Portugal
Coimbra

Here you’ll find travel reports about Coimbra. Discover travel destinations in Portugal of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

82 travelers at this place:

  • Feb22

    Coimbra - First Impressions

    February 22 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Easy peasy 1 1/2 hour train ride from Aveiro to Coimbra with hardly anyone on the train. A few students. There are two train stops in Coimbra - Stations A and B. One is outside of the city and the other is in the city. So, that’s where we got off.

    So what were our first impressions?

    It seems like it is a pretty city. Pastel-coloured houses going up a high hill located beside a big river.

    It is hilly. Oh yes, very hilly. Great for getting lots of exercise – bad for people carrying backpacks and getting lost going up the hills. Great for views on every corner – bad for carrying our food and too many books over any distance over a few hundred metres! But without the bags, it is great for seeing new vistas around every corner!

    It has a beautiful university situated on top of a hill. Tourists come here to explore the historical buildings, visit the museums and check out the views. From its narrow, ancient streets to its imposing religious buildings, there’s plenty to see on campus.

    There are a lot of musicians playing saxophones, guitars and drums on the wonderful, main pedestrian street. We even saw a man playing an accordion while his wee little dog sat on a stool with a little bucket in his mouth, collecting change. So funny.

    It is a very clean city and people are nice.

    Laundry hangs out on balconies high up on five storey buildings and cats sit in windowsills. A bit of graffiti and cobblestone streets.

    Every fifth store is a bakery or a cafe. We will have to run up those steep hills on a daily basis in order to burn the calories from the pastries that we will want to eat.

    The history! Oh my.

    The city definitely has a lot of character and we are looking forward to exploring it.
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  • Day31

    First impressions of Coimbra

    October 4 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We left our apartment to explore the city, to get an initial feel for our immediate area. First thing we learnt was that if a car comes down the very narrow streets, and they do, you need to hug the wall or step into a void, as you just need to get out of the way! We headed down our street and found ourselves at the river. Coimbra is a fairly hilly city, with lots of steep streets and walkways and stairs.

    We wandered down the main pedestrian mall to check out the shops and just take it all in. We encountered some uni students, who are very recognisable in their black suits and robes - very Harry Potter like. During our wanderings we noticed a lovely little restaurant around the corner from our apartment, so we decided to head there for an early dinner later in the evening. Before heading back to the apartment, we stopped for a glass of rosé in little cafe on the stairs leading up to our street, and just take in the relaxed atmosphere. We have noticed that Fado is very popular here in Coimbra as it was in Lisbon, and there are a lot of Fado bars in our area.
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  • Day31

    Arcada for dinner

    October 4 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We headed out for an early dinner, arriving at Arcada just after 6.30 to find it wasn’t open yet. So, while Ian waited at the restaurant I strolled down the road to check out if there were other options if this one didn’t open. There were several other options, but luckily Arcada soon opened. We were their first customers, and decided to sit outside. The staff (who are students from the University) were great, really helpful with assisting us choosing the wine, and told us if we ordered too much food. There was a very friendly and cute neighbourhood dog that kept hanging around hoping for some titbits - he would even sneak into the restaurant, but was chased out by the staff.

    For dinner we had stuffed mushrooms, a sandwich of pork, caramelised onions, mayonnaise and Padron peppers, chorizo, and a sardines boat, Everything was so fresh and delicious, but in terms of presentation the sardines were the standout. As we were sitting outside, as people wandered past and checked out the menu, Ian would tell them how good the food was and encourage the, to come in. I think he probably convinced 4 or 5 couples during the evening.

    One couple from the US, who were in Portugal celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, sat next to us and we had a lovely night chatting to them, and then later a couple from Vienna. There was also a lovely young German couple, and a young Italian boy called Lorenzo that kept coming out to get our attention. He was very cute, but we think his mum got a bit embarrassed, as she thought he was annoying us but he wasn’t.

    We decided to treat ourselves to dessert, a trio of tastes to share, which comprised of a key lime pie, almond mousse and chocolate mousse. Dessert also came with 2 glasses of port, which Ian had to drink, as I had ordered a local Portuguese gin which was very nice - it was called Anicis. The staff then also brought out a shot of a local digestive, for the six of us and themselves, to toast new friendships. It was a really great night, and we didn’t end up getting home until about 11.30 pm.
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  • Day32

    University of Coimbra - the Library

    October 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We headed up to the University this morning to explore the campus. First thing we did was purchase tickets to enter the various buildings, and secured a time to visit the library. It is broadly accepted that this University was founded on 1 March 1290. For many years, the “General Studies” alternated between the two largest cities at the time, Coimbra and Lisbon. After three centuries of roaming, in 1537 the University settled definitely in Coimbra, as ordered by King João III. The University of Coimbra is Portugal’s oldest University, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We explored the large courtyard that has a statue of King João III, and has lovely views down to the river.

