They say one image is worth thousand words. In this case though, I seriously don’t know where to start. A few quick words passing through my mind are… let’s say… beautiful, civilized, definitely breathtaking. But, as I said, tricky to describe.
The whole energy floating around the area, the simplicity and politeness of the people make you want to discover this magical place located in the middle of Portugal
(Two hours from Lisbon / Two hours from Porto more or less).
The very first noticeable point about the old capital of Portugal (before Lisbon), is how climby and stiff the entire city is built.
Pretty big uphill streets, small hilled top corners and houses that embrace in one amphitheatrical scene the whole town.
Colourful buildings stuck together and middle aged monuments/architecture will for sure leave you speechless.
The main road at the town center, with its small typical Portuguese shops, creates an unbelievable shopping vibe that will make you waste some of your travel money. But it’s definitely worth it!!
At the beginning of the downtown center, at “PRAÇA 8 DE MAIO”, the old monastery of Santa Cruz (Igreja de Santa Cruz) dated since 1131 A.C. stands tall with awe for a quick visit.
What is cool about it, at least for us, was the old baroque pipe organ inside the church of the 18th century. It’s pretty spectacular!!
Our eyes caught some of the buildings with all the detailed, sculptured walls, cute little balconies and colorful drawn tiles that decorates the “en face” of the houses. You should definitely be ready for a long distance walk to enjoy every part of the city and explore every little corner of it.
Regarding the culinary world is also very interesting and intense.
Many typical restaurants will feed your appetite. Cheap, tasty and delicious flavours will leave you a happy traveler after a long day at the town center.
Some of the plates we tried were:
– Espetadas (A sort of grilled meat combination on a stick)
– Calamaris and several other dishes.
In any case, go crazy with the food as everything was satisfying.
The most important reason for someone to move to Coimbra is for the university, with its tall clock tower visible from almost all areas of the city. It’s one of the most important monuments. Build on the “Acropolis” of Coimbra its aged since 1290A.C. and it is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world, the oldest of Portugal and one of the country’s largest higher education and research institution.
Filled with numerous myths and legends to hear and fantasize, is a must see attraction in your schedule. It’s also declared as a UNESCO protected monument.
As you walk the streets of the town, you will hear students shouting, singing and playing music, or performing their “PRAXE”. PRAXE is an initiation ritual performed by older students to welcome the first year newcomers.
The students performing this ritual wear their typical PRAXE suits, that look like the ones worn by HARRY POTTER and the rest of his magician friends in the movie.
The truth is, as we learned it from the locals, HARRY POTTER’S writer J. K. Rowling, was inspired for the movie‘s outfits by the suits worn by students in Coimbra’s University.
Pretty funny, don’t you think?
Close by the university, you could visit the Botanic garden of the city. It’s beautiful and perfect for a nice chilled picnic. It also has a little fountain in the middle of the garden for your selfies.
As you continue your cruising through the town, you will end up admiring river MONTEGO, which runs 234Km in Portuguese territory.
It actually divides the city in two perfect, almost identical sides. A legend says that the one side of the river is supposed to be the mirror image of the other. With the same buildings, at the same spots. With lots of imagination you could almost believe it. But….that…. won’t happen unfortunately.
The historical side of the city is more active, with great places to visit. The other side is ideal for a calm day by the river, where you can enjoy the long gardens and try out some of the water sports like canoes or sup surfing.
We gave it a go doing sup. It’s funny cause when it’s windy and you’re an amateur (like us) you will think that the river’s flow will take you straight to the Atlantic. But in any case is super fun.
Lot’s of French caravans are staying next to the river’s organized camping to pass holidays. Others are hanging there a year straight.
The biggest shopping center is also near, called “FORUM COIMBRA”.
You will find unlimited shopping ideas and endless snack choices at the top floor of the building.
If you wish to visit other areas close by, we suggest you some amazing mountain villages about 40Km away.
CERDEIRA and CANDAL for example, are two of UNESCO’S protected places and apparently we were the first Greeks that visited these villages and locals were surprised to meet us.
We tried some local delights, as biological farming is one of the main hobbies/jobs for the residents.
If you wish to visit a place by the sea, to enjoy the waves and surfing you could drive yourself to “FIGUEIRA DA FOZ” , which is well known for the surf tourism of the country.
If you enjoyed the article regarding Coimbra and its surroundings, tell us your proper experience if you have visited this area of Portugal and suggest us where we could go next. Adeus crazy birds…!!
Places for a drink or a night out:
Go direction PRAÇA DE LA REPUBLICA and your choices will be endless. Live music and amazing bars. Order SAGRES or SUPER BOCK, local beers that taste great!!
Places to eat:
We suggest you four of our Top Rated places.
1. O PATIO
2. JOÃO DOS LEITÕES (Typical Portuguese. About 15 Euros for three plates+drinks)
3. O CANTINHO DOS REIS (Typical Portuguese)
4. CACO, O ORIGINAL (Great coffee place and pastries)
We used AIRBNB to stay at a local family house to live the Portuguese spirit. Fatima, thank you for your great hospitality, you are just the best and your house rules!! Great view! >>>>>>>https://www.airbnb.gr/rooms/542746?location=coimbra%20&s=stC-02Cp<<<<<<<
We personally suggest you the same, as the area is filled with good value for money AIRBNB accomodation choices.