One of Europe's oldest university cities
Coimbra is a Portuguese city inserted in a valley with a magical aura and pleasant temperature that is worth visiting all year round.
In Coimbra you can see the streets full of students with their various annual celebrations, in addition to the typical and traditional spontaneous celebrations of any happy student.
This city, once the capital of Portugal, is divided into two large urban areas. A “Cidade Alta” or upper city, where centuries of history coexist in small narrow streets and chapels from where you can get a spectacular view over the Mondego river, and the Baixa (center), or lower city, from where you can admire the citadel in all its splendor.
What to see in Coimbra
Like other major cities in Portugal such as Lisbon or Porto the city has a mild temperature throughout the year thanks to its location. So you just need to put on some comfortable shoes and walk around its charming streets.
May is the perfect time to visit Coimbra and see the most traditional aspects of the place. It is when the “Queima Das Fitas” (burning of the ribbons) is held, which is the ceremony that marks the end of one more year of study. It is interesting and fun to see the university students singing the fado of Coimbra. However, this does not mean that the rest of the year there aren’t any other activities related to the city taking place in the streets of Coimbra.
Speaking of traditions, besides the many university rites, there are also some beliefs to be careful with, or not … For example: It is said that if you fall on the stairs of “Quebra Costas” (Portuguese for “back breaker”), one of the steepest stairs in the city, you will end up getting married in Coimbra.
The center of Coimbra
The Baixa also concentrates the commercial heart of the city around the Praça Do Comércio.
Next to it, is the Church of São Tiago (Santiago), which is beautiful, with very simple stained glass windows, and baroque art inside. We want to mention that there is a path of the “Camino de Santiago” that can be done from Coimbra.
A nice and particular corner in the Baixa is the Jardim da Manga, a public garden, part of the old Monastery of Santa Cruz, classified as a Portuguese National Monument since 1934.
Santa Cruz Park
The Santa Cruz Park or “Jardim Da Sereia” is another area that we believe is worth visiting. On the one hand, because of its beauty: statues, and a fountain adorn the place. On the other hand, because of its usefulness: it is an ideal place to spend a summer afternoon under the shade of the trees having a picnic on the tables arranged for that purpose and contemplating the lake and all the trees surrounding you.
You don't need to be very lucky to see a cork tree in these places, as Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world.
University of Coimbra
The University of Coimbra is the oldest university in Portugal, and one of the oldest functioning universities in the world. The historic campus is a World Heritage Site, and if you visit the city, you can't miss it.
Also within this complex, you can visit the beautiful Joanina Library, built during the 18th century in rococo style architecture. It is considered one of the most beautiful in its genre and as a curious note that may interest families with children: the library in the latest version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (2017) was inspired by this space.
Portugal Dos Pequeninos
It is impossible not to talk about the Park “Portugal dos Pequeninos” (Portugal of the Little Ones) when we talk about Coimbra.
It is a miniature universe, founded in the 1940s, which reproduces the most important buildings of the country, besides showing how life was like in the Portuguese colonies through architecture.
Children love to play in the small houses.
Other fun activities to enhance your visit are: going to the Botanical Garden of Coimbra which opened its doors in 1772, seeing the Sé Cathedral, admiring and photographing the city from the opposite side of the Mondego River and during the summer, taking a boat cruise.
To Coimbra from Porto
It will take you approximately one hour to get from Porto to Coimbra. You can make the trip either by car or by train.
It is important to note that Coimbra is not a very large city and although it is extremely beautiful, one day will be enough to see it. The good thing is that from here you can go to other nearby places. One idea would be to visit the beautiful canals of Aveiro.
To move around the city, we recommend to do it on foot and not by car, because in every corner there is something to see, and all the attractions are quite close.
Accommodation in Coimbra
Click here to go to a selection of accommodations in Coimbra: