Museu Nacional dos Coches – A Lisbon Coach Museum

The Museu Nacional dos Coches,  A Lisbon Coach Museum, is Unique:

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Museo dos Coches Photo by Cytech/Flickr

One of Lisbon’s more unique national museums, and a premier attraction of this Portuguese city, is the Museu Nacional dos Coches or the National Coach Museum. It isn’t hard to see why. Filled with a collection of coaches that is rare, they can be seen nowhere else in the world.

The Museu dos Coches displays a wide variety of ceremonial and parade coaches from the 17th through the 19th centuries, along with much of the associated gear for the horses and riders.

Royal coaches from 16th century onwards – and so much more.

It began in 1726 as the stables for a riding academy commissioned by Joao V. Connected to the Belem Royal Palace, it later served to house the royal horses and the coaches they drew. Nearly two centuries later Queen Amélia, the wife of Carlos I, established the coach museum to display many of the royal coaches collected over the intervening years. Today, those coaches are the featured attraction.

There are simple sedan chairs, which transported royals and important visitors thanks to the labor of those men who carried them. There are cabriolets and chaises and litters. There are even small coaches built for the royal children. But even these relatively ordinary vehicles clearly show the magnificence that characterised the royal court of Portugal at the time.

A trip upstairs rewards visitors with a view of the many harnesses and other gear used on the horses. Far from mundane bits and bridles, they are works of art. Delicately carved silver and leather display the care that went into making even these most utilitarian of objects.

On the second floor there are also a number of costumes on display, examples of what the well-dressed royal would wear on a coach trip. The walls hold several portraits that allow one to easily imagine the entire scene.

Royal coaches aimed to impress the Pope…

But the pièce de résistance is unquestionably the royal transports themselves.

The oldest is one from the 16th century used by Phillip II on his journey from Madrid to Lisbon to review one of his 17 territories. The interior is a fine example that neatly shows the origin of the phrase ‘traveling in royal style’.

The centre of the entire exhibit is widely agreed to be the three coaches commissioned by Joao V for the Portuguese ambassador to Rome. Built in Rome in 1716 during the time of Pope Clement XI, they would have impressed even the ruler of the Vatican. Highly decorated, these gilded coaches make it easy to believe that the Portuguese monarchy was then among the richest in Europe.

Located in the Belem district of Lisbon, the Lisbon Coach Museum is easy to reach by bus or tram.

Afonso de Albuquerque Square
1300 Lisbon, Portugal

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