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National Coach Museum

Embassy Coach of Pope Clement XI - Museu Nacional dos Coches
National Coach Museum building
© Reino Baptista / CC BY-SA 3.0
Former National Coach Museum exterior

Museu Nacional dos Coches

Museum housing the extensive collection of carriages belonging to the Portuguese royal family and nobility. Located in the old Horse Riding Arena of the Belém Palace, this is one of Lisbon's most visited museums.

The Museu Nacional dos Coches, (National Coach Museum)  is set in a surprisingly modern building overlooking the Afonso de Albuquerque gardens in Belem, next to the railway station. According to its architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, the minimalist, modern structure is more than a museum; it provides a public utility space for the city.

This present day museum building was completed in May 2015, but the museum had already existed for more than 100 years; the 'Royal Coach Museum', which had changed its name to the National Coach Museum in 1911, had originally been inaugurated in 1905 by Queen Amelia of Orleans, who was married to King Carlos I of Portugal. It had been located in the former Royal Riding School, until it changed location twice as the collection became larger. This small, old building can still be visited separately from the museum today.

Today, the museum is reputed to hold one of the finest and the most valuable collections of historical carriages in the world, with many examples spanning from the 16th Century until the 19th Century. There are over 40 beautifully crafted and extravagantly decorated carriages on display here.  The attention to detail and beauty that was displayed by the artisan manufacturers, to make each coach stand out from the crowd is well worth closer inspection. For many visitors, the collection of former royal carriages, are of particular interest.

It may be surprising to learn that there was a time when Portuguese craftsmen were the leading coach builders for European royalty. One such example is the prized coach that King Philip II of Portugal used on his international travels in the early 17th Century. Also on display is a 19th Century coach built in London, last used by Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to Portugal.

The museum also holds a display of historic fire engines.

There are plenty of information points and there is even an app which you can download onto your phone.  Interactive cartoon touchscreens help to make the museum suitable for younger visitors. 

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