Set on the banks of River Mondego, the city of Coimbra is known in Portugal for being home to the oldest university in the country. For many years, the school has been the centerpiece of the city but it is not the only impressive thing about Coimbra.
Before Lisbon, Coimbra was the biggest and capital city of Portugal from the 13th century. And with that long history, there is plenty to be discovered in this city.
15 Best Things to Do and See in Coimbra, Portugal
Admire the University of Coimbra
In addition to being the oldest university in Portugal, Coimbra University is also a World Heritage Site. In fact, on 22 June 2013, UNESCO added the university to its World Heritage List.
Its location is also impressive, on top of a hill right in the heart of the city. The school is a major tourist attraction in Coimbra thanks to its centuries of history.
Visitors can access the building via the 180 steps leading up the hill, and from the top, you can enjoy great views of the city at the bottom.
Check-in at the Machado de Castro National Museum
The hundreds of years of history of Coimbra are stored in this former palace that was named after the famous sculptor Joaquim Machado de Castro. The construction of the museum began in medieval times and continued to the modern era, resulting in one of the most impressive architectural wonders.
Browse books at Biblioteca Joanina Library
Having served as the official residence of Portuguese kings in medieval times, the Biblioteca Joanina Library consists of three expansive stores surrounded by colossal doors.
The library is home to over 250,000 volumes from as back as the 1500s and focuses majorly on medicine, law, and science as well as history and geography.
Take pictures of Almedina Gate
The city of Coimbra was once fortified during the reign of the Moors and one of the still-standing gates is the Almedina. Though most of the city’s walls tumbled down a long time ago, the gate is a reminder of what life used to be back then.
You will find a fascinating exhibition about the history of the gate as well as the walls.
Chill at Parque Verde do Mondego
This relaxing open space is a common chilling spot for both locals and tourists. Located on the banks of Mondego River, the park is also ideal for cycling or riding pedaloes.
Here, you can sit and relax as you enjoy the views of the river or the city.
Explore the Chapel of Sao Miguel
This 16th-century chapel is located within the university complex and despite its rather plain façade; it is quite impressive the inside. Its exterior includes vivid azulejos covering floor to ceiling. There are also plenty of sacred paintings on display.
Walk around the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha
The Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha was excavated after it was abandoned for more than 300 years. Its inhabitant, the nuns, had to escape the monastery due to constant floods from the nearby Mondego River. The floods are also the reason the ruins are partially submerged to the ground.
Despite being a rundown site, the place hosts music performances and live events as well as a short film about the history of the ruins.
Visit the Old Cathedral of Coimbra
The Old Cathedral of Coimbra was completed during the reign of King Henriques, at the time when the city was a frontline between Islam and Christianity. Despite being from the 1100s, the church still has its Romanesque style.
Inside the church, you will find ancient barrel vault as well as column capitals with geometric, foliate, and bestial designs.
Cross Pedro e Ines Bridge
Pedro e Ines Bridge is central to any walking trail in the city of Coimbra. This footbridge was completed in 2007 and offers pedestrians picturesque views of the numerous city landmarks.
Spanning the Rio Mondego, the 600 feet (180 m) structure is the city’s first footbridge and has become locally known as the “bridge that doesn’t meet.”
Check out the Monastery of Santa Cruz
Built-in the 12th century, the monastery of Santa Cruz is one of the well-known structures in Coimbra. Its architecture was refined later in the 16th century with the Manueline style.
The monastery’s renovation continued in the later centuries, with the addition of the gold-plated wooden stalls as and the pulpit.
Besides the impressive architecture, visitors can also tour the crypts of the first two kings of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, and Sancho I whose reigns lasted between the 12th and 15th centuries.
Visit Quinta das Lagrimas
Quinta das Lagrimas translates to Estate of Tears and is a garden where Ines de Castro, King Pedro’s wife was assassinated on his father’s orders in the 1300s.
The legend has it that the lady was murdered at the same fountain in the park and her blood even splattered on the stone.
It was classified in 1977 as a Building of Public Interest by the IPPAR. It includes 29.6 acres of gardens and a palace that has been converted into a luxury hotel.
Have a great time at Portugal dos Pequenitos
If you are traveling with family in Coimbra, Portugal dos Pequenitos should be one of the places you should visit.
This beautiful park features educational and entertaining theme park with miniature houses and models of Portugal famous landmarks as well as tiny monuments from the rest of the former Portuguese colonies.
The park also features a small train looping through the small village.
Visit the Botanical garden
Dating back to 1773, this botanical garden is the largest in Portugal. It features beautiful landscapes with pathways, plants, flowerbeds, and trees and plays home to more than 1200 different tree and plant species including bamboo, coral trees, and eucalyptus.
View the city from Penedo da Saudade
Located atop a hill and east of the University of Coimbra, Penedo da Saudade offers a great spot to enjoy the panoramic views of the city.
The park is believed to be a spot where Pedro would come mourn his murdered wife Ines.
Conimbriga is the largest Roman ruins in the whole of Portugal. The site used to be a fortress with defense walls stretching some 1,500 meters longs. There is an ongoing excavation on the site and you will find numerous ancient artifacts on display.
To help you plan out your visit to Coimbra, we listed places to visit and other amazing activities to do in Coimbra, Portugal. We also listed some of the best travel deals and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation.
Searching for the best hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Coimbra hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.