COIMBRA, Portugal – 20 TOP TIPS! (2021)

“Coimbra has more charm at the time of farewell”… It is impossible not to agree with this famous statement! If you go to Coimbra, you will start planning your next visit even before you finish your first one!

COIMBRA, PORTUGAL

It is one of the oldest and most important cities in the country! Coimbra is inextricably linked to its University. The students, with their black dress, are a constant presence in this city where music is also never lacking, having developed its own fado tradition.

Although Coimbra is a city that we fall in love with at first sight, it’s when it’s time to say goodbye that we really realize that this place, full of history and culture, has an immensity to offer! Come with us, we will show you some of the many attractions that you cannot miss in the eternal “city of students”.

COIMBRA
COIMBRA

WHERE IS IT AND HOW TO GET TO COIMBRA?

Coimbra is located in Beira Litoral, in the central region of Portugal. It is 200 km away from Lisbon. The trip by car can be done by the A1 highway and takes two hours. Another option is the bus, the trip Lisbon-Coimbra costs 15€. It is also possible to travel to Coimbra by train, on the North Line, since the city has two stations: Coimbra A (main line) and Coimbra B (city center).

HOW TO GET AROUND IN COIMBRA?

When visiting Coimbra, you can take advantage of public transportation. The Blue Line of the city buses, whose route passes numerous points of interest in the historic center, is particularly advantageous for those visiting. The Market Elevator can be a good option to easily make the connection between Coimbra’s Downtown and Uptown. Attention: to use the elevator you must have a public transport ticket.

MARKET ELEVATOR, COIMBRA
MARKET ELEVATOR, COIMBRA

WHEN TO VISIT COIMBRA?

Coimbra is full of life and traditions, and for this very reason there are events and activities that take place all year long. Still, we believe that the best time to visit is between May and September. This is because it is the time of year when you can escape the coldest temperatures, but also because it is the least rainy month in the city.

In June, Coimbra hosts one of the most important medieval fairs in the country and on July 4th (in even years), the city’s festivities in honor of Queen Santa Isabel, its patron saint, take place. Throughout the year there are several events linked to academic life, such as the Latada (October-November) and Queima das Fitas (May).

QUEIMA DAS FITAS

COIMBRA’S FADO

Fado, an unavoidable element of the city of Coimbra, has its roots in the 16th century. This fado differs widely from the Lisbon fado, presenting its own guitar, tuning, sonority and themes. The fado from Coimbra is a serenade fado, played in a low tone and sung only by male voices. It focuses on the theme of longing, whether for the beloved, the city of Coimbra, or the University. Coimbra fado is inseparable from the University. Some of its students went on to become big names in Portuguese music, such as Adriano Correia de Oliveira and Zeca Afonso. To enjoy Coimbra Fado in its most traditional form, we suggest a visit to Casa Fado ao Centro, where, every day at 6pm, students and former students of the University put on a small show. The space is small, so we advise you to book a place in advance.

  COIMBRA'S FADO
COIMBRA’S FADO

WHAT TO VISIT AND DO IN COIMBRA?

Coimbra is a big and beautiful city! There is a lot to explore and get to know in the city of students and Fado! A 3-day visit is a period of time that will give you the opportunity to enjoy the city with calm and tranquility. So that you can organize the sequence of your tours, we have prepared a map for you. We hope it will be useful!

WALKING THROUGH THE STREETS OF COIMBRA

Coimbra is a centenary city, characterized by its narrow streets, little stairs, courtyards and monuments that testify the passage of time. To truly know Coimbra, it is essential to walk through it, making contact with the people and the spaces.

Coimbra is a centenary city, characterized by its narrow streets, little stairs, courtyards and monuments that testify the passage of time. To truly know Coimbra, it is essential to walk through it, making contact with the people and the spaces.

COIMBRA STREETS
COIMBRA STREETS

COIMBRA’S REPUBLICS

The Repúblicas are spaces for academic life, bridging the gap between the University and the city. Located in the historic center, we will find them, especially, between Rua de São Salvador and Rua do Loureiro. They function as places for students to socialize and discuss, and many of Portugal’s literate elites, who later came to occupy public and prominent positions in society, were part of them.

COIMBRA'S REPUBLICS
COIMBRA’S REPUBLICS

UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2013. Its importance lies in the fact that it is one of the oldest universities in Europe, as well as in the magnificence of its buildings, which were originally a Royal Palace.

