A Guide to the Best (and Worst) Museums in Porto

The Best and Worst of Museums in Porto Portugal

Porto Museum Guide

The streets of Porto are filled with so many things to see that the entire city is like an open-air museum.

It’s easy to fill your time meandering the streets, either on one of Porto’s popular walking tours or just by yourself, and forget that there are plenty of actual museums in Porto to visit as well.

While I don’t recommend spending your whole time in Porto indoors, it’s definitely worth checking out a few Porto museums to learn more about the city’s art and culture.

I recently spent a couple of weeks in this northern Portuguese city and tried to squeeze in as many Porto museum visits as possible. In this guide, I’ll share which museums are must-sees, and which ones you can skip without FOMO.

Disclaimer: While I did visit a wide variety of museums in Porto, I skipped over some that I had no interest in, such as the Museu Military ( Military Museum ) and the FC Porto Museum. Since I’m not a fan of either war or football (soccer), I’m not the right person to tell you whether those museums are any good or not.

I did, however, visit a number of art and history museums, as well as museums on specific aspects of Portuguese culture, such as its trams and azulejos (painted ceramic tiles). If any of those things interest you, keep reading!

For free or discounted entry to many of the museums mentioned in this article, pick up a Porto Card.

Portuguese Center of Photography (Centro Português de Fotografia)

Entrance: free

Portuguese Center of Photography in Porto

Temporary photography exhibit at the Portuguese Center of Photography in Porto

This museum and exhibit space is housed inside an old prison and courthouse. The temporary photography exhibits change frequently, so you’ll just have to see what’s on while you’re there, but the ones I saw were pretty stunning.

Upstairs, there’s also a permanent museum exhibit of cameras and photography equipment through the ages. Don’t miss the tiny spy cameras made to look like cigarette packs and other everyday objects.

The building itself is also full of history, and many of the exhibition rooms are former prison cells. It was built in an odd trapezoidal shape because it had to fit in a narrow space between the convent of São Bento da Vitória and the city walls, which have since been demolished.

Beware that the entrance is not down the narrow side street where Google Maps says it is. Instead, it’s on the large square facing the Jardim da Cordoaria.

Porto Tram Museum (Museu do Carro Elétrico)

Entrance: 8 euros, or 4 euros for Porto Card holders.

An old tramcar at the Museu do Carro Elétrico (Tram Museum)

An old tramcar at the Museu do Carro Elétrico (Tram Museum)

The brightly colored trams (trolleys) of Porto and Lisbon are one of the most iconic images of Portugal. While the old-fashioned trams running on the streets today already look like museum pieces, they’re pretty modern compared to some of the old tramcars on display at the Tram Museum.

The first model was called O Americano (“The American”) and was pulled by horses. Next came cars pulled by steam engines. The trams, which in Portuguese are called “electric cars” (carros elétricos), didn’t actually become electric until 1895.

For anyone traveling with kids, this museum is sure to be a big hit! You can climb inside most of the models, so it’s very interactive and great for little ones with lots of energy. And for the adults, there’s signage in both English and Portuguese explaining the history of the tram network.

The old Massarelos Electric Power Plant upstairs is also definitely worth a look. This coal-run electricity plant used to supply the power that run the trams, and much of the old machinery has been left in situ.

Banco de Materiais

Entrance: free

Drawers filled with azulejos at the Banco de Materiais

Drawers filled with azulejos at the Banco de Materiais

This project was set up by the Porto municipal government inside the Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão in 2010 to help preserve Porto’s characteristic building materials, primarily its famous azulejos (ceramic painted tiles).

Azulejos are collected from abandoned and dilapidated buildings so that they can be reused. The collection includes a number of different styles and patterns from the 15th to the 20th centuries.

They are organized by pattern and stored in pull-out drawers, and anyone with tiles missing from their building can come here to try to find a match. In addition to azulejos, you can also see some old street signs and various decorative items made of wood, stone and iron.  The entrance to the Banco de Materiais is on your left when facing the main entrance of the Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão.

Casa do Infante

Entrance 2.20 euros, free for Porto Card holders and for everyone on Saturdays and Sundays.

Ancient Roman mosaic found underneat the Casa do Infante

Ancient Roman mosaic found underneath the Casa do Infante

This is one of the best museums in Porto for learning about the city’s history. Henry the Navigator was born in this building, which was originally built as a customs house and later also became a mint.

There is an exhibit about Henry the Navigator and the Discovery Age, with a focus on Porto’s role in the discoveries.

