A landau is a type of mobile coach, consisting of a four-wheeled, convertible carriage and a set of horses to pull it. It was designed in the 18th century in the German city of Landau – hence its name – and was first introduced to England at the start of the 19th century. By the mid-19th century, the landau was a common form of transport in and around cities by the aristocracy and was even adopted by the British royal family.
The landau works, principally, like any other horse-drawn carriage, with a front-centre driver controlling a set of horses to pull the four-wheeled chassis in a desired direction.
The chassis is mounted to a wheelbase fitted with elliptical springs to ensure a smooth ride over cobbled or uneven terrain.
What separates it from other models, however, is its unique seating design, which is tailored towards presenting the occupants of the carriage to not only each other but, critically, passers-by; this was a key feature for the rich and influential in the 19th century.
This high visibility is ensured by a split convertible roof – folding down from the top-centre apex in opposite directions, a glazed full-height or half door, as well as inwardly facing, raised seats.
While today landaus have largely been made obsolete due to the invention of the motorcar, they are still used in many countries for state occasions (for example, they are commonly used to transport the Queen of England), as well as to carry tourists around historic cities like Vienna, Austria.