The girls are on the first floor balcony of a traditional Portuguese cottage. It’s an endearingly attractive house, with whitewashed walls studded with grey stones, a classic terracotta roof and its own walled garden complete with storybook swinging gates. All would appear normal, apart from one tiny detail: the house is only two metres tall and has the approximate surface area of a closet.
Welcome to the world of “Portugal dos Pequenitos” (“Portugal of the little ones”).
This theme park near Coimbra’s busy city centre has no roller coasters, no ferris wheels, in fact no rides of any description (apart from the obligatory “mini-train” chugging around the larger paths). Instead, it enchants, enthrals and educates Portuguese children by showing them exactly what they see all around them every day – but smaller. Kid size.
The park is divided into three distinct sections. The first – Países de Expressão Portuguesa – showcases buildings and ethnographic aspects of other Portuguese-speaking countries. It is extremely well-made with admirable attention to detail and several original artefacts. However, since our kids have never been to Brazil, Macau or Angola, they didn’t really feel the vibe there and we swiftly moved on to the second section – Portugal Monumental.
For adults this is arguably the most impressive part of the park, with remarkably accurate scaled-down versions of many of Portugal’s most famous landmarks. The monastery of Batalha, the exquisite Manueline window of Tomar, the Romanesque Sé (cathedral) in Lisbon, the city walls of Óbidos – they are all here, crammed (often conjoined) together in a fascinating hotchpotch of history, culture and craftsmanship.
Fittingly, there is a particular emphasis on the monuments of Coimbra itself, whilst some of the country’s lesser-known treasures are also well-represented (such as the rose window of the Igreja Graça in Santarém). It’s all highly enjoyable for first-time tourists to Portugal, but Portugal Monumental is perhaps even more rewarding for hardened lusophiles, as it is only with some appreciation of the original monuments that the workmanship and level of detail of these replicas become apparent.
But it is the third and final themed area – Casas Regionais (regional houses) – which is the undoubted star attraction for kids. A stroll through this part of the park is a journey in miniature through everyday Portugal itself, with wonderfully adorable traditional houses representing local styles from the green north to the sun-frazzled south of this surprisingly diverse country.
And whilst the older kids could easily spend hours playing amongst the dozens of tiny dwellings, it is easy to forget that for the youngest ones things can become just a little bit exhausting:
After all, it’s not easy being a “pequenito”…
Daisy the bus visited Coimbra in August 2016.
(c) 2016 Jonathan Orr
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR VISITING THE “PORTUGAL DOS PEQUENITOS” PARK
- Arriving by car, take junction 12 of the A1 motorway towards central Coimbra. The park is well-signposted as you enter the city.
- The city-centre location means that parking can be problematic. Arrive early enough and you should find ample space in the neighbouring streets.
- Entrance fee is approximately €10 per adult and €6 per child (2016 prices). Family deals are available. Under 3’s go free.
- Although the park is quite small, plan to spend at least three hours there. It will be difficult to drag the kids away from those miniature houses…
- Dining possibilities inside the park itself are rather limited. However, there are several restaurants / cafés immediately outside the main entrance (we went to the “Kebab Mir Baba” restaurant, which was not bad at all).
- There are water fountains dotted around the park. Bring a bottle and refill it regularly.