Located in the historic center of Braga, the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Museu dos Biscainhos) was built in the 17th century and altered in the following century. The former residence of the Counts of Bertiandos, it’s a baroque palace, with large rooms and exquisite finishes!
In 1978, the Biscainhos Palace was converted into a museum of decorative arts, seeking to recreate the daily life of the Portuguese nobility between the 17th and 19th centuries. Its collections include furniture, ceramics, jewelry, textiles, paintings, musical instruments, and even means of transportation!
So, do you want to know more about the Biscainhos Museum: Best Tips For Visiting In 2024? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the Biscainhos Museum
- How to Get to the Biscainhos Museum
- What to See at the Biscainhos Museum
- More Posts about Portugal
- More Posts about Castles and Palaces
- More Posts about Museum Guides
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Brief History of the Biscainhos Museum
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Biscainhos Museum opened to the public in 1978, specifically on February 11th. But until then – and since its founding in the 16th century – this former Baroque palace served as the residence of a noble family for almost three centuries!
Nowadays, the permanent exhibition of the Biscainhos Museum is distributed in more than a dozen living and staterooms (on the noble floor or first floor) and functional or practical spaces (on the ground floor).
How to Get to the Biscainhos Museum
The Biscainhos Museum is located on the Rua dos Biscaínhos, one of the most central streets in the city. And from here, you’re very close to other museums, such as the Image Museum (140 meters), the Treasury-Museum of the Braga Cathedral (290 meters), the Pio XII Museum (650 meters), the Nogueira da Silva Museum (700 meters), and the D. Diogo de Sousa Archaeology Museum (850 meters).
In my opinion, Braga is a true “open-air museum” and therefore deserves to be explored on foot. Nevertheless, if you prefer to travel by public transportation, you can reach the Biscainhos Museum by bus (numbers 2, 6, 14, 21, 24, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 53, 54, 66, 84, 89, 90, 91, 93, 95, 96, 501, 914, 933, and 943; Biscainhos, Conselheiro Torres Almeida I, or Conselheiro Torres Almeida II stops).
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The Biscainhos Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 5:30 pm. In addition to Mondays, the Biscainhos Museum is closed on the holidays of January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th.
As far as tickets are concerned, they cost €2 (normal fare) or €1 (reduced fare for students and people over 65), while children up to 12 years old don’t pay admission. And on Sundays, admission is free for everyone until 12:30 pm!
Access to the Historic Garden is also free for everyone and every day of the year!
What to See at the Biscainhos Museum
The Staircase of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Escadaria) is preceded by an Atrium (in Portuguese, Átrio) through which the lords of the house entered in litters or other means of transportation typical of that time. And in the decoration of the space, several granite sculptures known as “Invitation Figures” stand out – a kind of “butlers” or “doormen”, very characteristic of the Portuguese Baroque.
As for the Staircase itself, it leads residents and guests to the noble floor of the building and is covered in blue and white tile panels. Created by the artist António Vital Rifarto, these tiles represent mythological and fantasy scenes.
The Entrance Room of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Sala de Entrada) was, as the name implies, the place where guests waited to be received by the owners of this manor house. And, of course, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the neoclassical stucco ceiling, from which a central lantern hangs.
Still on the ceiling, take the opportunity to admire the paintings of classic effigies and the wreaths of laurel leaves, which surround them. As for the walls, these were finished with scagliola, an ornamental technique that imitates polished marble.
As in any other palace or stately mansion, the Great Hall of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Salão Nobre) was the main room of the house. Used to celebrate the most majestic and exuberant events of the Portuguese nobility, this room is a true jewel of Baroque architecture.
Blue and white tile panels line the walls, illustrating gallant, hunting, and riding scenes. Dating back to the first quarter of the 18th century, the Great Hall also features a magnificent ceiling painted by Manuel Furtado Mendonça and dedicated to Beato Miguel de Carvalho, a Jesuit missionary.
The Oratory (in Portuguese, Oratório) is a room that has become part of almost all manor houses since the 17th century. In fact, the wealthiest properties even had chapels, where masses and other liturgical celebrations were held exclusively for the family!
