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The Belem Cultural Centre is a massive complex that hosts touring operas, ballets, art displays and is the permanent home of the excellent Berardo Museum. This museum is regarded as the best free activity in Lisbon and a full guide is detailed at the end of this page. The Belem Cultural Centre is commonly shortened to just the CCB (Centro Cultural de Belem) and was constructed to house the European presidency during the 1992 term that was hosted by Portugal.
The CCB in Belem
The Belem Cultural Centre is located in the main square of Belem opposite the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. The easiest method of travel is to catch to the number 15 tram from Baixa and down-town Lisbon. The centre is open between 8:00 until 20:00 during the week and between 10:00 to 19:00 at the weekend. The Centro Cultural de Belem has an extensive calendar of events and the latest listing can be found on their website, www.ccb.pt. Tickets to performances can be purchased from the ticket office, over the phone (+351 21 361 26 27) or from their website.
There are daily tours of the Centro Cultural de Belem which can be booked at the ticket office or by calling +351 213 612 650. These tours detail the short history of the complex and visit behind the scenes. The tour length is 90 minutes, tickets cost €5 but need a minimum of 10 visitors.
There are four food establishments in the Belem cultural centre; two high end restaurants, one mid price restaurant and a light meal venue. The restaurant Commenda is designed for pre-show meals and their €40 set menu "concert and diner" serves exquisite dishes. The Esteoeste restaurant provides a more extensive menu of equally fine food, while Bar Terraco is a more relaxed and less formal location. The café Sandwich provides better value snacks and light dishes.
The Berardo Museum is one of Lisbon's best free tourist activities and often the sole reason why visitors enter the CCB. This private art collection owned by Joe Berardo contains more than 1,800 pieces of contemporary art range from pop art through to surrealism and is a great introduction to may of the genres. The Berardo Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday between 10:00 and 19:00 and is highly recommended.
The Centro Cultural de Belem is a vast low rise stone structure that covers more than 100,000 m². Each of the main exhibit areas and central courtyards are connected by semi-open walk ways that are suppose to represent the grid pattern of Baixa. Inside the Centro Cultural de Belem are two auditoriums, the larger room has 1429 seats while the small has 310. Much of the centre is reserved for business conferences and use many of the high security meeting halls that were constructed for the European presidency.
The Belem Cultural Centre (Centro Cultural de Belem) was constructed incredibly rapidly one the nomination for the head of the European presidency had been confirmed. The actual construction started in 1989 and was finished in 1992, slightly ahead of schedule and in time to house the presidency. The chief architects were Vittorio Gregotti and Manuel Salgado; the interior was planned by Daciano Costa.
After the presidency they was a period when the building severally underused but as the reputation of the Centro Cultural de Belem grew it was able to attract world renowned traveling expositions and performances. From 1999 until 2006 the Centro Cultural de Belem housed the Design Museum but this moved to Rossio and opened in 2009. The Berardo Museum opened in 2007 as a joint venture between the Portuguese government and Joe Berardo.