The University, which began as an itinerant institution, was founded in Lisbon in 1290. In the reign of D. João III it is definitely fixed in the city of Coimbra. The University can be visited by the general public and the details of the visits can be found on the institution’s website. We highlight some of the points of interest that you should not miss: the Patio of the Schools; the Sala dos Capelos, where the most important ceremonies take place, and the Chapel of São Miguel (with its huge baroque organ).

UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA
UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA

UNIVERSIDADE DE COIMBRA VIEWPOINT

If vertigo is not a problem for you, do not miss the opportunity to climb the University tower. In this tower, where the bells used to ring to mark the beginning and end of classes, we now find a viewpoint that provides a 360º view over the city of Coimbra. A breathtaking view!

UNIVERSIDADE DE COIMBRA VIEWPOINT
UNIVERSIDADE DE COIMBRA VIEWPOINT

JOANINA LIBRARY

“The most spectacular in the world” – this is how the British newspaper Telegraph describes the Biblioteca Joanina (the Joanine Library), which is located in the University of Coimbra’s Paço das Escolas. The construction of this library was completed in 1728 and assumes a markedly Baroque style. On its exterior, the noble portal topped by a coat of arms of Portugal stands out. The interior is characterized by the richness and abundance of details, such as the frescos on the ceilings and the shelves covered in gilded woodcarving, the furniture made of exotic woods, not forgetting the huge portrait of King João V, who was responsible for its construction. The Biblioteca Joanina contains in its collection about 60 thousand works, including important historical documents from before the 19th century.

JOANINA LIBRARY
JOANINA LIBRARY

CONÍMBRIGA

A mere 17km away from Coimbra, we find Conímbriga, the Roman city. This true open-air museum is considered the best complex of Roman ruins in the country. The archaeological site is of enormous importance, not only because it is a “document” for the study of this period in Portugal, but also for the quality and variety of the buildings that compose it.

The reform of the Conímbriga area during the Roman era was ordered by Emperor Augustus and followed the principles of Roman urbanism. The ruins include a forum, thermal baths, dwellings and a wall. During your visit, also take a look at the Monographic Museum of Conímbriga, where archaeological finds from the site are displayed. The ticket to the ruins and museum costs €4.50 and is open from 10am to 7pm.

CONIMBRIGA
CONIMBRIGA

COIMBRA CITY MUSEUM

The City Museum of Coimbra is part of the Municipal Museum, which is spread over three distinct poles. It was opened in 1910 and its collection consists mainly of Portuguese painting from the 19th and 20th centuries, but also decorative arts. It has a temporary exhibition gallery that has hosted works by important contemporary Portuguese artists. The Museum is housed in the Chiado Building, a beautiful example of iron architecture and Art Nouveau style. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturdays from 10am to 6pm (closed between 1pm and 2pm).

COIMBRA CITY MUSEUM
COIMBRA CITY MUSEUM

OLD CATHEDRAL OF COIMBRA

Coimbra’s Old Cathedral is a monument almost as old as our country. The exact date of the beginning of construction is not known, but it is thought that King Afonso Henriques ordered it shortly after the Battle of Ourique, which took place in 1139. The construction work would have lasted until the beginning of the next century.

This is a unique monument, as it is one of the only examples of the Romanesque style from the Reconquista period to reach the present day practically intact. At first glance, this cathedral looks like a castle, something common in this architectural style. It is also in the Sé Velha that we find one of the first works in Renaissance style in Portugal, the Porta Especiosa, located on the northern facade. The staircase of the Sé Velha is the stage for one of the events of Queima das Fitas, where students in costume sing fado in celebration of the end of the school year.

OLD CATHEDRAL OF COIMBRA
OLD CATHEDRAL OF COIMBRA

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MACHADO DE CASTRO

The Machado de Castro National Museum was so named after the royal sculptor from Coimbra, Joaquim Machado de Castro (1731-1822). It is considered by many to be one of the most important museums in the country. In its origin, it was a regional sacred art museum, but it has grown and today presents a valuable collection of painting, sculpture and decorative arts.

But the attractions of this museum do not stop with its collection. It is also worth a visit for the building, which is made up of three units: the first is the Roman cryptoporticus, from the 1st century AD, made up of a network of galleries; the second is the old Episcopal Palace, a building that dates back to the 11th or 12th century; and the third is a recent building by architect Gonçalo Byrne.

