The old museum site actually still holds several rococo carriages, and is a beautiful piece of architecture itself, so it’s well worth visiting too
An Unlikely Attraction
When you think of the subject matter for popular museums, coaches probably don’t spring to mind. And yet you’d be mistaken, because the National Coach Museum is one of Lisbon’s most visited sites. That might seem bizarre, and it’s a tough sell to the kids, but a visit to the Coaches museum quickly dispels any doubts: coaches are fascinating.
Lisbon’s Coaches Museum is home to the largest and most valuable collection of coaches in the world. It initially opened in 1905 in the lavishly decorated 18th century riding school that was part of Belém Palace. That setting was spectacular, but in 2015 the museum got an upgrade anyway, moving into a new building designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect.
Bonfire of Vanities
Carriages were a way for Portugal’s elite to flaunt their wealth as they rolled between palaces and balls. They went to extraordinary lengths to outdo each other — and now we can enjoy the results of their envies and vanities. The Portuguese royal family also spared no expense in making a good impression when mingling with foreign royalty: see the luxurious carriage used in an embassy to France's Louis XIV, depicting cherubs with bat's wings.
The First Lady
Beyond coaches and carriages, the museum also holds a collection of ornate coach harnesses, saddles, and even an 18th century war drum. Chief among its treasures, perhaps, is the pink velvet mantle of Queen Amélia — the woman who founded the museum all those years ago.
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