Famous for its university and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Coimbra sits alongside the river Mondego halfway between Porto and Lisbon. Visitors can explore the city steeped in history, with the Joanine Library housing works dating back to the 16th century encased in gilded bookshelves crafted from exotic wood. The university is the oldest in Portugal, with a 16th century tower granting amazing views out over the city and a 17th century ceremonial hall, Sala dos Capelos. The Chapel of Sao Miguel dates back to the early 16th century and has some exquisite fittings and carvings inside.
There are Romanesque churches and monuments, monasteries, grand cathedrals and the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The Monastery of Santa Cruz dates all the way back to the 12th century and houses the tombs of Portugal’s first two kings, Afonso Henriques and Sancho I. The downtown area, known as Baixa is the commercial hub with shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. Coimbra is world famous for their mouth-watering sweets, typically produced in the old monasteries and nunneries and primarily made with sugar and eggs. One of the most famous festivals is the Queima das Fitas, which translates to ‘burning of the ribbons’. The university faculty ribbons are traditionally burnt at the Largo de Feira to symbolise the students’ graduation. In addition to this ceremony, there are parades, musical performances and dancing.
Venturing further out from the city, take a short trip to Bussaco National Forest, approximately 40 minutes’ drive and discover the fountains, ponds and terracotta sculptures or travel to Conimbriga, 15 km south west, to view the exquisite collection of Roman relics and architecture. The beaches are incredible, with golden sand dunes and quiet beaches flanked by pine trees with good facilities. You will also find some lovely little seaside restaurants and cafes serving traditional Portuguese food such as barbecued fish and batata fritas (french fries).
Coimbra airport is located approximately 10 km from the city centre and there is a railway station served by local intercity trains.