On the banks of the Mondego River, Coimbra is known for its University, the oldest in Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe, which over time has shaped its image making it “the city of students”.
We began this visit, precisely at the University founded in the thirteenth century that UNESCO was included in the list of World Heritage, in a classification that also includes Rua da Sofia and the city’s high. It is worth climbing to its tower, where there are the bells that marked the rhythm of the classes, to enjoy the superb 360º view over Coimbra. But on the ground floor there is much to visit: the Schools’ Courtyard, the Capelos Room where the most important ceremonies take place, the São Miguel Chapel with an imposing baroque organ and the Joanina Library, which has over 300,000 works dated between the 16th and 18th centuries arranged in beautiful bookshelves adorned with gilded carving. The set of buildings occupies the place of the Palace where the first kings of Portugal lived, who here settled the capital of the kingdom.
From these times there are several monuments that present the splendor of Romanesque art. Located in Baixa, a historic shopping and café area, the Santa Cruz Monastery, which houses the tomb of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, deserves a visit and, on the other side, the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery, recovered and rescued from the waters of the river that have invaded him over the centuries. Or even the Old Cathedral, in whose stairs the monumental serenade takes place in which students dressed in black capes sing with great feeling the Fado de Coimbra. This is one of the Queima das Fitas events where every year in May the finalists celebrate the conclusion of the course, in a party full of color. This excitement, however, is felt throughout the year in the many small bars and in the Republics, the student residences, examples of community life.
But there is so much to see. The Machado de Castro National Museum preserves the Roman Crypttoportic, among a collection of great value and makes known the history of the city. There are also many gardens not to be missed such as Choupal, Quinta das Lágrimas, scene of the novel by D. Pedro and Inês de Castro or the Botanical Garden. Children (and not only) will love Portugal dos Pequenitos, a Park that reproduces the smallest of Portugal’s main monuments.
Coimbra is not just tradition; It has modern structures that are worth knowing such as the University’s Pole II, the Pedro and Inês Pedestrian Bridge, the Centro de Portugal Pavilion in the Green Park of Mondego. And to have a different perspective of the whole city we advise a boat trip on the Mondego River.