In 1772 the Marquis de Pombal decided to create a new botanical garden as part of the process of modernization of the educational institutions of Portugal. The chosen place was a slope in the grounds of the University of Coimbra which was terraced and divided into borders so that the plants could be studied more easily.
By 1807 over 400 species were being grown there and it had become the leading institution of its kind in that country. The Great Greenhouse was the best until the creation of the Estufa Fria (Hot Stove) in Lisbon in 1975.
The garden continued to grow in size and, at the end of the 19th century, received its great collection of eucalyptus and what is today an enormous Ficus macrophyla from the Botanical Garden of Melbourne.
During this same period many botanical gardens were obliged to open their doors to the public. Coimbra, like others, adapted to this move by creating an avenue of Lindens and setting up park benches and fountains, although always keeping the avant-garde style in which it had been created by the M. de Pombal. The largest trees and the structure of the gardens remain, but no longer remind us in any way that this one was once a pioneer amongst gardens in the whole Europe.
Most of the garden now being closed to the public it is unbelievable how such a university as Coimbra can excuse itself by claiming lack of funds for thus neglecting a historic garden which once symbolised not only its city but the whole of Portugal.