Museu da Farmácia (Pharmacy Museum) Lisbon, Portugal

This museum opened in 1996, thanks to a 1981 request for donations sent out to all Portuguese pharmacies, in order to conserve the country’s pharmaceutical heritage. Since then, the museum has acquired artefacts through auctions and private collectors to tell the world story of health and medicine. It is housed in the premises of the ANF (Portuguese National Association of Pharmacies), and has two galleries. The poster boy for the museum is the Ancient Egyptian coffin of Irtierut (Late Period 25th-26th Dynasty).

Portuguese cough medicine packaging : illustrating early 20th century Egyptomania craze!
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dulcie & Gaby Engel

Downstairs showcases the history of pharmacy and medicine in Portugal, with various historical pharmacy shop fittings and laboratory set-ups, as well as advertising posters, packaging, and a focus on important Portuguese chemists, such as pharmacist and researcher Odette Ferreira (1925-2018), who played an important role in the identification of HIV type 2.

Upstairs, 5000 years of pharmacy and medicine around the world are represented by a range of stunning artefacts, from prehistoric grinding palettes to chastity belts to first aid kits for astronauts.

Egyptian stela fragment showing perfume cones on heads
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dulcie & Gaby Engel

I paid particular attention to the Ancient Egyptian items. A New Kingdom limestone relief depicts a couple wearing perfume cones on their heads: these cones were a mixture of oils, resins and fat: bodily heat would slowly melt the cones, spreading myrrh over the person. There is a soapstone cippus (Late Period): a stone tablet depicting the god Horus standing on crocodiles and holding snakes, i.e. overcoming danger. A magic spell is inscribed on the reverse: by pouring water over the stone and then drinking it, the healing powers of the god and the spell were supposed to cure you. These artefacts give a sense of what medicine and healing meant to the Ancient Egyptians, and the same is true of the other times and cultures represented in the collection, such as: Ancient Greek storage jars, Roman glass ointment bottles and surgical tools, Ottoman carafes, a North American medicine pouch, a Mexican sacrificial vase, a Congolese mortar, a Chinese acupuncturist’s figure, an Indian filigree container for a talismanic Goa stone, a Tibetan anatomical chart, a first aid kit used on Ernest Shackleton‘s Antarctic expedition, and a whole range of ceramic and glass European pharmacy jars of many periods and styles, inscribed with the Latin names for various chemicals and concoctions.

Mexican sacrificial vase 
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dulcie & Gaby Engel
A first aid kit used on Ernest Shackleton‘s Antarctic expedition (Burroughs & Wellcome co, England)
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dulcie & Gaby Engel

Although fairly small and not so well known, this is a fascinating and well laid out museum, with clear displays and lighting. It is interesting for children and adults, for scientists and non-scientists alike.

Practical Information

Opening Times: Mondays – Fridays 10.00 am - 6.00 pm, Saturdays 10.00 am - 1.00 pm | 2.00 pm - 6.00 pm.

Closed on Sundays.

Entry charges for 2022: Adult Ticket (+18 years old): 6.00 €

Student Ticket: 4.00 €

Senior Ticket (+65 years old): 4.00 €

Family Ticket (2 adults + 2 children): 16.00 €

Children 0-5 years: free

Museum shop: A limited range of items for sale, displayed in glass cases in the foyer.

Address: Museu da Farmacia Lisboa, Rua Marechal Saldanha, 1249-069 Lisboa


Bus: 100 and 58 (Praça Luís de Camões)

Tram: 28, Elevador da Bica

Metro: Baixa/Chiado

Parking: Parques da Calçada do Combro and Largo de Camões (paid)

(There is also a sister museum in Porto)

Website: (available in English: an excellent informative and interactive resource)

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Dulcie Engel

I was born in London, and studied French & German at Bristol University, before taking a Masters and PhD in linguistics at Reading University. During my professional career, I taught and published research on French, linguistics and English language at various universities, including Wolverhampton, Swansea and Queens Belfast. I have lived in Swansea since 1994.

I have always been a keen traveller and museum visitor, and since retiring early, I have volunteered at the Egypt Centre Swansea (from April 2014), where I am a gallery supervisor. I specialise in giving tours to adult visitors. During this time I have carried out research on the languages and writing systems used in Ancient Egypt, on various objects in our collection, as well as the history of collecting, and the use of Ancient Egyptian themes in literature (especially Dylan Thomas) and architecture.

I have published articles on these themes in the Egypt Centre Volunteer Newsletter (of which I am now associate editor) and in Inscriptions, the newsletter of the Friends of the Egypt Centre (see I also contribute book and museum reviews. I have given Egyptian themed talks to the Swansea Historical Association, Swansea University Egyptology research group, the Friends of the Egypt Centre, Egypt Centre volunteers and visitors, Norwich U3A, and other local associations.