Students sing “Coimbra has more charm when it is time to say goodbye”; tourists instead fall in love with this city straight away, wishing they could stay there forever.
Located along the shore of the river Mondego, Coimbra was the capital of Portugal for more than a hundred years and it is home to the oldest university of Portugal and of Europe.
Its centuries-old history has not trapped Coimbra in a static past; the present is lively and offers many cultural inspirations. Modern buildings such as the University’s Pólo II, the pedestrian bridge Pedro e Inês, the Centro de Portugal pavilion in the Parque Verde of Mondego represent a real pride of today’s Coimbra.
These are some of the main attractions that you should not miss in Coimbra, but the city has so much more to offer. You can spend a whole day strolling around the old town, enjoying some shadow at one of the many elegant gardens and going a river cruise. Remember to try the famous pastéis de Santa Clara or the arrufadas, which are some typical sweets of Coimbra at one of the many coffees of the Baixa district.
The University, founded in 1290, is the most famous attraction of Coimbra. The historical building is located uptown, the old are of the city, and it features some elegant and austere buildings from the Middle Age and the Renaissance. The buildings are concentrated around the Páteo das Escolas and dominated by a majestic tower, whose bell marks the rhythms of the academic life.
The most visited building is the magnificent Joanina Library, which is home to more than 300 thousand volumes from the XVI to the XVIII century, all placed on some elegant shelves featuring some talha dourada decorations (carved wood covered with a golden foil).
How to visit the university of Coimbra
Except for the library, the university campus can be visited for free and independently. If you wish to join a guided tour you will be happy to know that there are three tours running on a daily base. The university is a must visit place included in almost all guided tours in the city of Coimbra.
It is not strictly necessary to visit the University to understand the importance that this institution has played and keeps playing in the history of the city. You will meet university students all over the city; the most traditionalist wear the traje académico, which is made of a black suit, a white shirt, and in some cases a hat with an emblem.
If you visit Coimbra in May you might be able to attend the Queima das Fitas, the lively final celebration of students who have just finished their studies. One of the main event of the celebrations is the Fado de Coimbra, a serenade that students sing at the steps of Sé Velha, the cathedral of the city.
There is not just the University of Coimbra: this is what we suggest you to visit in the Portuguese city.
The Machado de Castro National Museum is not only the most famous museum of Coimbra, but also one of the most important museums of Central Portugal.
Built on the remains of a Roman forum, the museum exhibits an interesting collection of sculptures and terracotta from the Middle Age; however, visitors are usually impressed by the arches and galleries of the magnificent Roman cryptoportico.
Built towards the end of 1200 along the river shore, the Santa-Clara-a-velha monastery is famous for having suffered numerous floods and for being the place where the assassination of Inês de Castro took place; Inês was first the lover and then the wife od King D. Pedro.
During 1600 king Joâo IV decided to build a new monastery in a much safer location, which today is known as the monastery of Santa-Clara-a-nova. The original monastery has been recently restored and opened to the public.
Another interesting religious building of Coimbra is the Santa Cruz monastery, which is home to the tomb of Alfonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.
The youngest tourists will love the Portugal dos Pequenitos, an attraction in the municipality of Coimbra designed for kids. It is a theme park featuring the miniatures of the city, as well as one of the most famous attractions of Portugal.
If you also think that Coimbra deserves more than just a quick visit, you will be happy to know that you will find a great offer of hotels for all budgets, with a good selection of facilities in the medium price range.
You can choose among modern hotels featuring all comforts, family run pensions within historical buildings, boutique hostels, international hotel chains, apartments, and rooms for rent.
For a special occasion choose something exclusive like the Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas, a five start hotel located inside a luxury villa boarded by a botanical garden, featuring a covered pool and wellness center.
Coimbra is located about 130 km from Porto; you can get to Coimbra by train or bus. It takes about one hour by train and one hour and a half by bus.
There are also some direct trains and buses leaving from Lisbon; it will take about two hours to get to Coimbra from Lisbon.
What's the weather at Coimbra? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Coimbra for the next few days.