Coimbra - Historic University City
Knowing that we needed to eventually make our way from Porto to Lisbon for our flight home, we looked at many options of places to stop along the way. We had already briefly explored Aveiro during our sparkling wine tour (click here for our related blog post), and places like Nazare and Peniche or inland to the mountains would be best explored with a car. Given that we wanted to stick with public transportation and avoid having to rent a car, and based on popular suggestion, we chose to make a several day stop in the small historic city of Coimbra.
One of the World’s Oldest Universities
Coimbra is the fourth largest city in Portugal with a population of just under 144,000 within the city limits. It is most known for the University of Coimbra, which was established in 1290 in Lisbon, but eventually found its way back to Coimbra (after several moves back and forth) permanently in 1537. Impressively, this university boasts the title of one of the world’s oldest universities in continuous operation, and in 2013 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
This video is of the main square of the University of Coimbra.
University of Coimbra Botanical Garden
This was one of the most peaceful gardens that we have visited. We understand why it is a common place for students to relax and go on dates.
Free Walking Tour – Recommended!
To get a better understanding of the history of Coimbra we opted to take a free walking tour through Freetour.com. Our guide, Thibault, was terrific and pointed out many things we would have missed just walking around ourselves.
“Free” walking tour is a bit of a misnomer. The idea with most free walking tours is that at the end you tip the guide an amount that you deem appropriate.
Fado de Coimbra
One evening we went to the Fado ao Centro (http://www.fadoaocentro.com/en) to see a live performance and learn some history behind this Portuguese music (Video/audio recording was prohibited – sorry!). Fado is different depending on where you hear it. In Coimbra it is more melancholy and somber centering around student life, political matters or trying to serenade a special someone. Unlike other areas of Portugal, such as Lisbon, Fado in Coimbra is strictly sung by men.
Some people only see Coimbra as a day trip, but we feel there is much too much to see in just a day. We ended up staying three nights, which we felt was perfect.
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