Flamboyant coach, National Coach Museum, Lisbon

As you might expect from a museum that’s got everything from royal carriages to Popemobiles there’s a fair amount of gold and fancy features on show at the National Coach Museum in Lisbon. While some of them manage to remain pretty and elegant, others are just gaudy times ten.

Buy your advanced ticket to the museum here.

Like many a girl who read too many fairy tales,  I once dreamed of being a princess riding around in a golden carriage. When I found out about Portugal’s renowned collection of 17th to 19th century coaches, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to step back into fantasy land. The fact that these are not straight off a Disney film set but real, well-preserved carriages carrying a whole load of history with them is a double bonus.

King João V's coach
King João V’s coach

I’d been unable to convince Mike to go so I took advantage of a recent solo trip to Lisbon to satisfy my curiosity. I’ll admit to feeling slightly disappointed when I got there, and not just because I’d arrived at the same time as a pack of Scouts. In order to preserve these elaborate wooden carriages and their ageing upholstery, the lights need to be low, which makes it difficult to appreciate the finer details.

There’s no chance of missing this one, however. Commissioned in 1716 by King João V as part of the fleet of coaches that would bring the Pope and his entourage to Portugal, this is ‘Oceans’.

18th century coach with elaborate statues and finishings
A carriage fit for a Pope!

The gold statues at the front represent the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, watched over by Spring, Summer and Apollo.

Front of 'Oceans' coach
Two oceans meet

The coach underwent extensive renovation between 1995 and 1999 and now looks brand new, with plush upholstery and shiny gold trimmings.

Interior, Oceans coach
Carefully restored to full glory.

The museum is housed in the former royal stables* and the ceiling alone is worth going for. Impressive from any angle, it’s best viewed from the upper gallery where you can see the fanciful details such as men with baskets of flowers and fruit on their heads.

National Coach Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
View of the National Coach Museum from the second floor balcony.
detail, ceiling, National Coach Museum, Portugal
Love the hat!

My only other minor moan about the museum is that the coaches on the ground floor are packed really close together, presumably in order to display as many  as possible. I think I’d rather see less of coaches with more space for each one.

*Update: The lack of sufficient space has now been addressed with the opening of new museum premises. Part of the collection is still in the beautiful riding school but most of it is now contained within the shiny new premises just across the road, next to the gardens

Not sure where to stay in Lisbon? Click to read about which city centre areas make the best bases.



Museu Nacional dos Coches / National Coach Museum is at Praça Afonso de Albuquerque and Avenida das Indias in Belém.

Buy your advanced ticket to the museum here.

Check the website: www.museudoscoches.pt for public transport options, exact addresses and current prices.

It’s open every day except Monday from 10 am to 6 pm.


  1. Not sure they’d look so good going down the track to our house – might be a tad impractical, too!

    Well worth a look at though ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. You’re with the majority then ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. now that’s what I need in my driveway.

    1. I hope you’ve got a big driveway then!

  3. I would say gorgeously gaudy – I wouldn’t mind one of my own…

    1. Princess Julie would be quite happy with one of the more subtle ones too ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks, KZ! There’s a fine line between the two a times but they’re definitely spectacular.

  4. Gaudy and gorgeous, Julie. I want one for myself! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I know what you mean, although I’d rather have one of the less ostentatious ones for personal use ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Gorgeous, of course, though just a little OTT. Why do things by halves?

    1. Good point, Jo, although I’d still rather have one of the marginally plainer coaches for my personal use than the Pope’s carriage!

  6. Extravagant is the word I’d use.

    1. Or flamboyant ๐Ÿ˜‰

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.