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Belém, Lisbon: 297 reviews and 605 photos

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The Belém Cultural Centre, simply referred to as CCB (Centro Cultural de Belém), is an architectonic equipment dedicated to the promotion of the Arts (it houses a Performing Arts Centre), but congregating also a Meetings and Conference Centre, an Exhibition Centre, the Jacques Delors European Information Center, an Hotel Zone and Complementary Equipment. Moreover, here we can find technical departments, some of the best auditoriums in Lisbon for opera, ballet, symphony concerts (one of them with approx 1500 seats), shops, restaurants, exhibition galleries (all sorts of plastic arts), gardens, pedagogic activities, museums, among many other amenities serving the arts, in one of the most beautiful and historically important parts of cosmopolitan Lisbon, side by side with the Tejo river.

The construction was initiated in 1988 and finished in 1993, aiming to fulfill the need of a space to receive the Presidency of the European Union (1992) and that, at the same time, would gather the crescent range of cultural activities of the Capital and of the Country. Lisbon became European Capital of Culture in 1994 and many performances and exhibitions took place in CCB. The project was attributed to the architects Manuel Salgado (Portugal) and Vittorio Gregotti (Italy) and its location was quite polemic, right in front of one of the most prominent monuments in Lisboa –Jerónimos Monastery. Yet when the project was presented the authors said “it aims to proudly mark the leaving point of the important Portuguese Maritime Discoveries back in the 15th C., that gave “new worlds to the world”, opening the doors to new cultures and lifestyles”, which more than 10 years past I must recognize it is true. Lisbon cultural arena was much reinforced with CCB.

The all Center occupies nowadays a construction area of 97 thousand square meters, distributed in six hectares separated by two inner streets and united by a pedestrian sideway that creates an unity with the lovely Praça do Império. The all building is covered with slabs of pinky limestone and on the floors we can see minimalist decoration of black and white pebbles on the style of calçada portuguesa (portuguese pavement).

Apart from extensive program of theater, symphony (and smaller) concerts, opera, ballet, pop, rock and jazz concerts, there are free entrance music performances almost every day throughout the year (around 7pm) in the main building, allowing the common citizen to be updated with the music and the performers in an informal atmosphere after the working day. Many people also attend the free entrance jazz performances during the summer time. In April an entire weekend (usually the 3rd weekend) is devoted to “The Days of Music”, a festival with low cost tickets (2-3 euro) with consecrated and new performers -families come in bunches to the place.

Since 2007 the Center houses the Berardo Modern and Contemporary Art Collection, with approx 1000 works, 30% of which are now kept at a big refurbished gallery that until recently contained the Design Museum, which has relocated to the Verride Palace in Santa Catarina Square (due to open in 2009). Berardo is determined that entry should remain free, and he wants the gallery to retain a lively, unstuffy atmosphere. Special services (again free, although you do need to book) include guided tours in English and the opportunity to spend "15 minutes with a work of art", during which an assistant will talk you through a chosen piece.

It is also very pleasant to stand at the terrace garden by the entrance of the CCB and look across the road, in both directions –the beautiful waterfront of the river and the Belém Tower, and the great monastic complex which is the best example of Portugal's Manueline style -Jerónimos monastery. I come year quite often to take a coffee –some times on the way to attend some of the free entrance performances around 7pm, other times on Sunday morning. Strongly recommended.

Berardo Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
Ph: 213612878;
http://www.museuberardo.pt
Open daily from 10am to 7pm, Fridays until 10pm.
Free entrance

Address: Praça do Império, Belém
Directions: Belém district
othercontact: Ticket Office hours - 1PM-7:30PM
Phone: 213612400
Website: http://www.ccb.pt

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 11, 2009
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