    We visited the library, known as The Old (Joanine) Library, at 11 am, as it is timed entry. There are three levels in the library. The Academic prison is on the first level. It was used until 1832, and was where students served time for having committed disciplinary offences. There is a middle floor, also called depository 4, which was used to keep books to which only a restricted group of staff had access. The top floor, referred to as the Noble Floor, is unbelievably ornate and contains thousands of books. It is divided into three sections, has three ceiling paintings, ornately carved columns supporting the shelves with lots of gold, and a royal portrait of King João V. Interestingly, there is a colony of bats that also reside in the library to keep the insects such as moths under control, as they can eat the books. Each night the tables and other furnishings are covered in leather sheets to protect them from the animal droppings. No photos were allowed on the Noble Floor.
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  • Day32

    Wandering around the campus

    October 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    After seeing all these wonderful buildings at the University of Coimbra, and as it was a lovely sunny day, we decided to explore the campus a bit more widely. We passed a number of faculty buildings, including the Medicine, Chemistry, Physics and Botany faculties. When we reached the edge of the campus, we could see what looked like an Aquaduct which ran along the side of the Botanical Gardens (also part of the university). It turns out it is the Aqueduto de São Sebastião. We also popped into the Botanical Gardens for a quick look, but decided not to go all the way in.

    We then decided to head back up to the Science Museum, located on the University campus but, as the main part was closed for cleaning, we instead went to the Museu Nacional De Machado De Castro - located just across the road - where we first had lunch in their restaurant, which has great views.
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  • Day34

    Final Dinner in Coimbra

    October 7 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    For our final dinner in Coimbra we decided to return to Arcada, where we had our first dinner that we enjoyed so much. We sat inside this time, and ordered less food and less alcohol, as we have to pack and head off to Porto tomorrow. We had a lovely night, and again shared a number of tapas. I indulged in another local gin, and Ian tried a red from the Douro region. The food once again was delicious.Read more

  • Feb23

    Joanine Library, University of Coimbra

    February 23 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Walking to the top of the steep hill to the plateau where the University of Coimbra is located, was challenging. No wonder that all the students look so fit!

    Our plan for the day was to spend a few hours in this university as it is one of the oldest universities in the world (established in 1290!) and a World Heritage site. It also has an amazing Baroque library.

    We easily found the building where we could buy tickets to see the historic part of the university - a visit to the Royal Palace (Great Hall of Acts, Private Examination Room and Arms Room), the Chapel of St. Michael, the Baroque Library (Grand Room, Middle Floor and the Academic Prison) and the College of Jesus, which includes the Physics Laboratory (18th and 19th centuries) and the Natural History Collection (18th century). We started at the library.

    Only 60 people maximum can enter the library at a time for only 20 minutes and times have to be booked. We reserved two spots for noon. When we got there, we were told that we could take photos, no flash, on the first two floors but no photos were allowed for the third and most amazing floor.

    The front doorway of this elegant building has four columns, with the majestic royal coat of arms in Baroque style above it, but we didn’t enter through these doors. The Joanine Library was built on top of a medieval prison, which was later turned into an academic prison for misbehaving students. Today, we started the tour of the library in the basement area - in the prison.

    In this three storey building, two of which are underground, the wall are covered in bookshelves with 300,000 old volumes about Medicine, Geography, History, Humanist Studies, Science, Civil and Canon Law, Philosophy and Theology works.

    The books, published between the 15th and 19th centuries, are still in good condition thanks to the way the building was built. With outside walls 3 meters thick, a door made of teak wood and the interior covered with wood in order to absorb the excess of humidity, this space works as a true vault favouring book conservation. The shelves are made of oak that deters insects.

    At the library, three rooms stand out. They are connected to each other by decorated arches and completely covered with book shelves topped by the royal coat of arms: in the first room, gold contrasts against a green background; in the second, the golden colour contrasts against a red background and, in the last, a black background makes golden details come to life. Their walls are covered with two-level bookshelves made in exotic, golden and multi-coloured wood, and the ceilings shows figures inspired by the arts and science.

    At night, after the library is closed, a bat colony helps maintain the books by eating bugs. The tables are covered with leather at night in order to protect them from the bat poo.

    In the library’s vault there are extremely rare volumes such as the first edition of “Os Lusíadas”, a Hebrew Bible, published in the second half of the 15th century and of which there are only about 20 copies around the world. There is even a 48-line Latin Bible, printed in 1462 by two Gutenberg partners and which is considered the most beautiful out of the four which were printed.
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  • Feb23

    Inez & Pedro - Portugal's Romeo & Juliet

    February 23 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    “It all started in the 14th century in Coimbra when Prince Pedro (1320-1367), who was at the time the rightful heir to the throne, met Constança from Castela Kingdom who he was expected to marry in an arranged marriage. Pedro, however, fell in love with one of Contança’s maids, her name was Inês de Castro (1320 or 1325-1355) and she reciprocated the prince’s love.

    Pedro and Inês had a secret affair which became public as soon as Queen Constança died giving birth to Pedro’s child. This made Pedro feel comfortable enough to make his relationship official, but his father, King Afonso IV, was having none of it and forbade them to marry. Nevertheless, Pedro and Inês decided to live together in Coimbra and have children anyway.

