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What to expect at the Quake Museum Lisbon
A quick overview
What to see? Enjoy an interactive journey simulating the great Lisbon earthquake. You’ll learn what an orthogonal plan is, how to create an earthquake-proof building, and what the quake’s impact was in Europe and the country.
Costs? From €21,- per person.
Where? In Lisbon, in the Belém area.
Worth it? Yes! The Lisbon Quake Experience is very educational, and history lovers will have a great time learning what shook the old continent!
The great Lisbon earthquake
As soon as you arrive in Portugal, you will hear about the great earthquake. And there was not much great about it, as the earthquake forever changed Portuguese society. The seismic events had an enormous impact on Portugal, Northwest Africa, and the rest of the Iberian peninsula. But what happened during the disaster, and what can you experience in the museum?
It was the year 1755...
That is how many tour guides will start telling you about Portugal’s history. It was on the morning of November 1st 1755, All Saints’ Day, and many citizens were attending mass. Around 09:40 local time, the earth started trembling. An earthquake with a magnitude in the range of 8.5-9.0 (seismologists estimate the magnitude) hit Portugal and the capital, Lisbon. Amongst scholars, the quake is also referred to as the first modern disaster in Europe.
The epicentre was in the Atlantic Ocean, although the precise location is still up for debate. The earthquake lasted a short time: from three and a half to six minutes only. But the city of Lisbon was in ruins, as well as many other places in Portugal. It became one of the biggest disasters ever to happen to Portugal. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also became known as the Great Lisbon earthquake, changed the lives of many in the region.
In only a few minutes, the devastation in the streets was immense! Almost every building collapsed, and a large part of Lisbon was destroyed. The candelabras in the churches and stoves in houses caught fire. The Catholic population saw the ruined city as divine punishment, as the event happened on All Saints’ Day. Lisbon was ablaze! And after 60 to 90 minutes after the Lisbon earthquake, a massive tsunami was on its way. The waves would reach a height of 6 meters, washing places like Terreiro do Paço (where Arco da Rua Augusta is in Lisbon today) off the map.
The natural disaster, followed by fires and flooding, caused a lot of destruction and death in Lisbon, Portugal, and the rest of the region. Casa da Índia (House of India) was founded to protect Portugal’s monopoly of the spice trade, and it sponsored several famous Portuguese navigators, including Vasco da Gama. The headquarters at Ribeira Palace was fully destroyed during the great Lisbon earthquake, which meant an estimated 1.5 % of Portugal’s GDP was lost in Brazilian diamonds.
What to expect at the Lisbon Earthquake Museum?
History lovers will love a visit to the Lisbon Earthquake Experience. The immersive experience allows you to relive Lisbon’s earthquake, but you’ll also learn how to rebuild a city! Once you’ve scanned your ticket, you’ll receive a bracelet at the QUAKE Lisbon Earthquake Centre. This bracelet will store all information during the event, and you will receive an email afterwards with all the info learned. After a welcome message from a staff member, you will start your adventure with a group of fellow visitors.
The missing documents
The background story: after the earthquake flattened the city, it was time to rebuild the city. Several ministers and secretaries assisted the king, and one of these secretaries of state was Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. Nowadays, he’s better known as the first Marquis of Pombal, a name he received in 1769. Many decisions had to be made in a short time, and during the Lisbon Earthquake Experience, you’ll learn everything about the quake, the ruined city, and the new Lisbon.
In the first room, you’ll discover more about the three missing documents. You’ll hear an audio, in which Professor Luís will ask for your help. The lost knowledge can be found in the Inquérito (the Inquiry), Providências (emergency measures) and the Lisbon Plan. Can you help locate the missing documents?
Quake knowledge at the QUAKE Lisbon Earthquake Centre
Have you always wanted to pretend to be amateur scientists or learn more about seismic events? The second room is full of information! After a short introduction by a staff member, you can discover more about earthquakes. Take an advance to learn more about tectonic plates in Europe, the related effects of an earthquake, and the magnitudes. Afterwards, you’ll know more about tsunamis, historical quakes, and the ocean floor. The thematic experience allows you to touch, try, and play with games, buttons and other sources. After 10 minutes, you move to the next adventure, or you can stay a little longer.
Did you know Portugal lies between the Eurasian and Nubian plates? That means an earthquake can still happen at any time! Thankfully, thanks to seismology, quakes can often be better predicted. Many see the earthquake on 1 November 1755 in Lisbon as a starting point of modern-day seismology after Marquês de Pombal ordered a detailed inquiry on the effects of the earthquake.
Experience an earthquake
In the next room, things get shaky! Thanks to the interactive technology, video mapping, and special effects, you can experience what it’s like to be in an earthquake. You enter a room and take place on a moving floor. Hold on as you experience the earthquakes in Japan (2011) and San Francisco (United States of America – 1906)! These historical events had a huge impact, and in the safety of the Quake Museum Lisbon, you can experience how it feels.
Travel through time
After learning more about earthquakes and their effects, all visitors will enter a time machine. You’ll see scenes of history and travel back to the year 1755. Welcome to Lisbon back in the day! There are several information points to listen to stories and discover more about Portuguese life back then. After a few minutes, you’ll be welcomed into the church.
