Coimbra is a historic city located in central Portugal, known for its rich cultural heritage, beautiful architecture, and prestigious university. It is the third-largest city in Portugal and is considered to be one of the most important cultural centres in the country.
One of the main attractions of Coimbra is its historic university, which was founded in 1290 and is one of the oldest in the world.
The university is located on a hill overlooking the city. It features several historic buildings, such as the Biblioteca Joanina, a stunning Baroque library, and the Paço das Escolas, a palace that houses the university’s administrative offices.
Coimbra is also home to several historic landmarks, such as the Old Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, and the Santa Cruz Monastery, which was founded in the 12th century and is the final resting place of several Portuguese monarchs.
The city’s historic centre, which is located on the banks of the Mondego River, is also worth exploring, particularly around the Largo da Portagem and the Praça do Comércio, which feature several cafes, restaurants, and shops. The city is known for its traditional cuisines, such as the Cozido à Portuguesa, a hearty stew made with several types of meat and vegetables.
In addition to its historic and cultural attractions, Coimbra is also known for its vibrant music scene, particularly fado music, which is a traditional style of Portuguese music. Visitors can attend concerts and performances at several venues throughout the city, including the Fado ao Centro, a cultural center that promotes the traditional fado music of Coimbra.
Overall, Coimbra is a beautiful and historic city that offers a mix of culture, history, and entertainment, making it a great place to visit for families, couples, and solo travellers alike.
What to see in Coimbra
Coimbra is a beautiful city in central Portugal that has a rich history and plenty of interesting attractions to explore. Here are some of the top things to see and do in Coimbra:
- University of Coimbra: One of the oldest universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra was founded in 1290 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has a beautiful campus and many interesting museums and libraries, including the Biblioteca Joanina, a stunning 18th-century library.
- Coimbra Old Cathedral: Built in the 12th century, the Coimbra Old Cathedral is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Portugal. It has a beautiful cloister and a museum with many religious artefacts.
- Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha: This 14th-century monastery is located on the banks of the Mondego River and is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. It was restored in the 20th century and now has a museum that showcases its history and artefacts.
- Portugal dos Pequenitos: A popular attraction for families, Portugal dos Pequenitos is a miniature park that features scaled-down replicas of Portuguese architecture and culture. It’s a fun and educational experience for both kids and adults.
- Quinta das Lágrimas: This historic estate was the site of a famous love story between Pedro and Inês, two star-crossed lovers from the 14th century. It has beautiful gardens, a chapel, and a luxury hotel, making it a great destination for a romantic getaway.
- Santa Cruz Monastery: This 16th-century monastery has a beautiful façade and a stunning interior. It’s located in the historic centre of Coimbra and is a great place to visit to learn about the city’s history and architecture.
- Machado de Castro National Museum: Housed in a former bishop’s palace, this museum has a vast collection of art and artefacts that span the centuries. From Roman mosaics to contemporary art, there’s something for everyone at this museum.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Coimbra has to offer. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just beautiful sights, there’s plenty to explore in this vibrant city.
Where to eat in Coimbra
Coimbra has a variety of dining options to choose from, ranging from traditional Portuguese cuisine to international dishes. Here are a few places to consider:
- Ze Manel dos Ossos – a traditional restaurant with a cosy atmosphere and delicious Portuguese dishes.
- A Cozinha da Maria – serves tasty traditional dishes and has a friendly staff.
- Casa das Bifanas – a local favourite, offering delicious Portuguese bifanas (pork sandwiches).
- O Botas – a popular restaurant with a varied menu featuring traditional Portuguese dishes, pizzas, and burgers.
- Arcadas do Mondego – located in the city’s historic centre, offers elegant dining in a beautiful setting.
There are also plenty of cafes and pastry shops in Coimbra, where you can enjoy a coffee and a traditional Portuguese pastry, such as pastel de nata or pastel de Tentugal.
Where to stay
Coimbra has a wide range of accommodations to choose from, including hotels, hostels, and apartments. Here are a few options to consider:
- Hotel Astoria – located in the city centre, this hotel offers comfortable rooms and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city.
- Hotel Oslo – a modern hotel situated in a quiet area, just a 10-minute walk from the historic centre of Coimbra.
- Sapientia Boutique Hotel – a beautifully designed hotel set in a historic building, offering stylish rooms with unique decor.
- Serenata Hostel Coimbra – a cosy hostel located in a historic building, offering dormitory and private rooms.
- Apartamento com vista para o Rio Mondego – a spacious apartment with beautiful views of the Mondego River, located in a quiet area just a short walk from the city centre.
There are many other options to choose from, depending on your preferences and budget. It’s a good idea to book your accommodation in advance, especially during the busy summer months.
Tours from Coimbra
Coimbra is a great starting point for exploring the central region of Portugal. Here are some tours you can take from Coimbra:
- Fátima and Coimbra Full-Day Private Tour – This private tour takes you to the religious town of Fátima and the famous sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima. You’ll also visit the historic city of Coimbra and its university, library, and cathedral.
