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13 Unexpected and Wonderful Museums to Explore

There are more than 50 museums in the Alentejo. Every major town has one, displaying all kinds of treasures ranging from archaeology, art, mining, crafts, olive oil, marble  to clocks. Museums showcase the best of the region's history and culture with objects amid exhibits that tell the stories of the Alentejo. And, good local museums offer a sense of place and point of view. So, for a rainy day (of which there are very few) take a stroll to see and learn about something new. Here’s our guide to the cool, offbeat and fun museums of the Alentejo.

While we can’t list every Alentejo museum — the link below will help you find many of them. See more options at:

The Berardo Tile Museum is an incredible new museum located in downtown Estremoz. It has one of the largest and most important private collections of tiles in Portugal. In a visit, you can explore centuries of tile art up close, and also learn about Portuguese azulejos and their evolution in the exhibition "800 Years of Tile History.” Set in a former palace, with sweeping castle views.

At the Regional Museum of Beja you can explore the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição in the heart of this beautiful city in the lower Alentejo. Also known as the Rainha D. Leonor Museum, it is set in a Franciscan convent founded in 1459, and  which was the scene of a passionate love story that took place between a nun and a French soldier, as recounted in the scandalous letters said to have been written by a nun named Mariana Alcoforado.

The Melara Picado Nunes Olive Oil Museum is located in the village of Galegos, near Marvão. One of several regional olive oil museums in the region, here you get to see a real olive oil mill in operation, learn more about the history of olive oil, see the production techniques and the legacy of the family that created the mill, as well as visiting the historic mill and enjoy an oil tasting accompanied by other regional food products.

Museu do Chocalho never has too much cowbell as it is all about the kind of bell that field animals, such as cattle, sheep and goats, for example, wear around their necks. However, what makes the rattle so special (and what makes a cool museum) is that it is produced using a technique created more than 2,000 years ago, which has been called Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Visitors see up close how the bells are produced in this museum located in the town of Alcáçovas.

The Lousal Mineiro Museum, is part of the Lousal Life Science Center. This museum houses a significant collection of documents, objects and equipment that take the visitor on a journey through time, to understand what daily life was like in the day of the Lousal mining operation. The Lousal mine was a pyrite mine that opened in 1900 and closed down in 1988.

The Emmerico Nunes Cultural Center (CCEN) is a cultural cooperative with a gallery of rotating exhibitions from various areas of the arts. It is set in a historic building in Sines, the former Misericórdia hospital, next to the Capela da Misericórdia and the Igreja Matriz.
Founded in 1986, the CCEN shares different forms of artistic expression, local and national, that promote the debate of ideas, or confrontation with diversified aesthetics and feeding both knowledge and learning.

The Clock Museum in Serpa is one of the few of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the five worldwide that are dedicated to this timely theme. The museum has more than 2,500 mechanical clocks dating from 1630 to the present day in its collection. It is based in the 16th century Convento do Mosteirinho, in the heart of Serpa’s historic center.

The Coffee Science Center in Campo Maior is run by Delta Cafés. A visit raises awareness of issues related to coffee, namely the history of the roasting industry in the town, from the days of smuggling to today. In this Coffee Science Center, the visitor can go through the entire cycle of the coffee bean, from the cultivation in distant lands, through the roasting phase, to being enjoyed in the cup in the form that we all know. The history of Delta and its founder, Commander Rui Nabeiro are explained.

Yes, there is a Soap Museum, set in the pretty riverside town of Belver. Soap production had an economic and social importance in Belver. The Royal Soap Factory was operated under a royal grant for many years. A royal concession gave economic dynamism to Belver and some workers at the royal soap factory, who used the acquired knowledge and the availability of the main raw materials to start artisan industries when the monopoly ended in 1858. The skill was passed from generation to generation. Soap production lasted until the first half of the 20th century,  The restoration and transformation of the old primary school in Belver into the Museu do Sabão honors the collective memory of the soap-makers of Belver.

The Évora Toy Museum, or Museu do Brinquedo de Évora, has displays of toys that make children happy. The majority of the collection is from the 1940s and 1950s. Here you will find musical, military, and transportation toys (trains) , as well as vintage games and period doll houses. You’ll find this set near the city center in the Évora Public Garden, adjacent to the city walls.

The Observatorio do Lago Alqueva – OLA (or Lake Alqueva Observatory) is an astronomical observatory next to the walled village of Monsaraz, a dark sky community. OLA offers regular  tours of the night sky over Monsaraz, full of constellations, star clusters, nebulas and far off galaxies. Guides offer telescopes and  explanations — and if the weather is cloudy, they offer astronomy software.

The Military Museum of Elvas opened in 2009. It is set in the historic buildings of the former monastery in Elvas. The exhibition offers an historic overview of the Portuguese army. Check out weapons, uniforms, band instruments, military maps and photos. Outside see cannons, armored vehicles and artillery. All set in the heavily fortified town of Elvas.

Almodovar’s Southwest Writing Museum is the starting point for understanding the history of a lost script that was once common across Portugal and Spain. Conceptually, it belonged to a  people who inhabited this region more than 2,500 years ago. The Southwest Writing Museum is a living space with a main exhibition that presents, in a didactic, functional and aesthetic way, the evolution of spelling and written knowledge in the region.

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