While the customshouse was built in the 14th century, much older Roman buildings from 4th and 5th centuries AD have been discovered underneath it. A large section of an Roman mosaic floor is now visible. You can also see more azulejos on display here, including some Hispano-Moresque ones from the 15th century.

Dedicated Store Porto

Entrance: free

Work by urban artists at the Dedicated Store Porto

Work by urban artists at the Dedicated Store Porto

Not exactly a museum, but an art exhibition space that hosts rotating exhibits of art by urban street artists. And, as the name suggests, it’s also a store that sells paints and other art supplies.

Dedicated Store is the only place where local street artists can legally buy cans of the high-quality spray paint needed for street art. The exhibits change regularly but usually feature local artists.

The store and exhibit space is run by Teresa Clara da Silva Rafael, better known as Rafi. She is a street artist herself, and one of her murals decorates the front entrance of Dedicated Store. Rafi is a vegetarian and animal lover, and this shines through in her work.

Most of her murals depict a woman with flowing black hair (Rafi herself) with an animal. I’m in love with this one of her holding a goat in a modern remake of the classic Madonna and Child image.

I’ll be publishing a post about street art in Porto in the coming weeks, so watch this space!

Romantic Museum (Museu Romântico)

Entrance: 2.20 euros, free for Porto Card holders and for everyone on Saturdays and Sundays.

The ballroom of the villa that now houses the Romantic Museum

The ballroom of the villa that now houses the Romantic Museum

This museum is housed in an old villa that once stood in the countryside on the outskirts of Porto but is now well within the city limits. The villa is now part of the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal and sports views over the Douro River and the ocean.

King Carlos Alberto of Savoy-Carignano, the King of Piedmont and Sardinia, lived here in exile for the last few months of his life. He was a leader of the movement to unify Italy and liberate it from foreign powers but was defeated by the Austrian Empire.

In an effort to reach an agreement with the enemy, he abdicated in favor of his oldest son, Vittorio Emmanuele II, and exiled himself in Porto. The exiled king arrived in Porto in April 1849 and died in July of the same year.

Much of the furniture pieces on display in the museum are replicas of the furniture used by the kind, as the originals are kept in Turin, Italy. The museum is a tribute to him and an example of how high society lived in the 19th century.

Casa Museu Teixeira Lopes

Entrance: free

The atelier (workshop) inside the Casa-Museu Teixeira Lopes

The atelier (workshop) inside the Casa-Museu Teixeira Lopes

This house in Vila Nova de Gaia was the home and workshop of Teixeira Lopes, a famous Portuguese sculptor and a patron of the arts.

Inside the house is a room with a stage where Teixeira Lopes hosted concerts and theatrical performances. Downstairs is his atelier (workshop), which is filled with plaster copies of famous sculptures as well as mock-ups of some major monuments that were planned but never executed.

The interior of the house can be visited only on a free guided tour. Tours leave throughout the day but are given only in Portuguese.

My guide was quite enthusiastic about her job, and, as a result, the tour was rather long. If you don’t speak Portuguese, it might get a bit boring.

Alternatively, you could visit just the gardens, which are also filled with sculptures by Teixeira Lopex. There, you’ll also find a beautiful Neo-Manueline tomb, which lies empty.

The tomb was built for Almeida Garrett, a Portuguese poet who was originally supposed to be buried in the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém. Plans changed, and he was buried in the National Pantheon instead, so the Neo-Manueline tomb was no longer suitable.

Casa-Museu Guerra Junqueiro

Entrance: 2.20 euros, free for Porto Card holders and for everyone on Saturdays and Sundays.

The café in the courtyard of the Casa Museu Guerra Junqueiro is a great place for a drink or snack.

The café in the courtyard of the Casa Museu Guerra Junqueiro is a great place for a drink or snack.

This is another house cum museum and is very centrally located around the corner from the Cathedral. It’s an 18th-century Baroque mansion and was the home of Guerra Junqueiro, a famous Portuguese poet.

Guerra Junqueiro is also a keen art collector, and the house museum is filled with pieces he collected. Visitors must be accompanied, but, unlike at the Casa Museu Teixeira Lopes, the person who accompanies you does not give a tour, though you are welcome to ask them questions if you want.

The collection includes examples of the decorative arts, such as ceramic sculpture, furniture and textiles from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It probably won’t hold your attention for that long, but it’s worth a quick visit, at least if you have a Porto Card or visit on a day when it’s free.

