February 25, 2019 by Ellis Dixon
Living Large: A Walk Through Portugal dos Pequenitos
Portugal dos Pequenitos is the kind of roadside attraction you would kick yourself for missing. If you’ve ever wondered how Gulliver felt in Lilliput, or you just want a crash course in the most important architectural elements of Portugal and its former colonies, this is the place for you.
Sure, the park’s over 100 miniature structures are intended for children, but it’s been welcoming all ages, shapes, and sizes since it opened in the summer of 1940. What originally started as itty-bitty examples of typical homes, mills, and chapels of the Trás-os-Montes and Minho regions has grown to encompass so much more.
Ten years after it was opened, this park situated close to Coimbra was expanded to contain some of its more remarkable fixtures: a smattering of heritage sites spanning the width and length of the country, including the islands of the Açores and Madeira as well as the ultramar Português (Portuguese overseas areas, aka former colonies) in Africa, Asia, and South America.
Each of the three main areas is divided by theme — focusing first on crafts and collected items like tools, wood samples, furniture, and more from each of the colonies. After peeking inside these miniature palaces, you come to the only oversized thing in the park: a map of the world featuring the various routes of the discoverers behind a statue of Infante Dom Henrique.
Beyond the map, you enter the second area, which is devoted to the most iconic churches, towers, and feats of design and engineering found in continental Portugal. Naturally, architectural liberties have been taken: aside from being shrunken to less than a third or more of their original size, the buildings of each region have been squashed together to create 3D collages of cultural heritage, all in one structure for a sort of Where’s Waldo of postcard tourist attractions.
Fun fact: The park was founded by the celebrated professor of medicine, dear friend to Salazar, manager of the Coimbra newspaper Pátria, and “one of the most radical figures of republicanism of his time,” Bissaya Barreto, who enlisted the help of architect Cassiano Branco. Barreto was also a central figure in the Republican revolution to found the Estado Novo. A statue of the man — and not a miniaturized version — towers atop a stone pillar in front of the entry gates bearing the phrase, “Façamos felizes as crianças da nossa terra,” or “Let us make the children of our land happy.”
January, February, and October 16 to December 31, 10h – 17h
March – May, and September 16 to October 15, 10h – 19h
June – September 15, 9h – 20h
Closed Christmas Day