Tourist’s guide to Coimbra – the student capital of Portugal

Coimbra (Portugal) is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the symbol of which is the oldest university in the country, built in the 13th century. It is safe to say that this is a kind of Portuguese Oxford, with no less interesting holidays and deep traditions.

General information

Coimbra is a city in the central part of the country with a population of 170,000. The city used to be the capital of Portugal, but now it is known only thanks to one of the oldest universities in Europe, which occupies a significant part of Coimbra.

The city is also the administrative center of Coimbra County, which consists of 17 settlements. A total of about 440,000 people live in the district.

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As for the coat of arms of Coimbra County, it is quite unusual for Portugal: on the right is the Alan leopard, which is a symbol of the Alans – people of Scythian-Sarmatian origin.

Scientists believe that one of the groups of this people gave rise to Ossetians and Caucasians. Norwegians and Icelanders also descended from the Alans. The Portuguese are confident that these peoples have common roots with the inhabitants of Coimbra.

University and Library of Coimbra

Coimbra University is the oldest and largest educational institution in Portugal, founded in Lisbon in the distant 1290. For several centuries it wandered from one city to another, and “settled” in Coimbra only in 1537.

From century to century, the university expanded, and, in the end, began to occupy a considerable part of Coimbra. Today, all faculties and institutes are located in different areas of Coimbra and occupy the premises of ancient buildings, some of which are architectural monuments of world significance. It is worth saying that the university itself has been under the protection of UNESCO since 2013.

Today, the University of Coimbra has 8 faculties (the largest – math, medical and law) and 4 campuses. The university is a recognized leader in the field of education in Portugal, because at the university they study many sciences: algebra, geometry, philosophy, mechanics, engineering, various languages.

As in many other private educational institutions, students at Coimbra University are required to wear a uniform: black robes with colorful ribbons. By the way, a ribbon does not perform a decorative function at all: its color means the faculty where the student is studying, and the quantity means the year of study.

It is also worth mentioning an interesting tradition: after the May exams, all students burn their ribbons, thus celebrating the beginning of the summer holidays.

As in most ancient educational institutions, a library is operating on the territory of Coimbra University – one of the oldest and largest in Europe. Its construction began in 1717, by decree of King Joao V.

The building was created in the then popular Baroque style, and has 3 large halls. The walls of all the rooms of the library are covered with old wooden shelves, on which books are located (there are about 250,000 of them, and all of them were printed before the beginning of the 19th century).

sights

Everyone knows that the symbol of Coimbra is the university and the library. However, few people think about what else there are attractions in the Portuguese Coimbra. A list of the most interesting places is given below.

Church and Monastery of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz)

The current church and monastery of Santa Cruz are not only the architectural and historical monuments of Coimbra, but also the tombs of the kings of Portugal, located in the center of the Lower City. They are rightly considered one of the most beautiful not only in Portugal, but throughout Europe.

The church and the monastery were built in the style of Manuelino, and therefore attract the attention of all the guests of Coimbra: the facades of the buildings are richly decorated with stucco moldings, sculptures of saints are located in the arches, and the church has an unusual color – sand.

Inside the temple is no less beautiful: daylight breaks through multi-colored stained-glass windows, and in the center of the hall is an old organ.

Despite its age, this musical instrument is still used for its intended purpose.

  • Attraction address: Praca 8 de Maio, Coimbra 3000-300, Portugal.
  • Opening hours: Tue-Sat 9: 00-12: 00, 14: 00-17: 00; Sun 16: 00-17: 30; Monday is a day off.
  • Cost: Free.
Old Coimbra Cathedral

The old Coimbra Cathedral is located in the very center of the city and for many centuries has been attracting tourists with its unusual facade: carved windows, tall turrets and elegant arches. The temple was built in the 12th century, and in 2013 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Since then, the popularity of this place has increased several times.

Near the sanctuary is a beautiful garden and one of the largest squares in Coimbra.

  • Location of Attractions: Largo da Sé Velha, 3000–306 Coimbra, Portugal.
  • Opening hours: 10: 00-18: 00, Sun – day off.
  • Entrance: 2 €.
Mondego Park (Parque Verde do Mondego)

Mondego Park is a beautiful, well-groomed place for walking and relaxing, located on the banks of the river. In the green zone there are many benches and benches on which the Portuguese often relax, because the weather in Coimbra is always warm. If you are tired too, then you can safely spread the rug and relax on the grass or have a picnic – this behavior is only welcome.

The park has an alley with busts of famous people, and interesting plants grow here, which, with the help of gardeners, take on an unusual shape. In the center of the river in the summer there is a fountain.