Welcome to church
You take a seat in one of the church benches, and after a short safety briefing, mass will commence. Interactive technology is helping create the scene of the earthquake, and the special effects are fantastic! The benches shake, the buildings collapse, and it’s like you’re really located in Lisbon during the quake. After a few minutes of shaking, you’ll be rushed to the next room, where you can see the results of the disaster!
What just happened? The historical events will become very clear! The city is on fire (this room is even warm!), and you’ll see the damage the quake caused. The streets are filled with debris, the buildings have collapsed or are on fire, and the country is in despair! But the journey continues! A tsunami was coming, and people started looting in the city. More than thirty people were publicly executed for theft, and citizens were hindered from fleeing. As you can see, the earthquake forever changed the lives of many!
Rebuilding the city
Wow, the quake did a lot of damage. But now it’s time to rebuild the city of Lisbon! The thematic experience continues at Sala dos Contos, where you can help the King’s ministers and secretaries. The secretaries of state at the time of the quake were Pedro da Mota e Silva, Diogo de Mendonça Corte Real and Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. They all acted differently after the disaster, and what would you do? Do the quiz and find out which decisions you have to make.
You will also learn about city planning. Unfortunately, many of the medieval streets disappeared, and the orthogonal plan downtown was used to rebuild the streets of Lisbon. Discover the journey and the decisions the secretaries had to make and how they thought of a building structure strong enough for the future.
Fun fact: King Joseph I of Portugal (Dom Joseph I), the king at the time, escaped unharmed in his palace. He was, however, so shaken by the earthquake that he lived in a series of tents in the hills of Ajuda. After the quake, a new palace was built for him, but it was left uncompleted. It’s time to go back to Lisbon today, and the time machine will get you back to the present time!
Quake Museum Lisbon tickets and opening times
Are you interested in visiting the Quake Museum in Lisbon? Then be sure to book your tickets online to enjoy a discount! You’ll be assigned a time slot to witness the entertainment at the museum with a group of other visitors. The maximum amount of people is 23 in one group. Quake Museum Lisbon tickets start from €21,- per person. Children between 6 and 12 receive a reduced rate.
To witness the Lisbon earthquake, you can visit the museum daily. Opening times are from Monday through Sunday from 10 AM until 6 PM (last session entry). Ensure to arrive a few minutes early before your booked time slot.
Minimum age and restrictions for the QUAKE Lisbon Earthquake Centre
The Lisbon Quake Experience is not suitable for all ages. From the age of 6, children can join the Lisbon Earthquake Experience. Children between 4 and 5 can enter the museum for free, but they cannot ride the simulator. Unfortunately, Quake Museum Lisbon is unsuitable for children under four years of age.
A certain emotional maturity is required for the experience, as there will be simulators of disasters and fires. For that reason, children under six years of age cannot participate in the earthquake simulator experience or other interactive stations.
The simulator platform is also not recommended for pregnant women and people with reduced mobility or heart problems. There is a special area without entering the platform, where you can watch the entire earthquake recreation.
How to get to the Lisbon Quake Experience
The QUAKE Lisbon Earthquake Centre is located in Belém, on Rua Cais da Alfândega Velha 39 in Lisbon. You can easily reach Quake by public transport, as it is near Avenida da Índia, in the historical centre of Belém. The Lisbon Earthquake Museum is right next to Museu Nacional dos Coches and a 5-minute walk from Belém train station. The Lisbon commuter train leaves from Cais do Sodré.
Tram 15E and 18E leave from Terreiro do Paço and the area around Cais do Sodré. Or step on board bus 201, 714, 727, 728, 729, 751. They all have bus stops near the museum. If you come by car, you can park at Praça do Império (Centro Cultural de Belém) or Praça Afonso de Albuquerque (paid). There is free parking around the ferry terminal in Belém.
Other things to do in Belém
The immersive experience has come to an end, but before you leave, you can take a look in the gift shop or enjoy a coffee or a soft drink in the cafe. After all the seismic events and witnessing an earthquake, a break is well deserved! Besides, Belém is known for its many museums, so stay a while longer to enjoy art, culture and history!
Recommended museums are Maat, the National Coach Museum, and the Contemporary Art Museum – Centro Cultural de Belém. But the most famous sights are, without a doubt, de Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery and the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Tip: don’t forget to enjoy the original pastel de nata, the pasteis de Belém! As you can see, you can easily spend an entire day in Belém!
Get your tickets online for a discount at the QUAKE Lisbon Earthquake Centre. Entrance tickets are available from €21,- per person.
It is estimated that Lisbon's population in 1755 was around 200,000 people. It is believed the Lisbon earthquake was responsible for the death of approximately 30,000–40,000 people.
The Lisbon earthquake only lasted for about 3 to 6 minutes, but it destroyed a large area of the city, causing many people to lose their lives.
Yes, children over six years of age are very welcome at the QUAKE Lisbon Earthquake Centre, but a certain emotional maturity is recommended. The safety of adults and children is, of course, the most important during the experience.
The 1755 event is a story often told by the Portuguese, and even today, in popular culture, you’ll hear many earthquake references during your time in Lisbon. The Quake Museum Lisbon is a new and unique place to discover more about other quakes in the world, witness a tsunami and travel back to the time of the Lisbon earthquake. The experience is great for history lovers, amateur scientists, and anyone who’s interested in seismic events. The immersive and interactive experience is even more unique thanks to video mapping, special effects, and interactive technology!