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Heritage and Museums Azores

 The heritage of the Azores dates back to the mid 1400’s, so it is not surprising that the museums of the Azores represent a wide range of interests, subjects and value of the collections.  Sometimes the location of the museums is of as much as interest as the collection itself.  However, in the Azores, the out-of-the-ordinary museums are matched by those with significant collections of historical, cultural or natural history interest.  Architectural details from the early settlers’ churches and buildings make fascinating viewing.  Since several of the islands were settled originally by Portuguese and Flemish families, writings, books, household furnishings and decorations, and personal items from the founding families can be found in some of the collections.

It is said that Christopher Columbus stopped at the Azores Islands on his way back from his first trip to America and made his way to a chapel to pray.  He was assumed to be a pirate and had a fair amount of explaining to do before being released and allowed to continue on his way. The chapel where he and his crew prayed is one of the local museums.  Museums on many of the islands reflect that sense of heritage held by the local residents.  Displays celebrate the flora and fauna, the cultural achievements and the historical roots of the people of the islands.


On the third island are found several museums, including the Angra do Heroísmo Museum located in the seventeenth century former Convento do São Francisco.  It contains pieces ranging from carriages and landaus to furniture.  Numerous displays of weapons, medals, coins, navigation instruments, music sculptures, paintings, porcelains, ceramics and furniture are located in the original building. 

On the same grounds is the Church of St Francis, also known as the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Guia.  This beautiful neoclassic style structure, dating from the last half of the eighteenth century contains gilded cedar wood ceilings, and gilded wood carved retables.  Sculpture and statues, as well as glazed tile panels are just some of the decorations for the interior.  The entire core of the city of Angra do Heroísmo has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  You could spend days viewing the cultural and navigational bridge used by the Portuguese explorers in their journeys from the Old and New World. The fortress and castle at Monte Brasil, the Igreja de São Joao Baptista and the Castelo de São Sebastião, are all worthy of a visit. No less than nine convents and surrounding grounds are part of the city’s history, all of which could be considered to be museums.

Also on the island of Terceira is the Azores only wine making museum.  It’s one of the newest museums in the islands and illustrates the process of wine-making. --> city walk in Angra do Heroísmo

heritage heritage

Sao Miguel

The Carlos Machado Museum located in the city of Ponta Delgada is considered one of the most notable of the Azorean museums.  The collection was begun in 1880 with mostly items of zoological, botanical and mineralogical interest.  Later additions included sections on ethnography and regional art.  In 1930, the museum was relocated to the circa 1600 former Convento de Santo André building.  Since 1930 the collection has added categories of jewelry, folk art, glazed tiles, porcelain, toys and painting.  The Museu Carlos Machado has an especially significant collection of the works of the 16th century Portuguese school. 


Professor Malcolm Clarke, a world-renowned expert on sperm whales is the curator of at whale museum which items from his lifework. While there are several museums about whales on the islands, not many of them are blessed with an expert such as Dr. Clarke on site.  One of the exhibits features a life size silhouette model of the largest sperm whale ever caught in the Azores. It’s built on the cliff-top overlooking the Azorean seas and is mind-boggling for sheer size.  Another display here is about the giant squid.


Not exactly one of the museums, but an interesting place to visit, nonetheless is the sailor’s art wall in Horta.  It seems there is a tradition/superstition of painting a picture on the seawall at Horta before leaving on a voyage.  These are hundreds of such works, some signed and dated, and including pictures of sea creatures; the names of the artist’s ship is usually featured prominently.

Also in Faial is another of the museums associated indirectly with the sea.  Above a local café and gathering place is the Scrimshaw Museum which contains one of the world’s largest collections of scrimshaw.  Scrimshaw is an art form practiced by whaling ship crews, using bones and teeth of the whales, walrus and seals.

Please visit our Yellow Pages to get more information about the museums...

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