Today I will be writing about two museums situated next to each other, at the waterfront of the emblematic Tagus river.
The area is extremely rich in museums, monuments, gardens and there is even a pastry shop where people wait in lines to get some – simple tarts. Yes, that’s it. The district’s name is Belem, which actually means Bethlehem, and it’s one of the two Bethlehems in the world that I have visited so far, although I haven’t been in the “original” biblical one yet. This is the Western part of Lisbon, also situated on the way to Cascais, a beautiful holiday place full of interesting beach mansions and views over the ocean.
The area of Belem is visited by most of the first time Lisbon visitors. Torre de Belem and Mosteiro dos Jeronimos are commonly visited attractions, while it’s also “necessary” to try the tarts called “Pastel de Belem”, the ones you will be waiting for. Let’s go back to these two museums. After a morning spent in Cascais, I returned to Belem at about 3 pm. The Museums are opened until 6 pm, so I still had a plenty of time.
Two Museums, One Owner
These two museums have totally different architectures; however, they belong to the same company – the EDP – Energias de Portugal, the country’s largest energy provider. One of these museums has a clear name – Museum of Electricity. It’s installed in a beautiful XIX century industrial building – that used to be a power plant.
In the time of my first visit to this museum, it was the only museum owned by the EDP. In 2012, it started getting a lot of attention from people who noticed that children and teenagers had a lot of fun there while on a school visit, or with their families. This museum awakes anyone’s imagination. Machines that once served for energy production are still inside the building, the way they used to be, and the exhibition area is enriched with sound effects – noise that machines once produced – and with possibilities to climb some of the machines or even see images of how hard working conditions here used to be.
The museum has also a rich exhibition area, but the most attractive part is the game area. There are several games intended for visitors to understand who the electricity actually happens.
In October 2016 this museum got a younger sibling. The “MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Design” has opened its doors, with an eccentric design and architecture. First of all, it serves as another viewpoint in Lisbon, apart from thousands of other viewpoints of this fantastic city.
MAAT is a mystery
In the time of my visit to MAAT it hadn’t been completed yet so it had a free entrance. Paid entrance is due to start in mid-March 2017. The only part available to visitors for the moment was a large hall whose concept is a surprise. After entering the building, visitors are encouraged to go down through a ramp that looks like one round of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Upon reaching the bottom od the passage, there is a door to the central hall, visible from above through a green net. The inside world is an artwork itself – the light effects are designed to remind of the 24 hours on a beach, made minutes; within 24 minutes, visitors feel a day and a night. The equipment for yoga and pilates is available on site. Sounds cool for afternoon relaxing?
I think so! While a deactivated power plant shows the industry the way it was in the past, the MAAT is likely to show how the future of industry might be, maybe in the hype of “knowledge economy”? Who knows 🙂
These two museums require about 2 hours for a decent visit. In the Museum of Electricity, 1 hour is necessary to discover the old power plant and play some games. The MAAT provides some relaxing outdoor and indoor activities and it’s cool to get another hour for that. I just don’t know how long will a visit to MAAT take once the exhibition areas are opened. The MAAT is a real mystery. As well as some other places in Lisbon, such as the Museum of Beer or a Palace that is still inhabited by the nice noble family that built it centuries ago.