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6 Fantastic Things to Do in Coimbra

Mondego River Coimbra PortugalWhat To Do In Coimbra

While Lisbon may be the well-known Portuguese capital, there is another city that holds the title of the ancient capital of this country—Coimbra. Nestled in the central region of Portugal, Coimbra is a treasure trove of history, culture, and vibrant experiences. Here are six fantastic things to do in Coimbra that will leave you enchanted with its charm.

When was Coimbra the capital of Portugal?

Coimbra, once the capital of Portugal, holds a significant place in the country’s history. Initially, the birthplace of Portugal was Guimarães, but the capital eventually shifted to Coimbra. For several years, from the early days of the nation’s formation until 1255, Coimbra served as the capital city. It was during this time that the city flourished as the center of political, cultural, and academic activities.

However, in 1255, King D. Afonso III made a momentous decision and relocated the entire court to Lisbon. This shift was prompted by Lisbon’s growing prosperity and strategic importance as a thriving city. Since then, Lisbon has remained the capital of Portugal, while Coimbra has continued to be cherished for its historical significance and renowned academic institutions.

If you are planning a visit to Coimbra, here are some ultimate things to do in this captivating city.

Read more: Best Time to Visit Portugal.

How much time do I need in Coimbra?

To fully immerse yourself in the wonders of Coimbra, we recommend allocating at least one full day for sightseeing. However, to truly discover the essence of this captivating city, we highly recommend dedicating a minimum of two days to your visit.

With two days in Coimbra, you’ll have ample time to explore its rich historical and cultural heritage, visit its renowned attractions, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere that pervades the city. You can leisurely stroll through the winding streets of the historic center, marvel at the magnificent Coimbra University, and delve into the city’s fascinating past at the various museums and landmarks.

Additionally, taking two days allows you to savor the local cuisine, relax in charming cafes, and even attend a traditional Fado performance, adding an extra layer of authenticity to your experience in Coimbra.

By allocating a minimum of two days to your visit, you’ll ensure that you have ample time to soak in the charm and uniqueness of this remarkable city.

How do you pronounce Coimbra?

To help you pronounce the Portuguese cities. We chose this fantastic video made by the Portuguese Lab.

Where is Coimbra in Portugal? How far is Lisbon to Coimbra?

Coimbra is situated in central Portugal, making it a strategically located city in the heart of the country. The city is known for its picturesque riverfront, as it lies along the banks of the Mondego River. The Mondego River holds the distinction of being the longest river entirely within Portuguese territory. It originates in the majestic Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in Portugal, and flows all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, near the coastal town of Figueira da Foz.

When it comes to the distance between Coimbra and other major cities in Portugal, here are some key measurements. Coimbra is approximately 205 kilometers (127 miles) north of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It is also situated around 125 kilometers (77 miles) away from Porto, another prominent city in the northern part of the country. These distances provide an idea of the proximity of Coimbra to other significant destinations in Portugal, making it easily accessible for visitors.

Read more: How can I get to Portugal?

How To Get To Coimbra From Lisbon

When traveling from Lisbon to Coimbra, the most convenient option is to take the train. However, it’s important to note that Coimbra has two train stations, namely Coimbra A and Coimbra B. For first-time visitors, it may not be immediately apparent which station to choose.

To reach Coimbra, you’ll need to board a train from Lisbon to Coimbra B. Once you arrive at Coimbra B, you have a couple of choices to reach the city center. You can either take a leisurely walk of approximately 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) or opt for a taxi ride for a more convenient and faster journey.

By selecting the train as your mode of transportation, you’ll enjoy a comfortable and scenic ride from Lisbon to Coimbra. The train journey provides an opportunity to admire the picturesque landscapes of Portugal as you make your way to this historic city.

Explore More Exquisite Destinations in Portugal Here

How far is Coimbra from the coast?

Coimbra is located inland and is not situated directly on the coast. As a result, there are no beaches within the city itself. However, if you’re looking to enjoy a beach day during your visit to Coimbra, you’ll be pleased to know that the closest beach is just a 45-minute drive away.

While Coimbra offers a rich cultural and historical experience, those seeking a seaside escape can easily reach the coast within a short travel time. Whether you prefer relaxing on sandy shores, taking a refreshing dip in the ocean, or indulging in water sports, the nearby beaches provide a convenient option to complement your visit to Coimbra.

What to visit in Coimbra

1 – University of Coimbra, Portugal

The University of Coimbra in Portugal holds the prestigious title of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its rich history, it stands as one of the oldest universities in Europe. Originally established in Lisbon in 1290, the university later moved to its current location in Coimbra in 1537.

Situated in a place of great significance, the university is nestled where Portugal’s first king once resided. This historical setting adds to the allure and grandeur of the institution. Visitors to the University of Coimbra can explore its stunning architecture, immerse themselves in its centuries-old traditions, and witness the profound influence it has had on Portugal’s academic and cultural heritage.

What is the University of Coimbra famous for?

a group of people walking in front of University of Coimbra Portugal

A must-see attraction within the University of Coimbra is the renowned Joanina Library, widely regarded as one of the most exquisite places in Coimbra. This magnificent library boasts a distinctive architectural style and houses an extensive collection of invaluable works.

The library is comprised of three impressive halls, showcasing over 60,000 volumes that span from the 12th to the 18th century. Its collections primarily focus on fields such as law, theology, and philosophy, offering visitors a glimpse into the intellectual pursuits of the past.