The museum’s opening hours are from Tuesday to Sunday, between 10 am and 6 pm. On Sundays and holidays, admission to the museum is free for residents in Portugal.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MACHADO DE CASTRO
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MACHADO DE CASTRO

NEW CATHEDRAL OF COIMBRA

The New Cathedral of Coimbra is a Jesuit temple, inspired by the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon. Construction began in 1598 and was in charge of the Jesuits’ official architect, Baltazar Álvares. The Cathedral was only inaugurated in 1698, almost half a century after the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal, and became the Episcopal see of Coimbra. The exterior of the building may seem almost austere, for its simple lines, but the interior is richly decorated with gilded carved altarpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The chancel and the Gothic-Manueline baptismal font were brought here from the Sé Velha cathedral when it was reduced to chapel status during the government of the Marquis of Pombal.

NEW CATHEDRAL OF COIMBRA
NEW CATHEDRAL OF COIMBRA

BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA

The Botanical Garden of Coimbra University covers an area of 13.5 hectares and was founded in 1772. In the years that followed its foundation, work began and the project was led by several figures, who expanded and diversified the garden. The garden is composed of several distinct spaces, among which stand out the Alameda da Tílias, which resembles the public sidewalks of European cities in the 19th century, and the Estufa Grande, from 1859, as it is one of the oldest buildings of iron architecture in Portugal.

The Botanical Garden is open to the public every day except December 25th, January 1st, the day of the Cortejo da Latada and the day of Queima das Fitas. From April to September it is open between 9am and 8pm, and from October to March between 9am and 5:30pm.

BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA
BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF COIMBRA

MANGO GARDEN

Also known as Claustro da Manga, the Jardim da Manga (Mango Garden) is a public square that lies at the back of the Santa Cruz Monastery. It is one of the first entirely Renaissance examples of Portuguese architecture. Today, a dome resting on eight columns and surrounded by chapels and small lakes survives. The garden got its name from tradition, which states that King João III, during a visit to the monastery, saw the unused space and drew on the sleeve of his gibbon a cloister with a garden, and this was the origin of the construction.

MANGO GARDEN COIMBRA
MANGO GARDEN

PORTUGAL FOR THE LITTLE ONES (PORTUGAL DOS PEQUENITOS)

If you come to Coimbra with your family, be sure to visit Portugal dos Pequenitos, because this theme park is a magical place for children! Portugal dos Pequenitos resulted from the initiative of Professor Bissaya Barreto and was inaugurated in 1940. Its purpose is to show various aspects of the culture and heritage of Portugal, being a space with strong marks of the spirit and ideals of the Portuguese Estado Novo. The park is made up of seven distinct zones and presents typical constructions on a reduced scale, that is, on a child’s scale. Children can explore the park and recognize the diversity of Portuguese architecture and, unlike their grown-ups, they can enter the interior of the various buildings without difficulty. Recently, it was closed for renovation of some areas, reopening in late May 2021.

PORTUGAL FOR THE LITTLE ONES (PORTUGAL DOS PEQUENITOS) COIMBRA
PORTUGAL FOR THE LITTLE ONES (PORTUGAL DOS PEQUENITOS)

RUINS OF THE MONASTERY OF SANTA CLARA-A-VELHA

Founded in 1283, the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha was located on the left bank of the Mondego River. Queen Santa Isabel showed great appreciation for this monastery and made several efforts to improve the building. After the death of D. Dinis, the Queen took refuge in the monastery and left in her will her intention to be buried there. Due to successive floods caused by the river, the convent was eventually abandoned. The community of Poor Clares that lived there was transferred to a new convent, the Santa-Clara-a-Nova Monastery. Currently it is possible to visit the ruins of the convent, in a visit that includes the viewing of a video about the monument.

 RUINS OF THE MONASTERY OF SANTA CLARA-A-VELHA COIMBRA
RUINS OF THE MONASTERY OF SANTA CLARA-A-VELHA

MONASTERY OF SANTA CLARA A NOVA

This monastery, also known as the Convento da Rainha Santa Isabel, was built in the 17th century to replace the Santa-Clara-a-Velha Monastery. Construction began in 1649 and ended with the consecration of the church almost fifty years later, in 1696. The building, in the mannerist style, was the cloistered place of the Poor Clare nuns. Its church is richly decorated, however, the highlight goes to the silver urn where the incorrupt body of Queen Saint Elizabeth rests. The Holy Queen had been buried in the old convent, according to her own will, but was transferred to this church in 1696, after the abandonment of the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha.

