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Things to Do in Lisbon: The Coach Museum

Lisbon’s most visited attraction, the Museu Nacional dos Coches, tells the story of Portugal’s history through transportation. At first glance, a museum dedicated to coaches and carriages may not seem all that interesting, until you come face-to-face with the ornately-carved and lavishly appointed carriages that would make any Disney princess jealous.

The museum was created in 1905, by  Queen Amélia of Orleans and Bragança, wife of King Carlos I. She realized that the Royal coaches, which were at the time scattered around Portugal, would not always be in use and that they should be preserved for their cultural and historical significance.  She chose the Royal Riding Arena in Belém as the site of the museum, which now holds coaches, berlins, carriages, chaises, cabriolets, litters, sedan chairs and children’s buggies dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.

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How to get there:

The museum is located at Praça Afonso de Albuquerque in the Belém area of Lisbon, so you can combine it with a trip to Belém to see the monastery and the Monument to the Discoveries. Take bus 28 or tram 15 from the waterfront (Comercio Square) in Lisbon. The ride takes about 15 minutes.

Hours and admission:

The museum is open from 10am to 6pm Tuesday through Sunday. It is closed Mondays, January 1, May 1, Easter and Christmas. Adult admission is €5; children cost €2 and seniors are €2,50.  Admission is free on Sunday.

Tips for visiting:

Combine your visit to the Coach Museum with a day in Belém. Arrive early and visit the monastery and the Monument to the Discoveries, have a Belém tart and a coffee and then finish with a visit to the museum. Expect to spend at least 30-60 minutes wandering around the coaches and reading the stories of how they were used to transport royals, carry princesses across borders to meet their new husbands, or to carry other religious figures throughout Portugal’s history. Don’t skip the second floor; though the display of saddles, equipment, costumes and other artifacts may be less exciting than the coaches, the view from above gives a second perspective size and scope of the ornately carved carriages.

All photos by the author and may not be used without permission.