National Coach Museum

Museu Nacional dos Coches: A Visit to Portugal’s Regal Past

The Museu Nacional dos Coches in Lisbon is not only one of the premier museums in Portugal, but is also one of the most unique in the world. The museum, which was inaugurated in 1905 by Queen Amélia of Orleans and Braganza, houses ceremonial vehicles and other Royal artifacts that are considered very important cultural treasures. These artifacts embody not only of Portugal’s history but of Europe as well.

Also called The National Coach Museum, the museum houses the vehicles used by the Portuguese Royal Family for ceremonies and parades, including coaches, carriages, sedan chairs, and even children’s buggies that were used mostly from the 17th to 19th century. The collection also includes other Royal House properties, from vehicle accessories, cavalry gear, royal costumes, and even portraits and paintings. These intricate, luxurious and ceremonial artifacts allow visitors a peek into the regal past of Portugal.

One of the centerpieces of the permanent exhibit is the coach favored by King Philip II for travelling. This vehicle was used by the king to travel across Lisbon and Madrid where his vast territories used to lie. A 16th-century Spanish-made model, it is one of the oldest and most exquisitely designed coaches in the Lisbon’s Museu dos Coches.

Equally beautiful to view are the costumes and attire worn by the Royal House, from the cavalry members to the Kings and Queens of Portugal. Team harnesses, dress uniforms and even a set of trumpets used by the Royal Band for processions are displayed in the museum. Naturally, for the general public, the most interesting pieces would be the private outfits belonging to the royalties themselves. One of the most attention-grabbing items is a French-designed mantle belonging to Queen Amélia. A gift by the city of Paris for her wedding day, the piece not only illustrates fashion and art history, but also the political alliances of European nations.

The Museu dos Coches is located close to the Royal Riding School of the Palace of Belém, which is a neoclassical palace popular for equestrian motifs. Adding historical value to the place is the fact that today, the building is also known as the official address of the President of the Republic.

The Coach Museum is located beside the Tagus River in the Belem District, West Lisbon. Easily accessible by bus, tram, train or boat, it overlooks the Praça Afonso de Albuquerque, a tourist attraction in itself. Visitors may want to take advantage of the free entrance every Sunday and during bank holidays.

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