    Legend has it that Inês’s brothers had a big influence on Pedro which started to bother the royal family. Then, the fact that Pedro and Inês had supposedly secretly married made their children heirs to the throne. Soon King Afonso IV decided that it was time to get rid of Inês de Castro and so he gathered a group of men and demanded that they’d kill her.

    The legend says she was killed at Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra where people can visit the fountain where one can still see her blood on the rocks. But she was in fact killed at Paços de Santa Clara, also in Coimbra.

    Pedro became furious and wanted to start a war with his father but his mother, Queen Beatriz, appealed for peace and made her son give up on this idea. At this time, Pedro also swore not to hunt down the men who killed the love of his life, but right after his father’s death he changed his mind and demanded their deaths. The assassins were tortured and Dom Pedro inflicted them a macabre death by ripping their hearts out of their chest and back. Legend has it that he did it with this bare hands and that he even ate the hearts. This action gave him the nickname of Pedro the Cruel.

    King Pedro and Inês became reunited after their death. After Inês’s death, Pedro crowned her as queen making her the first and only Portuguese queen crowned after her death. King Pedro made sure this royal title was visible on her tomb and then he ordered that his tomb to be next to hers, to stay side by side for eternity.”

    And so ends the legend of Pedro and Inês of Coimbra. Their beautifully carved, marble tombs are not in Coimbra though. They are in a monastery in Alcobaça and they are something to see!

    We walked over the Mondango River on a coloured pedestrian bridge dedicated to Pedro and Inês, to the “Quinta das Lágrimas“ (Estate of Tears), a famous estate in Coimbra, once inhabited by Portuguese nobility. The original castle was built in the 14th century during the reign of King Afonso IV. The estate had very lush and famous hunting grounds often visited by many kings and emperors of Europe. There are seven centuries of gardens here with over 51 remarkable trees from all over the world - China, Japan, England, Peru, etc.

    We wandered around this lovely palace, turned into a fancy hotel, looking for the fountain called the "Fonte Das Lágrimas". It is on the property where Inês was slain and supposedly her blood and bloody tears still stains its stone bottom. We found it and if you look carefully you can see the red stones in one of the photos (an algae?). For centuries, the estate has been reportedly haunted by the ghost of Inês, who is heard crying on the grounds. Also, the legend has it that Inês' spirit still roams the estate, eternally searching for her lost love, Pedro.
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  • Feb22

    More Coimbra University photos

    February 22 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We started our visit to the university by going to the old Baroque library. Then we visited St. Michael’s chapel and a former royal palace (from when Coimbra was the capital). Our tickets gave us entrance to all these buildings, as well as entry to the Science Museum, so off we went to the other side of the campus to see this museum. At first, law, medicine, grammar and logic were taught at this university. Then, with the rise of sailing and exploration in Portugal, astronomy and geometry were added. It is still the most respected university in the country.

    Formerly there were several museums in the university, including a museum of physics, a museum of zoology, a museum of natural history, and a museum of mineralogy and geology, which were managed by different university departments. They merged together in 2006/2007 to form the Science Museum of the University of Coimbra.

    Most of these collections date back to the reform of the University in 1772, when the teaching of the sciences became very important.

    The unique science instruments and collections of species from many zoological groups make up what is the most important science collection in Portugal, and one of the most important ones in Europe.

    We loved seeing the old lecture halls with their beautiful wooden teachers’ desks, wood stoves and the rows of student seating.

    By the way, I should mention that we have seen many students proudly wearing black “Harry Potter-like” wool capes with rips near the hems. The cape is torn whenever something exceptionally important occurs to the wearer. The capes were originally worn because of the strong Jesuit influence on the university. Burning of colourful ribbons (used for tying books together when carrying them) at graduation, is another old tradition.
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  • Feb23

    A Walk on the Shore of the Mondego River

    February 23 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    Today we were in the mood for a long, flat walk on the shores of the Mondego River. The city of Coimbra was built on this river and has always been an important part of its inhabitants’ lives. The beauty of its banks has inspired many generations of students and poets. When we saw the river, it was calm and peaceful, but we have read about how it can become quite dangerous after big rains, flooding even the most important buildings.

    Located on the right bank of the Mondego closest to Coimbra, there is a green park with a large outdoor café area that is built on a wooden platform above the river. This park has four kilometres of pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths which pass bars, restaurants, a playground, temporary exhibit spaces and a Water Museum.

    On the left bank of the river, a big sandbox was built so that people can play beach volley there. There is a small skate park, playgrounds for kids, a picnic area and four pavilions for water activities. You can rent a boat, a canoe, pedal boat or even go on a barca serrana ride. Barca serranas were traditional boats which used to carry clothing from washerwomen along the Mondego River.

    We sat on a bench and watched all the Saturday morning activities going on. So many people were out and exercising. Every age and shape and size of people were doing their thing. It was awesome!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Coimbra, Coïmbra, Κόιμπρα, Koimbro, Coímbra, CBP, コインブラ, Коимбра, Koímbra, 科英布拉

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