On the banks of the Mondego River, Coimbra is known for its University, the oldest in Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe, which over time has shaped its image making it “the city of students”.
We start this visit, precisely at the University founded in the 13th century that UNESCO included in the World Heritage list, in a classification that also includes Rua da Sofia and the upper part of the city. It is worth going up to its tower, where the bells that marked the rhythm of the classes are, to enjoy the superb 360º view over Coimbra. But on the ground floor there is much to visit: the Pátio das Escolas, the Sala dos Capelos where the most important ceremonies take place, the Chapel of São Miguel with an imposing baroque organ and the Joanina Library, which has more than 300 thousand works dated between the 16th and 18th centuries arranged in beautiful shelves ornamented with gilded woodcarving. The set of buildings occupies the place of the Paço, where the first kings of Portugal lived, who came here to establish the capital of the kingdom.
From those times, there are several monuments that show the splendor of Romanesque art. Located in Baixa, a shopping and historic cafes area, the Monastery of Santa Cruz, which houses the tomb of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, deserves a visit, and on the other side, the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, recovered and rescued from the river waters that invaded it over the centuries. Or even the Sé Velha, on whose stairs the monumental serenade takes place, in which students wearing black cloaks sing with great emotion the Fado of Coimbra. This is one of the events of Queima das Fitas where every year in May the finalists celebrate the conclusion of the course, in a party full of color. This animation, however, is felt throughout the year in the many small taverns and in the Republics, the student’s residences, examples of community life.
But there is much more to see. The Machado de Castro National Museum preserves the Roman Cryptortico, among a collection of great value and reveals the city's history. There are also many gardens not to be missed, such as Choupal, Quinta das Lágrimas, the setting for the novel by D. Pedro and Inês de Castro or the Botanical Garden. Children (and not only) will love Portugal dos Pequenitos, a Park that reproduces the main Portuguese monuments on a small scale.
Coimbra is not just tradition; it has modern structures worth visiting such as the Pole II of the University, the Pedro and Inês Pedestrian Bridge, the Pavilhão Centro de Portugal in the Parque Verde do Mondego. And to have a different perspective of the whole city, I recommend a boat trip on the Mondego River.
According to a fado sung by the students, “Coimbra has more charm at the time of the farewell”, but it may not be necessary to arrive at that moment to discover it…
At the University, visit the Joanina Library and climb the tower to enjoy the views
Discover the Old Cathedral, one of the most beautiful Portuguese Romanesque buildings
Visit Portugal dos Pequenitos
Visit the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha
Stroll the Gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas
Enjoy the cryptopórtico - what remains of Coimbra from Roman times - at the Machado de Castro National Museum
Savor the pastries of Santa Clara or the stewed in one of the historic cafes of the Baixa
Sources & Credits: Câmara Municipal de Coimbra / Turismo de Portugal / 360° Portugal
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