An intriguing aspect of the Joanina Library is its unique approach to pest control. To protect the precious books from insects, a small colony of bats resides within the library, helping to maintain a natural balance and safeguard the literary treasures.

Beyond the Joanina Library, there are several other captivating sights to explore within the university grounds. These include St. Michael’s Chapel, the Academic Prison, the Royal Palace, and the University Tower. Each of these landmarks contributes to the rich historical and cultural heritage of the University of Coimbra, making it an enticing destination for both scholars and visitors alike.

Read more: Best Things to Eat in Portugal?

How old is the University of Coimbra?

This University is 731 years old.

How much does it cost to get into the University?

You can visit the University with this complete program, including the Palace of Schools (Baroque Library, St. Michael’s Chapel, Academic Prison, and the Royal Palace) and the Chemistry Lab (the Science Museum). Fare Singular – Base:
Adult [from 19 to 64 years old]: 12,50 €
Senior [65 years old or above]: 10,00 €
Student [from 19 to 25 years old]: 10,00 €
Youth [from 13 to 18 years old]: 6,25 €
Child [from 3 to 13 years old]: 0,00 €

2 – Old Cathedral (Se Velha)

The Old Cathedral, also known as Se Velha, is a remarkable architectural gem designed by the French Master Roberto in the 12th century. The cathedral’s facade showcases a fascinating blend of influences, with the central portal displaying distinct Islamic motifs, while the side door exhibits elegant Renaissance decorations.

Stepping inside, visitors are treated to the captivating interior of the cathedral, where they can marvel at the intricate details and sacred atmosphere. Adjacent to the main structure, the Gothic cloister, which was initiated in 1218, offers a serene space for reflection and exploration.

An intriguing cultural event associated with the Old Cathedral is the Queima das Fitas (Burning of the Ribbons) ceremony. During this traditional celebration, Coimbra Fado, a unique style of Portuguese music, fills the air in front of the cathedral. The Queima das Fitas marks the culmination of students’ university journey and is a vibrant and spirited occasion.

The Old Cathedral, with its historical significance, architectural splendor, and connection to local traditions, stands as a testament to the rich heritage and cultural vibrancy of Coimbra.

3 – Arco de Almedina

The Arco de Almedina, derived from the Arabic term “Al medina” meaning “Town,” serves as the authentic entrance to the historic city of Coimbra. This arch holds great historical significance as it represents the original gateway to the old city.

Originally constructed, the arch underwent restoration during the 12th century, which included the addition of the Torre de Anto, a tower built above the arch. This tower features Renaissance windows that add a touch of elegance and architectural charm to the structure.

The Arco de Almedina stands as a testament to Coimbra’s rich past and serves as a gateway that transports visitors to the enchanting world of the old city. Its restoration and the incorporation of the Torre de Anto showcase the city’s commitment to preserving its heritage and architectural beauty.

4 – Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha

The Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, also referred to as the Convent of Queen Saint Isabel, holds a significant historical and cultural presence. Originally established in 1283, it served as a retreat for Queen Saint Isabel, the widow of King Dinis.

Over time, the original monastery faced challenges due to frequent flooding that compromised its foundations. Consequently, in the 17th century, the nuns made the decision to relocate to higher ground, leading to the founding of the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova.

This transition was prompted by the persistent flooding that undermined the stability of the original convent. Recognizing the importance of preserving their sacred space, the nuns chose to establish a new monastery that would provide a secure environment for their spiritual pursuits and communal life.

The Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha and its subsequent relocation to Santa Clara-a-Nova stand as testaments to the resilience and dedication of the nuns, as well as the historical context of Coimbra’s religious heritage.

5 – Portugal dos Pequenitos

things to do near coimbra portugal

Portugal dos Pequenitos is the oldest theme park in Portugal, offering a delightful experience for visitors of all ages. Within its enchanting grounds, you will encounter a captivating collection of the country’s most iconic monuments, traditional villages, and a nod to the era of Portuguese discoveries, all meticulously recreated on a reduced scale.

As you explore the park, you and your family will be immersed in a world of wonders. The intricately crafted miniatures showcase the architectural marvels that define Portugal’s rich heritage. From grand palaces to charming village houses, each detail has been thoughtfully recreated to capture the essence of the original structures.

Established over 75 years ago, Portugal dos Pequenitos continues to be a cherished destination, preserving the beauty and cultural significance of the nation in a captivating environment. It is a place where history, imagination, and family fun seamlessly come together, leaving visitors with cherished memories to treasure for a lifetime.

6 – Fado

Experience the enchanting world of Fado at Fado ao Centro! Immerse yourself in the soul-stirring melodies of the finest Portuguese music in this captivating venue.

The performers at Fado ao Centro are a talented group consisting of current and past students from the University of Coimbra. Their passion and skill bring the essence of Fado to life, captivating audiences with their heartfelt performances.

Fado ao Centro welcomes visitors every day, starting at 6 p.m., ensuring you have the opportunity to witness this authentic cultural experience at your convenience. Prepare to be transported by the emotive voices and haunting melodies of Fado, as you embark on a musical journey that touches the depths of the Portuguese soul.

Don’t miss the chance to be captivated by the power and beauty of Fado at Fado ao Centro. It’s an experience that will leave an indelible impression on your heart and soul.

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