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National Car Museum

National Car Museum (3)

Visiting the national car museum is a way to see a unique collection of many types of carriages, berliners, coaches and wagons from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

It is an opportunity to see one of the best collections in Europe, which gives the visitor a grasp of the technological and artistic progress in transport used by European royalty before the invention of the car.

It is also worth noting that the museum is situated in a prime location, the east wing of the “Bélem” palace, which used to house the royal family’s former riding school in the 18th century. This is a building in the neoclassic style designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Azzolini. From the wide, two-floored pavilion’s upper gallery the royal family looked down at impressive riding exhibitions. 

What’s more, from this upper balcony it is possible to appreciate several points of decorative interest: the frescos and tiles dedicated to equestrian art, the interior banisters that surround the room, or, on the ceiling, the three medallions painted with scenes connected to the “Prosperity of the King”. 

Today, three centuries later, visitors marvel at anything from the shady wooden, red-pelt coaches of the Spanish King Felipe II, to the ostentatious carriages that catch everyone’s attention despite them being so uncomfortable to travel in.  

The pieces on display all belonged to the royalty and powerful classes in Portugal, France, Austria, Italy and Spain, and bear witness to the great desire for wealth that existed in these circles between the 17th and 19th centuries. 

In the main gallery, the visitor will pass through two aisles of carriages inscribed with Golden Moorish motifs, coats of arms belonging to the nobility and interiors decorated with red velvet. At the end of the display can be   found the prime attraction; three state carriages built by the Marquis of Abrantes, ambassador to the Vatican. These three baroque pieces, weighing five tonnes each, are decorated with natural-sized gold statues, another fine example of extravagance.

However, there still await various pieces for true enthusiasts. On view is a classic Lisbon taxi from the 19th century, in the black and green that were the official colours of the city’s taxis until very recently, 1990 in fact. You will also see the historic uniforms of coach drivers and travel items that the nobility carried in the past. If these objects hold any fascination for you, this museum is an essential stop on your itinerary.

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