Referred to simply as the CCB, this beautifully designed Centro Cultural de Belem was originally built to serve as headquarter for the Portuguese Presidency of the EU in 1992. It now provides over 100,000 square metres of space for a year-round calendar of cultural events, conferences, exhibitions and meetings as well as providing one of the best permanent exhibitions of modern art in Europe, a number of eateries and shops and much more. If you want to escape from the heat and crowds of tourists that flock to Belem, the centre has something for everyone and never seems to get too crowded.
As the name suggests the centre is found in Belem, just to the west of the city and contrasts starkly with the magnificent Jeronimos Monastery, resting place of Vasco da Gama, which it faces. Although it was initially considered controversial, building such an enormous modern structure so close to many of Belem’s historic sights, most now agree that the building, designed by architects Vittorio Gregotti and Manuel Salgado fits in well.
Art lovers will find an impressive collection of contemporary art in the Bernardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art housed in the building. Look out for works by Warhol, Picasso, Pollock, Mito and Duchamp. Even those who are not particularly interested in modern art will appreciate the opportunity to relax on the bean bags scattered on the grass on the elevated roof terrace, from which there are good views over the river and the Discoveries Monument. Olive trees and a beautiful Henry Moore sculpture add a touch of elegance. This is a place where the local literati come to dine.