It is one of the most important cities in Portugal in historical terms. It was inhabited by Romans and Arabs, and it was here that D. Afonso Henriques was born, the first king of Portugal, who would later become Coimbra’s capital. Bathed by the Mondego river, the city would become the scene of the love of Pedro and Inês, and also hosted the first university in the country, which is today one of the oldest in Europe and UNESCO heritage.
1-University of Coimbra
Founded in 1290 by King D. Dinis, the University of Coimbra settled permanently in Coimbra in 1537.
Here we can see the Paço das Escolas, the architectural complex that housed the colleges from the 16th century. Before belonging to the university, the space was the first Royal Palace of Portugal, where the first Kings of Portugal were born and lived.
After entering the Iron Gate, we have some buildings to visit: The Joanine Library, the Chapel of St. Michael, the University Tower and the main building where is located Via Latina (long balcony) and the Sala dos Capelos.
But there is more to explore! In total there are 21 buildings to visit in Alta and 10 buildings to visit in Sofia.
There are different prices for admission depending on what you want to visit. Check here the different programs to visit. If you are coming from downtown to the Upper part, you can use the Mercado Elevator, at the back of Santa Cruz Church. Spare your legs and you can still take some pictures. A trip costs 1 euro.
2 – Holy Cross Monastery and Church
The Monastery located in downtown Coimbra was founded in 1131 by the Order of St. Augustine, but was extensively renovated in the 16th century by D. Manuel I. The main building to visit in the Monastery is the Church of Santa Cruz, since here are buried the first two kings of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques and D. Sancho I. The tomb sculptures we see next to the altar are from Manueline times, with the armillary sphere and the cross of the Order of Christ.
At the rear of the Monastery, there is the Manga Garden (or Manga Cloister). Although today independent, the garden was part of the monastery, dating from the 16th century.
Admission is free.
3 – Old Cathedral of Coimbra
Built in a Romanesque style, the Old Cathedral dates back to D. Afonso Henriques and deserves a visit, even for those who are not very church fans. There is buried D. Sesnando, a Mozarabic who was governor of the city of Coimbra before D. Afonso Henriques.
The Old Cathedral is an imposing building that resembles a small castle. The main façade even has a small front tower at the entrance and two buttresses that give it a robust look. In addition to the interior space, also visit the cloister. Built in a Gothic style, it has a small garden in the center.
Admission to the Old Cathedral costs 2.5 euros.
4 – New Cathedral of Coimbra
If you like to visit religious monuments, the New Cathedral is also a must. Inaugurated at the end of the 17th century by the Jesuits, it has mannerist and baroque elements.
Admission costs 1 euro.
5 – Machado de Castro National Museum
This is the most important museum in Coimbra and a must see list of things to do in Coimbra. It has a collection of sculpture, painting and decorative arts, occupying the former premises of the Episcopal Palace of Coimbra (where the former São João de Almedina Church used to function).
On the lower floor of the Museum there is the Roman Crypttoportic, with a vast network of galleries and connecting spaces. It was this space that previously supported the Roman forum. There is also the former Episcopal Palace that houses multimedia rooms and temporary exhibitions, and the new building, which houses much of the museum’s collection, including a beautiful terrace with cafeteria service. More info here.
Entry into the Crypttoportic: 3 euros | Full entrance to the Museum: 6 euros
6 – Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra
Inaugurated in the 18th century by the Marquis of Pombal, the Botanical Garden consists of over 13 hectares. Be sure to stroll through the Lime Tree Mall, the Big Greenhouse, the Cold Greenhouse and the Fountain. In Recanto Tropical, besides palm trees and different species, you will also find the arches of the São Sebastião Aqueduct. Know here all the spaces of the Botanical Garden in detail.
Admission to the Botanical Garden is free.
7 – Quinta das Lágrimas
Legend has it that Inês de Castro – the lover of infant D. Pedro – was murdered in this place at the behest of her father, King D. Afonso IV. This is perhaps the most beautiful love story in Portugal, romanticized time and time again, and eternalized in this place. Read the full love story here.
Quinta das Lágrimas, although belonging to a hotel of the same name, can still be visited today. It is reported that it was near the Fountain of Tears that Inês was murdered and that the blood that flowed was marked on the algae, still red today.
Admission to the Gardens costs 2 euros.