Belém's Old Carriage MuseumMarch 28, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C
We have visited many museums in Portugal but we were blown away by this one!
Situated beside the Tagus River, at the point where it meets the Atlantic, Belém is the place from which the caravels sailed on their ‘voyage of discovery’. Nowadays, it is an area just outside of Lisbon where people can spend time relaxing in the parks or visiting historical monuments and modern museums. The area is full of cafes as well as seafood restaurants. We were intrigued by the description of the place so we decided to go there.
We took Rick Steves’ advice once again and took the 15E tram from the Mundial Hotel to Belém.
Our first stop was at the National Coach Museum which is housed in two buildings. Originally, it was only in the ornate royal riding arena, but the collection is so big that a new modern concrete complex was built across the street. We visited both places.
The royal riding arena only houses eight carriages, a selection of portraits and a wing displaying 19th-century firefight equipment. But what a building it is! The main riding area is ornately painted and it is a fascinating building.
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 amazing 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 originally created by Queen Amélia in 1905 and housed in the royal riding arena. The arena was 50m long and 17m wide, and was used for training horses as well as for horse riding exhibitions and games. It used to have balconies so that the Portuguese royal family could watch the events from luxurious surroundings.
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.
Just a few fun facts ... the Portuguese royalty played a fun riding game with a rotating figure of a Moor with a shield and a whip. The game was called “ Charging the Estafermo” in which the rider tried to strike the shield with a lance, causing the figure to rotate and then the rider had to quickly escape without being hit by the whip. See our last photograph. The museum had one of the figures on display.
Toilets on coaches? One of the seats had a seat that lifted and there was a potty underneath!Read more