- Serra da Estrela Full-Day Tour – This tour takes you to the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal, the Serra da Estrela. You’ll explore the beautiful landscapes, visit a traditional cheese factory, and have the opportunity to try some local delicacies.
- Aveiro and Costa Nova Half-Day Tour – This half-day tour takes you to the charming city of Aveiro, known as the “Venice of Portugal” due to its canals and colourful boats. You’ll also visit the beach town of Costa Nova and its famous striped houses.
- Bairrada Wine Tour – This tour takes you to the Bairrada wine region, where you’ll learn about the production of wine and taste some of the best wines of the region.
- Coimbra Food Tour – This walking tour takes you through the historic streets of Coimbra to try some of the city’s most traditional dishes and drinks, such as leitão (suckling pig), chanfana (goat stew), and ginjinha (sour cherry liqueur).
There are many other tours available depending on your interests, from cultural and historical tours to outdoor activities and nature experiences. It’s a good idea to check with local tour operators for more options and to book in advance.
Coimbra is a vibrant and historic city in Portugal, and there are plenty of shopping opportunities available for visitors. Here are some of the best places to go shopping in Coimbra:
- Forum Coimbra: This is a large shopping center located on the outskirts of the city, featuring over 100 shops, a cinema, and a food court.
- Baixa de Coimbra: This is the historic downtown area of Coimbra, and it’s a great place to wander around and explore the shops and boutiques. There are plenty of traditional Portuguese shops and restaurants, as well as more modern stores and cafes.
- Mercado Municipal D. Pedro V: This indoor market is a great place to go for fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other local products. There are also some small cafes and shops selling souvenirs.
- Rua Ferreira Borges: This street is known for its antique shops and secondhand bookstores, so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for unique gifts or souvenirs.
- Coimbra Shopping: This is another shopping center on the outskirts of the city, with over 60 shops and a food court.
- Coimbra Alma Shopping: This is a newer shopping center with a mix of national and international stores, as well as a cinema and food court.Feira de Velharias de Coimbra: This is a flea market that takes place on the second Saturday of every month in the Jardim da Sereia. You can find all kinds of interesting items here, including vintage clothing, jewellery, and antiques.
Weather in Coimbra
Coimbra has a temperate maritime climate with warm summers and mild winters. The average temperature in the summer months of June, July, and August ranges from 18°C to 28°C (64°F to 82°F), while the average temperature in the winter months of December, January, and February ranges from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F).
The wettest months are usually November and December, while July and August are the driest months. Overall, the climate is generally pleasant and suitable for tourism throughout the year.
Holidays with kids
Coimbra is a great destination to visit with kids. Here are some family-friendly activities to do in Coimbra:
- Visit the Coimbra Portugal dos Pequenitos: A mini city that lets kids discover and explore Portugal’s different regions and landmarks in miniature scale. Kids will have fun exploring replicas of monuments, homes, and streets.
- Explore the Botanical Garden: The Jardim Botânico de Coimbra is a beautiful and serene spot for a leisurely walk. Kids can discover plants and flowers from all over the world, and they will love the colorful peacocks roaming around.
- Check out the Science Museum of the University of Coimbra: The Exploratory – Centro Ciência Viva is a hands-on science museum that provides interactive exhibits to engage kids and adults alike.
- Take a walk through the historic center: Coimbra’s historic center has a lot of narrow streets and alleys for kids to explore, and you can find many street performers and artists.
- Visit the Mondego River: Take a river tour with the kids and learn about the history of the Mondego River and the role it has played in the city’s history.
Take a day trip to the nearby Roman ruins at Conimbriga: About 20 km from Coimbra, Conimbriga is an ancient Roman town that dates back to the 2nd century. Kids can explore the ruins of houses, temples, and a well-preserved aqueduct.
Coimbra has plenty of restaurants, cafes, and gelaterias to enjoy some Portuguese cuisine and sweet treats with the kids.
How to get to Coimbra
Coimbra is located in central Portugal and is easily accessible by various means of transportation.
- By air, the nearest airport to Coimbra is the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, which is approximately 120 km north of Coimbra. From the airport, you can take a direct train or bus to Coimbra.
- By train, Coimbra is well-connected to major cities in Portugal. There are two train stations in Coimbra: Coimbra-B and Coimbra-A. Coimbra-B is the main station and is located near the city centre, while Coimbra-A is located on the outskirts of the city. Trains to Coimbra are operated by Comboios de Portugal (CP).
- By bus, there are several bus companies that operate routes to Coimbra from various cities in Portugal. The bus station in Coimbra is located near the city centre and is a short walk from the train station.
- If you are driving, Coimbra can be accessed via the A1 motorway, which connects Lisbon and Porto. There are also several national roads that connect Coimbra to other cities in Portugal.