MONASTERY OF SANTA CLARA A NOVA COIMBRA
MONASTERY OF SANTA CLARA A NOVA

VIRTUAL TOUR TO COIMBRA

A BRIEF HISTORY OF COIMBRA

The importance of the city of Coimbra goes back to the very beginnings of Portugal’s history. In 1129, King Afonso Henriques made Coimbra the capital of the county, replacing Guimarães. This situation only changed in 1255, when the capital was moved to Lisbon. It has been the seat of a diocese since Roman times, replacing Conímbriga, the Roman city from which it derives its name.

Coimbra maintained its importance even after it ceased to be the capital, due to its central location. In addition, it is also the site of the oldest University in Portugal, which is still functioning. From the University, student movements of a political, social, and cultural nature were formed that had an impact on the country’s history, especially in the transition from the Estado Novo to the democratic regime.

ACADEMIC CRISIS 1969, COIMBRA
ACADEMIC CRISIS 1969, COIMBRA

OTHER ATTRACTIONS NEAR COIMBRA

3 days is the time we suggest you to visit and get to know the city of Coimbra calmly. In case you have decided to spend a longer vacation period, know that in the surroundings there are several places that deserve a closer look. Here are our suggestions and a map to help you plan your tours! We hope you find it useful!

FIGUEIRA DA FOZ

It is 58 kilometers from Coimbra to Figueira da Foz, a distance that can be covered in 41 minutes by car. Figueira, also called the queen of the Silver Coast is not limited to its famous casino. The beach of clarity is unique and not to be missed! A fine white sandy beach as far as the eye can see! If you go there don’t forget to visit the Santa Catarina fort, the lighthouse of Cabo Mondego and the village of Buarcos.

POMBAL
POMBAL

34 minutes and 49 kilometers separate Pombal from Coimbra. The city of the all powerful Marquis of Pombal is worth a visit. If you go there, don’t miss the castle, the main church, the beach at osso da baleia, the Marques de Pombal museum, the panoramic aquapark, the museum of Portuguese popular art, and the church of nossa senhora do Cardal.

TONDELA

Leaving Coimbra you will need 54 minutes (69 kilometers) to get to Tondela. A city that has a lot to see where we can highlight: the Caramulo mountain range, the Dão ecopista, the chapel of nossa senhora do campo, the cabeço da neve viewpoint and the Tondela urban park.

ÁGUEDA
ÁGUEDA

67 kilometers and 52 minutes separate Coimbra from the magnificent city of Águeda, the city of the colorful suspended umbrellas. It is a place almost unknown by most Portuguese (and foreigners) but it is a city that impresses for its colors, its dynamics and its monuments! Not to be missed!

COIMBRA TYPICAL CUISINE

Coimbra is also famous for its gastronomy. Dishes like lamprey rice, chanfana or roasted suckling pig Bairrada style delight many Portuguese. During your stroll through the streets of Coimbra, take the opportunity to stop at a tavern and taste traditional delicacies such as moelas, pica-pau or raia de pitau. In the historic cafes downtown you will find pastéis de Santa Clara and arrufadas, two examples of the city’s conventual sweets. There are also some modern creations inspired by the History of Coimbra, such as the dreams of Pedro and Inês and the Queen’s rose.

RESTAURANTS IN COIMBRA

There are many good restaurant options in Coimbra! After a careful research, we chose to suggest you a typical place, good and… cheap!

RESTAURANT ZÉ MANUEL DOS OSSOS

Cheap Restaurant. It has over 1450 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.6 stars (out of 5). An old-fashioned tavern! Small restaurant with a cozy atmosphere, nice decor and great quality food. Customer comments insist on the friendliness of the staff and the excellent relationship between price and quality.

  RESTAURANT ZÉ MANUEL DOS OSSOS , COIMBRA
RESTAURANT ZÉ MANUEL DOS OSSOS , COIMBRA

HOTELS IN COIMBRA

In a big city like Coimbra, it is easy to find several accommodation options. Expensive and cheap options, luxury and affordable options, options for all tastes and wallets. Our suggestion is a hotel that offers the best value for money in the city.

HOTEL OSLO

3-star hotel just 50 meters from the city’s train station. It is run by a small family who lend the hotel their friendliness and expertise. It has over 3300 reviews on Booking and an 8.6 star rating. The hotel’s central location and magnificent views of the city are two strong points.

OSLO HOTEL, COIMBRA
OSLO HOTEL, COIMBRA

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