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New isn’t always best – something that the generations of owners of the world’s oldest doll repair shop know better than most. Situated in Praça da Figueira since 1830, Lisbon’s Doll Hospital has been repairing favorite dolls of all kinds for nearly 200 years and even today, despite the popularity of commercial products, their business booms. Perhaps more locals have sought to repair their beloved dolls in light of the economic crisis that gripped the country, but it’s still doing well, even as the economy begins to swing back upward.
Mothers and fathers, as well as grandparents and friends bring their treasured but broken childhood dolls to Lisbon’s Doll Hospital for repairs, hoping to revitalize them before passing them on to the next generation. As the world’s oldest doll repair shop, it receives quite a bit of attention, not just from Lisbon’s locals but from residents across the country as well.
The walls are lined with dolls of all shapes, sizes, and value, in addition to limbs, eyes, hair, and anything else that can be used for repairs. “Doctors” are seamstresses, handymen, and artisans of all kinds, meaning the hospital doesn’t turn patients away and can fix many types of ailments from damaged music boxes to barbie heads and cracks in porcelain.
Instead of shelling tens of euros or more on a new gift, repairing a childhood doll can cost as little as 5€, but as with all repair shops, the “hospital bill” will increase if the treatment requires more time and effort. Still, toys passed down generations come with memories and stories that money simply cannot buy.