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The buildings of the National Coach Museum
You’ll discover two unique museums in the heart of Belém, Lisbon. They are the National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches in Portuguese) and the Old Royal Riding School. Architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha designed the new Coach Museum, and the structure blends in well with the Belém monument area. The new building opened its doors in 2015.
The Royal Riding School is located on the other side of the street and was inaugurated by Queen Amélia of Orleans and Bragança in 1905. The construction of the current Royal Riding School started in 1787, including a grand hall that is 50 meters long and 17 meters wide. The top floor contains columns, and azulejo tiles were added in 1791. Francisco de Setúbal, Francisco José de Oliveira, Joaquim José Lopes, Nicolau Delerive, and other painters created the stunning interior decoration. The Royal Riding School became the world’s first coach museum, but very soon, it became clear there was not enough space. Hence we can enjoy two museums nowadays.
The collection at the National Coach Museum
A visit to the National Coach Museum is nearly overwhelming. There is such a vast collection of carriages to discover! Thankfully the museum created an app. With the app, you ensure you’ll see all carriages and receive more background information about the coaches. There are also signs next to each carriage with further information about the coaches and Berlins. You’ll start your journey with the oldest carriage of the collection. The Coach of Philip II comes from the 17th century. Many more ancient coaches are on display, such as the Coach of Queen Maria Francisca of Savoy from the 17th century and the Coach of Pope Clemente XI from the 18th century.
The collection also holds several unique coaches and Berlins (a new vehicle designed by Berlin). Examples are the Processional Berlin, a Cabriolet for Children, the Charabanc and a Dog Cart. You’ll soon discover that the coaches were not used by just members of the royal family but that some of them had a broader purpose. The carriages were useful for deliveries also. Examples are the Mail Coach from the 19th century and the prisoner’s coach. There are also beautifully painted Sedan Chairs which were used as transport vehicles without wheels.
The collection at the Royal Riding School
The collection at the Royal Riding School is similar but slightly smaller. The main hall at the Royal Riding School was used for equestrian games. Upstairs are two narrow galleries where the royal family and the court would attend the games. And where you’ve enjoyed modern architecture at the National Coach Museum, at the Royal Riding School, you’ll enjoy the ancient building in combination with historic carriages.
Examples of the game are the Alcanzias Race, whereby the riders would hurl the alcanzia (a ball made from clay) towards the opponent’s shield. The team who breaks the most balls would win. The Race of Heads was the most challenging game due to speed and skills.
Temporary exhibitions at the Royal Riding School
The second room at the Royal Riding School is used for temporary exhibitions. At the time of writing, you can visit unique collections of the Fire Bridge Regiment. You’ll discover fire brigade carriages, hydraulic pumps, and stepladders.
How to get to the National Coach Museum and the Royal Riding School
The museum is located at Praça Afonso de Albuquerque in Lisbon. It’s a short walk between the two museums. The easiest way to get there is by tram. Tram 15 leaves from Praça do Comércio in the city centre and stops in front of the museum. From Cais do Sodré, you can take the train towards Cascais and get off at Belém Station. Bus 28, 714, 727, 729, and 751 all stop close to the museums. Please click here for more information on Lisbon’s public transport system.
Entrance tickets for the National Coach Museum
Three different tickets are available to visit the National Coach Museum and the Royal Riding School. The first option only gives you access to the new National Coach Museum, and a ticket costs € 8,00 per person. You can also visit just the Royal Riding School for € 4,00 per person. The last option is a combination ticket. For € 10,00 per person, you can see both the National Coach Museum and the Royal Riding School. If you visit one museum and decide later that you’d like to see both buildings, you can add a ticket to your existing entry ticket. If you have the Lisboa Card, you can enter the museums for free!
Opening times National Coach Museum and the Royal Riding School
The opening times of the new National Coach Museum are from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM until 6 PM. The Old Royal Riding School is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 AM until 6 PM. The last entry to both museums is 5.30 PM. The museums are closed on holidays which are January 1st, May 1st, Easter Sunday, June 13th, December 24th and 25th.
Other things to do in Belém
Belém is known for its many museums and historical sights, and it’s easy to spend an entire day in this area of Lisbon. You can also visit the Berardo Museum, the Popular Art Museum, MAAT, and Museu de Marinha. But most people visit Belém to see the gorgeous UNESCO site Jerónimos Monastery. Next door, you can taste the famous pastel de nata at the one and only Pastéis de Belém. You can visit the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Belém Tower along the Tagus River. Or how about a 2-hour sailing trip on the river!? The views over Lisbon are truly phenomenal, and it’s a unique way to end your day in Belém. Are you looking for some shade instead? There are gorgeous parks such as the Tropical Botanical Garden and Jardim da Praça do Império.
Staying in Belém
There is good news for those who can’t say goodbye to Belém. The area is excellent for staying overnight! There are plenty of hotels and apartments available during your stay. You reach Lisbon’s city centre in only a few minutes, and Belém is conveniently located on the tramline to Cascais. Check the accommodations below to make the most of your trip to Belém!
The National Coach Museum is perfect for those who like to learn more about the former Portuguese royal family and their means of transport. Not only will you see ancient carriages used for marriages and official gatherings, but you’ll also discover coaches used in daily life. Both the National Coach Museum and the Royal Riding School are well worth a visit when you visit Belém in Lisbon.