In the Biscainhos Museum, the Oratory is relatively small when compared to other palaces from the same period. But it doesn’t fail to include various pieces of furniture, works of sacred art, and objects of a religious nature, which clearly illustrate the Catholic faith of the Counts of Bertiandos.
Dais Room (or Labour Room)
The Dais Room (or Labour Room) (in Portuguese, Sala do Estrado or Sala do Lavor) is probably the most feminine corner of the Biscainhos Museum. This is because it was here that the ladies of the house spent the day, in the company of their female friends, relatives, and servants.
In terms of ambiance, it’s inevitable not to mention the oriental influences in the furniture and decoration pieces – for example, Indian furniture and Chinese ceramics. But there are also paintings and glassware from the 17th and 18th centuries, both Portuguese and European.
Music and Games Hall
The Music and Games Hall (in Portuguese, Salão de Música e de Jogo) was the room of choice for the entertainment and enjoyment of the family that inhabited the Biscainhos Museums. Stage of long evenings of music, dance, poetry, and games, the neoclassical ceiling itself with musical motifs in stucco suggests that type of function.
The favorite games of the Portuguese nobility at this time were card games. Even so, the most popular board games were also played here, such as chess, backgammon, and checkers. All this to the sound of music and lively conversation, always accompanied by coffee, tea, or hot chocolate!
The Office of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Gabinete) served both as a workplace and a reading room (or library). Therefore, it’s quite easy to imagine this small room filled with books, writing material, sculptures, and other intellectual “curiosities”!
The ceiling of the Office of the Biscainhos Museum once again demonstrates the neoclassical style, thanks to the stucco motifs and the central painting. And this style is reinforced by the polychrome tile panels that adorn the four walls.
The last interior space that you can visit on the main floor of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Sala de Jantar) is the Dining Room. And did you know that this was the first Dining Room in Braga and possibly one of the first in the country? Its genesis goes back to the end of the 18th century when the concept of the “dining room” was still unknown!
For many centuries, royal and noble families didn’t have a specific and fixed room to have their meals. Instead, they ate and drank wherever they pleased: in their private rooms, in the common rooms, or even outside (if the weather allowed it)!
Cloister (or Courtyard)
The Cloister (or Courtyard) of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Claustro or Pátio) has two floors supported by granite columns and was used by the owners of the house as a private refuge. In addition, it has direct access through the Atrium (on the ground floor) and through the Staircase, Great Hall, Office, and Dining Room (on the first floor).
The ground floor of the Cloister (or Courtyard) is marked by a central granite fountain, which in turn is surrounded by boxwood beds. On the other hand, the noble floor was embellished with tile panels from the 17th century.
Back on the lower floor of the Biscainhos Museum, it’s time to discover the Stables (in Portuguese, Cavalariças), which had the dimensions and conditions to accommodate up to five horses. Built in the 19th century, they’re located at the end of the corridor that connects the Atrium to the Garden.
Apart from the instruments linked to the equestrian art and transportation that are on display here, it’s possible to appreciate the different elements worked in wrought iron, such as the baskets to store hay or the heads of horses at the entrance to the stalls.
After visiting the Stables and before venturing into the Garden, I recommend that you take a look at the Kitchen of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Cozinha). Installed in a wing independent of the main building, it comprises a first area, with an imposing chimney, two wall ovens, a stoneware dish, and a built-in wardrobe.
In the photograph, you can see a second area, filled with a table in the center, a tank with a frown, two sinks, and more built-in cabinets. A third and final area, with access to the Dining Room on the upper floor, was closed to visitors.
The Garden of the Biscainhos Museum (in Portuguese, Jardim) is my favorite part of this former noble palace and an important testament to its heritage wealth. Structured on three levels – Formal Garden, Orchard, and Vegetable Garden – it houses several botanical species, as well as the most beautiful granite statues and fountains.
In 2020, the Garden of the Biscainhos Museum was recognized with the “Seal of Quality of Historic Gardens” by the Portuguese Association of Historic Gardens, becoming part of the “Route of the Historic Gardens of the Baixo Minho”.
Since access to the Garden of the Biscainhos Museum is free, it’s likely that you’ll find many more visitors here than inside the Palace – especially if the weather conditions are as favorable as the day I took these pictures!
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