Located between Lisbon and Porto, the medieval city of Coimbra was considered for a long time as the cultural and intellectual center of Portugal and is today one of the cities to visit absolutely. Indeed, the millennial city is full of places to visit and things to do, and Coimbra will not fail to surprise you as its cultural heritage is rich. You will also realize that the history of the city of Coimbra is closely linked to that of the country. The city of Coimbra dominates Rio Mondego and the fifteenth century monuments of the old city give it a special atmosphere, an existence as timeless. To visit Coimbra is to step back in time. What to do to make the most of your visit to the city of Coimbra ? What are the best places to visit and things to see during your stay in Coimbra ? Lisbob, expats’ assistant in Portugal, has prepared his list of the 7 best things to see during your visit to Coimbra and a walking tour.
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1. University of Coimbra
How not to visit Coimbra without visiting his university ? Or rather, his universities. Nevertheless, the one located at the top of Coimbra is the oldest is worth to stay alone in Coimbra. It is the jewel of the city, and the most inescapable monument. Classified by UNESCO as World Heritage, the University of Coimbra is less known than the University of Oxford in England or the Sorbonne in France. And yet, it is one of the oldest universities in Europe. Founded in the thirteenth century by King Denis I, it was moved to Lisbon several times before returning to Coimbra definitively in the sixteenth century. This architectural jewel is visited from the outside but also from the inside.
The Palace of Schools (Paço das Escolas) includes some of the most symbolic buildings in the city, such as the University Tower, whose bells punctuate the lives of students. Also visit the Joanina Library with its 300,000 books. All date from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century and are enhanced by beautiful woodwork. See also Via Latina, Chapel of São Miguel and Porta Férrea.
2. Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico)
Among the things to absolutely do in Coimbra, its botanical garden is in a good place. With its 13 hectares, the Botanical Garden of Coimbra is a haven of greenery in the heart of the city and can be visited during the mild weather months. To access it from the university, you will have to take the Porta Ferrera (literally the iron gate) and head to the aqueduct of the sixteenth century. This terraced space offers a superb panorama of Rio Mondego. The vegetation, often subtropical, is decorated with statues as well as many ponds and fountains. You will be able to admire the species coming from many parts of the world, and you will travel thousands of kilometers ... on foot!
3. Monastery of the Holy Cross (Mosteiro de Santa Cruz)
Coimbra has many religious buildings as in other cities of Portugal. Your stay will surely pass through the Monastery of the Holy Cross dates from the twelfth century and housed the canons of St. Augustine. This important historical monument, of Romanesque and Baroque architecture, houses the tombs of the first two kings of Portugal: Afonso Henriques and his son, Sancho I. The visit to the church is free, but you will need € 2.50 for discover the cloister and its ancillary buildings. An essential visit for tourists traveling to Coimbra.
4. Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha
In the exceptional heritage of Coimbra you can find the Gothic monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha. Erected on the left bank of the Mondego in 1286, at the initiative of Queen Isabella of Aragon, the Gothic monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, was gradually destroyed by repeated floods. The recently restored building and its archaeological remains attract many visitors each year. The city of Coimbra is trying to restore its monuments but is struggling to raise the necessary funds. During your stay do not forget to take a picture of the interior of the beautifully restored monastery.
5. Sé Velha Cathedral of Coimbra
The Cathedral Sé Velha, built in 1185, is one of the most important cathedrals of Portugal and is one of the places to visit in Coimbra. Its Romanesque architecture, influenced by the oriental culture, includes beautiful pieces such as altarpieces of the sixteenth century and a superb Gothic cloister. The latter is certainly one of the most beautiful, but also one of the oldest Romanesque cloisters in the country. Indeed, it has remained perfectly intact since its construction at the time of the Reconquista. As for the Monastery of the Holy Cross, access and visit to the Sé Velha Cathedral in Coimbra costs € 2.50.
6. Fado ao VIvo
What's better than a little music to enhance a stay in Coimbra? In the heart of the cultural center of Coimbra, discover the traditional music of Portuguese Fado. These popular songs with melancholy accents are an integral part of Portuguese culture. Soak up the "saudade" (melancholy) of the fado singer, wonderfully accompanied by his guitar.
Tradition has it that Fado is sung by men in Coimbra and by women in Lisbon. During your stay it will be an opportunity to compare the two types of fado from Portugal. This music, touching and moving, resonates with the hearts of the Portuguese still today. To discover absolutely if you decide to visit Coimbra!
7. Small Portugal (Portugal dos Pequenitos)
Visit Portugal on foot and in a few hours: this is the theme park Portugal dos Pequenitos in Coimbra. In this unusual park, the greatest Portuguese monuments are in the spotlight and this in miniature version! Young and old are immersed in the heritage and history of Portugal and plunge happily into this small-scale world. From historical monuments to typical Portuguese villages to colonial homes, discover Portugal as you've never seen it before. A highlight of your stay where you can find the most important monuments of Portugal as well as reproductions of towns and typical Portuguese villages.
The city of Coimbra is therefore an almost obligatory stopover in your discovery of Portugal and its traditions. Visiting Coimbra is a pleasure for anyone who wants to get out of the cliché Portugal = beaches. The millennial city lies quietly on its ramparts and its university rushes to the top. Yet the medieval city is far from sleepy thanks to its dynamic student population. The banks of the river are a real place of life and leisure. If you visit Coimbra in summer, know that a river beach is also only a few kilometers from the city and you can swim (but hush, do not tell everyone)! And you, tell us what you liked most about your visit to Coimbra.
Lisbob has prepared a route to visit the 7 places not to miss in the city of Coimbra. A total of just over an hour of walking, which will allow you to visit all the unmissable places in Coimbra in one day.
Looking for things to do in Coimbra ? Lisbob has selected the best things to do in the city of Coimbra and recommends the following: