NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MUSIC, PORTUGAL
One of the last things you'd expect to see in an underground subway station is a national music museum, but that's exactly where you can find Portugal's Museum of Music.
Sitting in the forecourt of Alto dos Moinhos station in Lisbon, The Museu Nacional da Música features a vast array of beautiful instruments dating from the 16th to the 21st centuries. Among them are treasures such as a 1725 Stradivarius cello once owned and played by King Luís I of Portugal , an Antunes harpsichord and the Pascal Taskin harpsichord. In addition to one of the richest instrument collections in Europe, the museum also houses a documentation centre where you can find old sheet music, an iconography collection and a sound archive that is preserved and maintained for the use of researchers and educational establishments.
For those using public transport the blue line of the metro will take you - quite literally - to the doorstep. I arrived at the museum on a quiet Tuesday afternoon and, as I put my backpack in the cloakroom, got chatting to the young woman who was manning the desk. Handing me a map of the exhibition area, she pointed out some of the more famous pieces that I should look out for. She also told me a bit about the history of the museum and discussed how it has acquired and built its collection since opening in 1994. A great many of the instruments have been donated by wealthy Portuguese families who had wanted to to share them with the general public. Other individuals left the museum instruments in their wills in order that they may be made available for research and education to all those who are interested. There have also been temporary displays by museums and private collectors from across Europe. She also mentioned that there is an area upstairs where conservation and restoration work on instruments is carried out by a number of specialists.
After being advised which way I should follow the room, I ventured into the main hall and found myself surrounded by an array of beautiful stringed, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. I was the only person in the gallery and it was nice to be able to take my time looking at the pieces and reading about their origins. Despite being underground, the bright colours ensure the museum has a spacious, open feel whilst the air conditioning - which has been installed in order to create the ideal environment for the instruments - makes it a cool and comfortable place to spend a couple of hours. As I picked up my bag and coat, the girl told me that it's not always as quiet. With a multi-purpose area seating up to 100 guests, the museum often hosts a range of cultural programmes including concerts, theme tours, musical workshops and training sessions.
Although not the biggest museum, I really enjoyed visiting The Museu Nacional da Música. It's unique position in the underground subway station makes it feel like you're escaping down a rabbit hole into a little musical wonderland. And, for only 3 Euros (or free for under 12s, students and unwaged), it's a real bargain!
For anyone interested in football, it's just round the corner from Benfica stadium or, if you're more interested in shopping/good food, the Centro Colombo, a large shopping mall is a short walk away.
Location: R. João de Freitas Branco 12, 1500-359 Lisboa, Portugal.