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.