They sometimes have temporary exhibits too, and there’s a lovely little green area out front in the courtyard. The cafeteria here is a fantastic place to stop for a drink, especially on a sunny day.

Port Wine Museum (Museu do Vinho do Porto)

Entrance: 2.20 euros, free for Porto Card holders and for everyone on Saturdays and Sundays.

Weights and measures. This is as exciting as the exhibits get at the Port Wine Museum

Weights and measures. This is as exciting as the exhibits get at the Port Wine Museum

To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t waste your time with this one, even if you can get in for free. It’s a shame, but a museum about port wine sounds like it could be interesting.

The problem is, this museum is not really about port wine at all. The exhibit rooms are mostly empty, and the few meager displays that are there are about how merchandise was measured and controlled by city officials in times past. If you’re thinking that sounds boring, you’re right.

While the museum closes at 5:30 pm, the attached wine bar is open until midnight. You can visit the bar without paying for the museum, but it’s a bit overpriced, albeit with a nice view over the Douro.

Soares dos Reis National Museum ( Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis )

Entrance: 5 euros, 2.50 for Porto Card holders

The façade of the Palácio dos Carrancas, home of the Soares dos Reis National Museum

The façade of the Palácio dos Carrancas, home of the Soares dos Reis National Museum

Founded in 1833, the Soares dos Reis National Museum is the oldest public museum in Portugal. It’s housed inside the Palácio dos Carrancas, a large palace from the late 18th century that was also home to a factory that made gold and silver braided trim.

The collections are extensive, focusing mostly on Portuguese sculpture and painting, as well as applied arts such as glass, furniture and jewelry. There are a number of pieces by Portuguese sculptor António Soares dos Reis, after whom the museum is named.

The originals of some of the plaster copies in the Teixeira Lopes museum are also kept here. You’ll need at least a couple of hours to see everything.

Unfortunately, the way the exhibits are presented is quite old-fashioned, and there’s not much signage in English. The staff also have a tendency to be rude with visitors, which can easily spoil the experience.

On the bright side, there’s a nice garden in the back, which can be reached via the cafeteria.

World of Discoveries

Entrance: 14 euros, or 11.90 plus tax if purchased online in advance. Discount with the Porto Card.

The World of Discoveries, with a façade shaped like a caravel ship

The World of Discoveries, with its façade shaped like a caravel ship

The World of Discoveries is a relatively new attraction that opened in 2014. I didn’t have a chance to go inside this time around, but I have it on my list for my next visit to Porto. It looks like a lot of fun, especially for kids. And I think adults suffering from museum fatigue would love it too!

The façade in the shape of a Portuguese caraval ship hints at the lighthearted nature of this museum. The interactive exhibits teach the history of the Age of Discovery in an entertaining way. Inside, you’ll find full-scale models and live actors dressed in period costumes.

There’s even a boat ride through the lands that the Portuguese explored, which has been the highlight for many visitors.

Serralves Foundation (Fundação Serralves)

Entrance: 12 euros for museum and park, 15 for museum, park and villa. Twenty percent discount with the Porto Card and 25 percent discount if you have a ticket for an Alfa Pendular or an Intercidade train.

Plantoir by Claes Oldenburg and Coosie van Bruggen.

This sculpture is called Plantoir and was created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosie van Bruggen.

The Serralves Foundation is a cultural institution made up of three main attractions: the Serralves Museum, which displays contemporary art; the gardens, which are filled with contemporary art sculptures; and the art deco Serralves Villa, which offers sweeping views of the grounds. This is one of the few museums in Porto that is not really within walking distance of the city center, so you will need to take a bus or Uber to get here.

Allow half a day to see the museum exhibits and enjoy the sculpture gardens. The artwork on display dates from the 1960s to the present. In addition to the permanent collection, there are often several temporary exhibitions on as well.

This is one of Portugal’s most highly renowned museums. Even if you’re not really into contemporary art (I’m definitely not), the grounds are a pleasant place to while away an afternoon.

Use the map below to create your own self-guided walking tour of Porto museums.

Pin It!

Porto Museum Guide - The Best and Worst of Museums in Porto Portugal

Save this post for later on Pinterest!

Many thanks to Visit Porto for their support during my stay in Porto. As always, opinions in this post are entirely my  own.

About Wendy Werneth

Intrepid traveler, vegan foodie and animal lover. I uncover vegan treasures all around the world, so you can be vegan anywhere and spread compassion everywhere.

2 Comments

  1. Super helpful…thank you!

Tell us what you think in the comments!