasted three and half hours and would have been a lot longer, if we hadn’t had a food tour to go on.
There are pictures of some of the collections, plus lots of information about the museum on their website – this is the link for English