Museums in Porto: 5 “hidden” museums that you have to know

Museums in Porto: 5 “hidden” museums that you have to know

Porto is a historic city, rich in cultural heritage. So rich that some museums go unnoticed, even to its residents. In this article you will get to know 5 museums in Porto, to discover and visit.

Painting, sculpture, photography and even football! In Porto, the cultural offer is vast and there are museums for all tastes spread out in every corner of the city. Some of them we know through tour guides, others even go unnoticed even by Invicta residents. That is why we have prepared a selection of less popular museums that escape tourist routes, to discover and get to know the city of Porto better.

Portuguese Center of Photography

Museus do Porto- Centro Português da Fotografia

The Portuguese Center of Photography is probably the best known museum of this selection, located in the historic center of Porto next to Torre dos Clérigos, in an imposing building.

Former jail in Porto, this building began to be built in 1767 and functioned as a jail and court until April 1974, a few days after the Revolution, when it was disabled for security reasons. It welcomed the most reputable malefactors, politicians in disgrace, revolutionaries, but also the portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco, who during his imprisonment wrote the book “Amor de Perdição” (translated into english as Doomed Love, 2000 or Love of Perdition, 2016), which would become one of his greatest successes.

In 1997, after several recovery works, it started to host the Portuguese Center of Photography created by the then Ministry of Culture with the mission of safeguarding, enhancing and promoting the photographic heritage.

The program is divided between contemporary and historical photography, both Portuguese and international. Here you can learn about the evolution of photography, as well as observe the impressive exhibition of cameras some over 100 years old!

A visit to the CPF offers several experiences, as it intersperses the temporary and permanent exhibitions, with the possibility to learn about the building’s history, visiting the different cells and the old punishment rooms for prisoners.

We guarantee that it will be an enriching visit and to emphasize that admission is free!

The House of São Roque

Museus do Porto - Casa de São Roque

We have already mentioned, in another article, the fabulous São Roque park, but this time we will focus on the house, which leaves nothing to be desired.

Its history dates back to 1759 when, as part of Quinta da Lameira, it functioned as a mansion and hunting lodge as was typical of the bourgeoisie and noble families of Porto. From the 19th century it became the property of the Ramos Pinto family, well-known Port wine producers and exporters. Between 1900 and 1911 António Ramos Pinto commissioned the architect José Marques da Silva to remodel and expand the house, which was inspired by 19th century French historicism and Belgian art nouveau at the same time that Jacinto de Matos designed the garden. 

In 1979 the whole farm and house were acquired by the Porto City Council. After more than four decades of being practically abandoned and having started to fall into ruin, in 2019 the mayor Rui Moreira decided to transform Casa de São Roque into a pole of social dynamism by installing a collection of contemporary art in the house.

In addition to the temporary exhibitions, the building itself is a work of art worthy of contemplation. It keeps its original eclectic style to this day, and is a striking example of the houses of that time in Porto, due to its architectural and decorative characteristics, where its winter garden is a unique example.

Pharmacy Museum of Porto

Museus do Porto - Museu da Farmácia Porto

The Pharmacy Museum originally opened in Lisbon in June 1996, thanks to the donation of pieces from pharmacies across the country to the National Pharmacy Association, in order to preserve the history of the pharmaceutical profession. Only in 2010, the new hub appeared in the city of Porto.

The collection of the Museu da Farmácia do Porto gathers rare objects of great historical, artistic, anthropological and scientific value, coming from civilizations and cultures as different as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Incas, the Aztecs, Islam, Africa, Tibet, China, Japan, among others. It should be noted that all the pieces are original and were purchased from collectors, making this museum a truly special space.

Through these objects world history is told through the evolution of health care. Among the various gems of this Museum are the portable pharmacies, namely the one belonging to the Romanov Family, built in wood and ceramics, with notes in mother of pearl – a true work of art from the 18th century!

In the building there are also two reconstitutions of pharmacies: the Pharmacy Estácio do Porto which was located at Rua Sá da Bandeira – very famous in its time for the “talking” scale; and the Islamic Pharmacy, a pharmacy inside an Ottoman Empire palace located in Damascus in the 19th century.

In short, a visit to the Museum of Pharmacy in Porto is a 500 million year journey that tells us the history of peoples and civilizations through diseases and the search for a cure for them.

Fernando de Castro House Museum

Museus do Porto - Casa Museu Fernando Castro

In the middle of Rua Costa Cabral, 800 meters from Praça do Marquês, a house with a discreet façade, apparently the same as the others, holds an unusual treasure resulting from 30 years of the life of a Porto resident. Residence of Fernando de Castro (1889-1946), businessman, poet, caricaturist and, above all, a collector here he brought together a vast collection of painting, sculpture, books and objects in addition to the immense gilded woodwork with which he created surprising environments.

At the Casa Museu Fernando de Castro, we found a very interesting set of works: paintings from the 16th to the 20th century, with emphasis on naturalist painting from the 19th-20th centuries, sculpture, almost exclusively of a religious character, from the 16th to the 19th century, some ceramic, glass and toric pieces, but above all a large amount of carving, coming from churches and convents, which covers almost the entire interior of the dwelling. It is precisely the carving that in many situations serves as a background or support for the exposure of objects, creating in this house an absolutely unexpected environment without empty spaces. The density of the decoration is absolutely stunning, taking us now to the Palace of Versailles, now to the Church of S. Francisco in Porto.

Literally, eye-popping!

The Bank of Materials

Museus do Porto - Banco de Materiais

The Bank of Materials is not exactly a museum, it is an innovative concept of visitable reserve that allows showing the most varied decorative and constructive specimens from Porto architecture such as tiles, stucco, irons, etc.

Installed in the Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão since 2010, the Bank of Materials is open to the public and its main objective is to safeguard materials that characterize Porto by collecting it from degraded buildings, to be demolished or altered, with the purpose of being returned to the city.

The tile has special prominence, being a material that integrates Porto architecture in a very expressive way, differentiating it. But at the Bank of Materials, we can find and learn about many other materials such as the old city street signs, iron bars and floors, the unique little hands to knock on the door, the faience eaves and much more.

If you are a fan of the art of tiles and appreciate the unique details of the façades of Porto, a visit to the Bank of Materials is a must!

Surprised by these museums? So know that there is still much more to discover in the city of Porto. We suggest that you escape the tourist routes and start discovering a museum or monument. But don’t forget to save some time for a traditional bridge cruise!