A five-minute walk from the Cordoaria, behind the hospital, stands the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, at Rua Dom Manuel II 44 (Tues 2–6pm, Wed– Sun 10am–6pm; e3, free Sun & hols 10am–2pm; Wwww.mnsr-ipmuseus.pt). Serralves aside, it’s the best museum in Porto and in fact was Portugal’s first designated art museum, founded in 1833 to preserve works confiscated from dissolved monasteries and convents. The present building, into which the collection moved in the 1940s, was once a royal residence that served as French headquarters in the Peninsular War
The museum takes its name from sculptor António Soares dos Reis (1847–89), whose best-known work is here – O Desterrado (The Exile) – along with other pieces by his pupil, Teixeira Lopes (born across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia), as well as a formidable display of Portuguese art from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries. But it’s the applied and decorative art that’s perhaps most accessible to the general visitor, especially since remodelling and expansion have improved much of the presentation – the museum contains excellent collections of gold jewellery, religious silverwork, Portuguese glassware, earthenware and textiles, delicate Chinese ceramics, noble French furniture and painted screens and laquered cabinets from the Far East.
Special exhibitions concentrate on particular periods, artists or themes, and you could spend hours here just browsing; there’s a garden and a good café, serving a daily lunch.