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The Museu Nacional dos Coches (Coach Museum of Lisbon) houses an exceptional collection of ceremonial coaches and other ornate horse-drawn carriages. The collection brings together state carriages used throughout Europe from the 16th to the 19th century.
The subject of the museum is incredibly niche, and will not appeal to the majority of tourists, but if you have the slightest curiosity, you will find yourself rewarded with one of finest museums of Lisbon.
The museum was originally housed in the fabulously ornate royal riding arena, but has been extended to into the modern concrete complex opposite. The admission is to either building, or there is a combined ticket (€8 individual or combined ticket €10). The royal riding arena is the much more atmospheric building, but the modern complex houses more exhibits, and are more historically significant.
If you only choose one section of the museum to visit, it should be the modern side, as there is a much better range of exhibits. The royal riding arena only houses eight carriages, a selection of portraits and a wing displaying 19th-century firefight equipment. This is a shame, as the main riding area is ornately painted and a fascinating building.
Our opinion: Purchase the combined ticket, and a visit should be started in the riding arena and then (after a coffee and Pastel de Nata) move on to the modern complex.
The most important and oldest exhibit is the coach used by King Felipe II of Portugal as he travelled from Spain to Portugal in 1619. Another standout exhibit is the ceremonial Coach of the Oceans, a carriage belonging to Pope Clement XI, which was given King John V in 1715, and is lavishly decorated in gold.
The coach collection was created by Queen Amélia in 1905 and was housed in the royal riding arena. The arena was 50m long and 17m wide, and was used for training horses, for horse riding exhibitions and games. The arena used to have balconies so that the Portuguese royal family could watch the events from luxurious surroundings.
The royal riding arena was added as an extension to Belem Palace which was later converted into the Museu Nacional dos Coches under the Queen Amélia requests. The queen included all of the carriages belonging to the Portuguese royal family in the museum’s collection. After the demise of the royal family the Portuguese government maintained the coach museum.