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Rich Cultural Heritage Site with Historic European University on the Banks of the Mondego River.

Coimbra

Coimbra is an ancient university city with a glorious past and famous historical attractions.

Coimbra is a city that received its name from the Roman Conimbriga, whose ruins are located fifteen kilometers to the south. It was left by the inhabitants in the 6th century after the invasion of the Vandals, and the new place of settlement became the Eminium hill. Nowadays it has 140 thousand inhabitants, mostly students. The University of Coimbra is considered to be the oldest in Europe, and its building has significant historical value. Modern Coimbra is a perfect mixture of science and arts and a must-visit destination in Portugal.

Coimbra is one of those destinations where most of the visitors come for a short time, but want to stay for a long term. No big surprise, as there are amazing attractions, worth attention. The University is, of course, the central attraction of Coimbra. The ancient district where it's located is called the "Upper City”. It's the highest point of the city, connected with an interesting story as in the chapel was an ancient bell, nicknamed “The Goat” by students because it rang before the start and after the end of the classes. In the courtyard of the University is located a statue of John III, the patron of the Coimbra University.

Coimbra is a house to numerous medieval architectural landmarks: Se Velha de Coimbra, Se Nova de Coimbra, the monastery of Santa Clara a Nova, and others. Both of the cathedrals are located near the University. The Cathedral of Se Vella and the Cathedral of Se Nova are considered to be two main architectural masterpieces, located near the famous University.

Se Velha Cathedral, built in the 11th century, is a symbol of faith and a monument of the victory of Christians over the Moors. All the Portuguese kings were crowned here. On the territory is located the grave of the first governor of Coimbra, Sisinanda. The Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece in the Romanesque style with interiors in the Moorish style, more reminiscent of a fortress than a temple. At the center of the attention of all visitors is the unique altar, called the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The Se Nova Cathedral, was built by the Jesuits in Baroque style in the 16th century. Now there is a small museum within the walls of the cathedral, which keeps a unique collection of religious artifacts. Among them are the 300-year-old sculptures of saints.

The Church of Santa Cruz is one more object of the cultural heritage of Portuguese kings as it was built by the order of King Alfonso Henriques. Before the construction of the University, the church was the first cultural center of the city, playing a significant role in the religious system of the city. The church was completely restored in 1502, by order of King Manuel I. Nowadays this quiet place is one of the most favorite landmarks for tourists all over the world as it has an unforgettable atmosphere of spirituality. The ancient bridge leads to the monastery of Santa Clara a Vella built in 1286-1292. for nuns of the order of Clarinets. Queen Isabella spent the rest of her life here after the death of her husband, King Dinesh. Next to the monastery is the unique park for kids, named "Portugal for Babies", which is one of the most visited at any time of the year. All the most important buildings, monuments, and typical houses of Portugal from the time of the colonial empire, including overseas possessions, are reproduced here in miniature.

Coimbra is interesting also as a cultural destination and the perfect place to spend time with the whole family. There are a few interesting museums, including the Machado de Castro, which is worth visiting. 

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All About Coimbra

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When to Visit

The climate in the region is mild, the temperature rarely drops below +6ºС in winter. Summer is sunny with the highest temperatures of +28ºС in July.

The most rainy period is from November to March. As for summer, the number of rainy days does not exceed 7. In common the weather is mild and nice, great for walking around. In comparison to Porto, it's more warm here, but more cool than in Lisbon. Most of the tourists who come here for sightseeing prefer spring. In midseason, the weather conditions are perfect for strolling through local attractions without exhausting heat. As for summer, Coimbra is a good choice for a one-day visit from a beachside resort

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Getting Around

Most visitors to the city prefer to walk around on foot. But there is a developed public transport system. To plan a route around the city it's recommended to use the website of the city bus company SMTUC. There are 2 ways to buy a ticket: the price directly at the bus driver is €1.60, and a one-day pass price is €3.50. In addition to buses, there is an electric trolleybus in Coimbra, considered to be the last in Portugal, and the Elevador do Mercado. The elevator is a great option to save a lot of time to move around the city from the lower station near the municipal market Pedro V, and the upper one, located near the university.  The closest airports are located in Lisbon or Porto. From there, tourists can get to Coimbra by train or by bus. The road from Lisbon to Coimbra by bus takes approximately 2 hours and 1 hour from Porto. A great option for those who want to move around freely is to rent a car.

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Travel Information

You can get an unforgettable experience while traveling in Coimbra if you consider a few simple Coimbra travel tips:

1. How do you make the first trip to Coimbra unforgettable?

First of all the visitors should see the main attractions of Coimbra. After that, a great idea would be to go to the top of the university bell tower. From there is opened up the breathtaking view of the city lying below.

The university bell tower is a perfect spot to see Coimbra from the high, enjoying breathtaking views over its attractions. One more great idea would be to come here in May when students in the square in front of S.Vella take part in the traditional ceremony of burning Queima das Fitas ribbons as a symbol of saying goodbye to the careless and troubleless life. After a busy day, it's highly recommended to go to one of the numerous restaurants, and fado performances, and enjoy local wine and cuisine. 

2. What is a list of Coimbra hidden gems?

The Old Library was founded by King João V next to the University building. The portal is a rather interesting object, decorated with authentic ornaments and colorful paintings in gold, blue, and red tones. The entire surface of the library is a masterpiece itself and it is occupied by tightly packed bookcases made of Portuguese chestnut wood. The number of volumes in the library's collection is more than 300 thousand, with books dating from the 16th to the end of the 18th century.

The third room of the library has an extremely magnificent interior as here is located a huge portrait of its founder Joao Vl. One more bright element here is the ceilings, created by Portuguese artists António Simoes Ribeiro who was a student of the famous Tiepolo, and Vicente Nunes. 

3. What dishes are the must-try in Coimbra? 

The Coimbra region has a list of must-try dishes from local cuisine. It's famous for the most tender suckling pig and goat stewed in red wine. The dish made of goat meat is very authentic, and on top of tourists’ preferences is a new experience. As for the Leitão or suckling pig, it is cooked for 2 hours on a spit in a hot wood-burning oven without a hood, stuffed with a mixture of lard, coarse salt, and crushed garlic. In most of the restaurants and cafes, it's served with boiled or fried potatoes, salad, and orange slices. The sauce from cooking is served additionally in a gravy boat. A great accompaniment for it can be the Portuguese dry white sparkling wine. All the products used for cooking are purely local from the Bairrada region, Portuguese Champagne.

 

Top Attractions Near Coimbra

Explore Coimbra's excellent selection of attractions, from ancient historic wonders to vibrant cultural sightseeing

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Frequently Asked Questions

Get clear and helpful insider tips for the most common queries about Coimbra

What popular day trips are available from Coimbra?

There are numerous nearby attractions, worth visiting, such as the picturesque village of Lousã with an ancient castle. In the close vicinity is the first settlement in this region, which is in the UNESCO World Heritage object, the Conímbriga Roman Ruins.

What kind of local souvenirs to buy in Coimbra and where to get them?

There are markets with local crafts, such as Mercado Municipal D. Pedro V with a great choice of ceramics, and traditional Portuguese products. The boutiques with more expensive unique goods are located along Rua Ferreira Borges.

How to get more information about the history and culture of Coimbra?

It’s highly recommended to visit the Machado de Castro National Museum with an exhibition of archaeological treasures and fine arts. As for the popular cultural events, among them should be noted the Festa das Latas and Queima das Fitas.