Portugal
Coimbra

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

146 travelers at this place:

  • 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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  • Feb24

    What the Heck is a Cryptoportico?

    February 24 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We went up to the top of the hill again to visit another museum. As I mentioned before, Coimbra has very steep, winding, narrow, cobblestone streets that go up to the university area. But the city has helped people who have to do this trek up and down every day. There is an elevator up. There are mini electric buses, called Grandmother’s slippers, that do a circuit every 20 minutes. stairs were added. And the city has replaced some of the very slippery, limestone cobblestone with granite. Even our fabulous ON shoes had trouble gripping the limestone. We cannot imagine how many people would fall, when it rains!

    Our destination was to the Museu National Machado de Castro which we heard had a huge collection of very rare and precious objects, as well as great views over the city. We decided that exercise wouldn’t hurt us so we bit the bullet and walked through the old city gate, with holes in the ceiling where oil had been poured on enemies below, and up up, up to the museum.

    The museum was housed in what used to be a Bishop’s palace that had been built on the platform of an old Roman Forum. A Forum was the main center of a Roman city. Usually located near the physical center of a Roman town, on a crossroads, it served as a public area in which commercial, religious, economic, political, legal, and social activities occurred.

    Under the museum, is a well-preserved cryptoportico that we wanted to see and that’s the reason why we climbed to the top of the hill, again.

    A cryptoportico is “a semi-subterranean gallery whose vaulting supports portico structures above ground and which is lit from openings at the tops of its arches”. In Coimbra, the Forum was built over uneven ground so a two storey cryptoportico was built under it. The whole area under the platform had tunnels and small rooms in it. It was used to store grains, food and animals and provide a cool place for people to walk when the weather was extremely hot. The sewers flowed under this structure also. All neat and tidy.

    Apparently only a small section on the vaulted ceiling has had any work done in modern times, although some parts were rebuilt in the 14th century. Most of what we saw was how it was 2000 years ago. When we entered the dark interior, we could just wander around the huge basement-like labyrinth. It was like a maze! Finally everyone finds their way out and there was a man who indicated where the exit was. What an incredible place.

    I have only mentioned the underground vaults but the whole museum was wonderful and had good English translations. We were there for four hours! They even have a restaurant with great views that overlooks the river and the lower city where we had a small coffee break.

    The museum was well worth the €3 that we paid!
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  • Day32

    University of Coimbra - The Tower

    October 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We next visited the Tower, where we climbed 192 stairs up a very narrow spiral staircase, that narrowed further about half way up. It was worth the effort, as we had wonderful views across all of Coimbra. The Tower was erected around 1728, and was designed by Roman architect António Canevari, to replace the prior one from the 1600’s. The Tower houses the bells, the most popular of which called ‘the goat’, whose chimes conduct the University’s rituals.Read more

  • Day32

    Ceremonial Hall and Yellow Room

    October 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We next explored the Royal Palace, which was used by the first kings of Portugal, starting with Afonso Henrique in 1131, before it became part of the university. First stop was what is known as the yellow room, a place where the medical faculty met. We then saw the Ceremonial Hall, which originally was the throne hall. It is currently used by the University for most of its official ceremonies, including the ceremony of investiture of the rector, the formal opening of the academic year, and doctors Honoris Causa. PhD oral exams are still conducted in this room. The current design and decoration of this room dates back to 1655, and the portraits of all Portuguese kings, excluding the dynasty of the Philips during the period when Portugal was under Spanish rule.Read more

  • Day32

    Museu Nacional De Machado De Castro

    October 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We made our way to the ticket office to enter the museum and decided to get the audio guide, which was very useful. The museum is spread over five levels and you are directed up, down and around by a team of staff with radios that let the next area know you are on your way.

    We started on level -2 and - 1 with the Roman ruins, which the museum was built over - it used to be the site of the Roman Forum, and the remains are the platform (cryptoportico) that the Forum was built upon. You enter a vaulted area and walk between large open areas, and more confined spaces. There are some tombstones and ancient sculptures in this area, but it is mainly looking at the layout and construction of the buildings.

    Floors 0 to 2 contained a broad range of art, which is excellent. We started in the sculpture area where they had architectural pieces through to Gothic religious sculpture. There was a section of the cloister of São João de Almedina, and some alabaster pieces from England. Renaissance masters who came from other parts of Europe to Coimbra brought their various styles and traditions which contributed to the distinctive Coimbra tradition. A whole chapel has been reassembled and is on display.

    There were 16th century terracotta figures from Hodart’s Last Supper that are very impressive. There are also a range of paintings -most are quite religious - and there are some panels by the Flemish artist Metsys. There are also extensive collections of gold monstrances, furniture and some Moorish influenced pieces. There is so much to see in this museum, which we found out at the conclusion of the tour is named after a local sculpture who was born in Coimbra 1731. It took us several hours to get through the collection as it is so extensive.
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  • Day32

    Dinner at Fangas Mercearia Bar

    October 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    For dinner, we decided to go to a tapas restaurant we had seen in our wanderings, and that some people had told us was very good. Unfortunately, it was booked out so we went to another place that was recommended by our host. It was a fairly quaint place with very friendly staff. We were pretty lucky to get a table, because within about 30 minutes there was a queue, and our American friends from the previous night wandered past and decided to try it out. They were still waiting for a table when we left.

    We had a lovely red from the Douro, and shared a range of tapas plates. It was very nice but not as good as Arcada.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Distrito de Coimbra, Coimbra

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