The Military Museum just might be Lisbon’s best-kept secret. Although it is the oldest museum in the city (dating back to 1842), it currently gets few visitors. It might be the subject matter or because the museum doesn’t have huge banners guiding you to the entrance. Despite the lack of marketing, the Lisbon Military Museum is a treasure to behold as soon as you step into the first room. Let’s take a look at the history behind the museum, the exhibits in display, and what you can expect from visiting.
Lisbon’s Military Museum is housed in a grand building that formerly served as the Royal Arsenal. The museum began to be organized in 1842 for the purpose of storing and conserving war material. From 1851 to 1926, by royal decree of D. Maria II, it was renamed the Artillery Museum before acquiring its current name.
The museum has continued to expand its rooms and space for exhibition throughout the 20th century. In 1998, a space in the cellars opened up for cultural events and temporary exhibitions. Here, you can find the massive car that carried the columns of Rua Augusta Arch, one of Lisbon’s most famous structures.
The Military Museum plays host to one of the largest collections of bronze artillery pieces in the world. Additional collections are spread over 33 different rooms, which are architectural treasures in themselves, designed in a baroque style. Many rooms are named after famous Portuguese explorers including Henry the Navigator and Vasco da Gama.
The first room on the museum route sets the stage for what is to come. The massive cannons and large wall murals showcase Portugal’s maritime discoveries and remind visitors of the country’s influential past. The museum also displays ancient weapons from around the world in addition to a memorable collection of soldiers in uniforms across the decades sculpted by artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. Be sure to check out one of the museum’s prized possessions: Vasco da Gama’s two-handed sword, standing as tall as a man.
As you walk from room to room, you will notice that, unfortunately, almost everything is written only in Portuguese. Perhaps, this is another reason that the museum doesn’t get too many visitors. However, the impressive array of artifacts, including rare firearms, full suits of armor, and intricate battlefield maps, more than makeup for the language barrier. It will also quickly become evident that the building itself is worth the price of admission.
How to Get to the Military Museum
The Lisbon Military Museum is in the square opposite Santa Apolónia Station, which is the last stop on the Lisbon Metro’s Blue Line.
R. Museu da Artilharia 51, 1100-366
Buses: #706, #712, #734, #728, #735, #759, #781, #782, #794
Visiting Times & Tickets
The Lisbon Military Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. It is closed on Mondays, January 1, April 25, May 1, Easter Sunday, June 10, June 13, August 15, October 5, November 1, December 1, December 8, and Christmas. Tickets cost 3 euros and credit cards are not accepted.