There are no problems with food either: there are many restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops.

  • Where is: Avenida da Lousa – Parque Verde, Coimbra, Portugal.
Miniature Portugal

The miniature theme park is located on the banks of the Mondego River, in the new city. This unusual place can be conditionally divided into 3 parts: the first part of the exposition is dedicated to the discoveries of Portuguese sailors, the second to the sights of Coimbra and the country as a whole, and the third to the Portuguese village. In this place you can find out everything about life in Portugal both in the ancient and in the modern world.

If you are traveling with a child, then visiting this park is simply necessary: ​​there are a lot of small houses, as well as funny masks that will please your child.

  • Location of Attractions: Jardim do Portugal dos Pequenitos, Coimbra 3040-202, Portugal.
  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 20:00.
  • Cost: 9.95 €.
May 8th Square (Praça Oito de Maio)

Oito de Maio Square is one of Coimbra’s main university squares and is located in the heart of the Old Town, near the Church of the Holy Cross. This is a picturesque place where Portuguese and tourists gather in the evenings. By the way, this square can be seen on most photos taken in Coimbra.

We can safely say that this square is the center of public life of the village. There are many cafes, restaurants, bars, shops. And on weekends, there is a local market where Portuguese farmers sell their produce.

Science museum

On the territory of Coimbra University there are many museums, one of which is a scientific one. This is an amazing place, because here everyone can feel like an experienced scientist and conduct a series of experiments /

The museum also has a number of expositions devoted to physics, zoology, geology, mineralogy.

The museum can be divided into two parts: the first (ancient) and the second (modern). In the “ancient” part of the museum historical exhibits are presented and the building itself, built in the 16th century, plays an important role.

The modern part of the attraction was built recently, and it is here that visitors are allowed to conduct experiments.

Near the museum there is a souvenir shop and a small cafe.

  • Location: Largo Marques de Pombal, Coimbra 3000-272, Portugal.
  • Opening hours: 10: 00-18: 00.
  • Cost: 5 € (however, there are often discounts).
Coimbra Academic Prison

Coimbra University Academic Prison was created specifically for offending students. In fairness, it is worth saying that this place is not much like a usual prison, because among the inconveniences, one can only note the absence of windows and the iron entrance grille. The rest of the “prison cells” resemble an old hotel of the 16-17th centuries.

Today, in the territory of the former prison, there is a small museum where you can walk around the cells and see how prisoners lived.

  • Where to find the attraction: Largo da Porta Ferrea – Foyer da Biblioteca Geral | Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra 3040-202, Portugal.
  • Opening hours: 9:00 – 19:00.

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How to get to Coimbra

The transport network in Portugal is well developed, and therefore it is not at all difficult to get from one city to another. 

To get to Coimbra from Lisbon you can at:
  • The bus

There are two routes to get to Coimbra. The first starts at the Lisboa Sete Rios bus station, and ends at the Coimbra stop.

Buses depart every 15-30 minutes (sometimes 2-3 pcs at a time) from 7:00 to 23:30. Travel time is 2 hours 20 minutes. Carriers – Rede Expressos and Citi Express. The price of a full ticket is 13.8 € (November 2017). Tickets can be purchased at rede-expressos.pt.

If the first option for some reason does not fit, then you can give preference to the second: the initial stop is Martim Moniz (line 208). Get from it to Lisboa Oriente station by Carris Lisboa bus. Next – transfer to the Auto Viacao do Tamega bus. It takes you from Lisboa Oriente to Coimbra. Travel time – 4h 40 min. The cost of the trip will cost 16-25 €.

  • The train

If you prefer a train, then your journey should begin with the train. Lisboa Santa Apolonia stations. Take the Intercity train of Portuguese company Portuguese Railways (CP) and get to Coimbra-B station. Travel time – 1h 45min. Ticket prices range from 15 to 30 €.

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You can get to Coimbra from Porto by:
  • The bus

Many buses run from Porto (most often the Portuguese company Rede-Expressos).

At the Campo 24 de Agosto, Porto metro station, there is a bus station to Coimbra. Travel time – 1h 30min. The fare is 11.9 € (November 2017).

Current prices and timetables can be viewed on the website of the primary carrier rede-expressos.pt.

  • The train

Departure – from Campanha Central Station. The final station is Coimbra B (however, it is far from the center of Coimbra, so you can catch any regional train from the same station and get to Coimbra A station, which is located in the heart of the city). Price varies from 12 to 15 €. Travel time is 1.5 hours.

Coimbra (Portugal) is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, which is worth a visit for everyone.



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