Top 10 of the places to visit in Coimbra

visitar Coimbra - Universidade de Coimbra

Coimbra has a very special mystique, the result of a past full of history; it was the second Portuguese capital (the first was Guimarães) up until 1255, when Lisbon became the capital.

Thousands of Portuguese people in the country and abroad still have Coimbra in their hearts, remembering the years they spent in the University – years of nonchalance, parties and great expectations.

Here, I’m going to show you the top 10 of the places to visit in Coimbra, so that you don’t miss the best this city has to offer.

1. Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina)

Regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Coimbra, the Joanina Library has a peculiar architecture and an endless archive.

Its construction began in 1717 and it is the most famous and beautiful Portuguese library, due to its unique style.

The library is composed of three floors. In the upper floor, the library is composed of three rooms connected by polychrome wood arches. The walls are covered with red, dark green and black lacquered shelves with golden chinoiserie embellishments. The ceilings are in baroque style and are decorated with optical illusion embellishments.

You will find more than 60 thousand volumes, dating from the 12th century until the 18th century, of which law, theology and philosophy books stand out.

  • Tickets: 9€ (includes Joanina Library, Capelos Room, Private Examination Room, Arms Room and S. Miguel Chapel).
  • Tip: for 15€ you can get a guided tour – it will be a much more interesting tour. You will get to know every detail of the university.
  • Where you can buy the ticket: to visit the Paço das Escolas (historic part of the university), you should purchase your ticket at the university’s store, in the General Library’s lobby (Largo da Porta Férrea, in front of the Faculty of Arts). If you choose to take part in a guided tour, make your reservation here.
  • Opening hours: check the site of the University of Coimbra

2. Fado ao Centro

Visitar Coimbra - Fado ao Centro
© fadoaocentro.com

If you want to hear music that truly represents Portugal, don’t miss the opportunity to get to know the house Fado ao Centro. Here, the band that plays Fado is composed of students and former students of the University of Coimbra who bring beautiful songs in a welcoming and lovely place.

  • Schedule for Fado: everyday at 18h
  • Tip: try to arrive early because the house isn’t that big.
    For more information click here

3. Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery, founded in 1283. At the site, you can watch a video about the monastery and the history of that place. Aside from all the culture you will also have the opportunity to enjoy a peculiar architecture.

  • Tickets: 5€
  • Opening hours: May to September: 10h – 19h
    October to April: 10h – 18h (April weekends to 19h)
    Closed on Mondays, 1st January, Easter Sunday, 1st May and 25th April

4. Santa Clara-a-Nova Monastery

The Santa Clara-a-Nova Monastery, also known as Queen Saint Elizabeth Convent (Convento da Rainha Santa Isabel), was erected in the 17th century (1649) replacing the old medieval monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, ruined by regular floodings of Mondego river.

  • Tickets: Church + cloister + viewpoint – 2,00 €
    Complete tour (church / low choir / exhibition / cloister / viewpoint) – 5,00 €
  • Opening hours: Winter – from Mondays to Fridays: 9h00 to 18h45; Sundays, Saturdays and holidays: 9h00 to 18h00
    Summer – from Mondays to Saturdays: 8h30 to 19h00; Sundays and holidays: 9h00 to 19h00

5. Machado de Castro National Museum

Museum where the modern and the contemporary meet. Magnificent architecture, bringing to light the roman Cryptoporticus. In addition, it offers to visitors the best artwork and historical paintings.

  • Tip: tours always take place from Tuesdays to Fridays, however you have to schedule because there’s a limited number of people. To schedule a tour:  servicoseducativos@mnmc.dgpc.pt

6. University of Coimbra Alta & Sofia

The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest in Europe. Founded in Lisbon in 1290, it moved permanently to Coimbra in 1537.

In the University, aside from the Joanina Library, you may discover S. Miguel Chapel, Academic and Medieval Prison, Arms Room, Capelos Room, Private Examination Room and the University Tower.

Located at the oldest part of Coimbra and characterized as being a high region, the University of Coimbra is accompanied by the city museum as well as the New Cathedral (Sé Nova). You will need time to walk around the city in order to get to know all the details.

  • Tickets: 9€ (includes Joanina Library, Capelos Room, Private Examination Room, Arms Room and S. Miguel Chapel).
  • Tip: for 15€ you can get a guided tour – it will be a much more interesting tour. You will get to know every detail of the university.
  • Where you can buy the ticket: to visit the Paço das Escolas (historic part of the university), you should purchase your ticket at the university’s store, in the General Library’s lobby (Largo da Porta Férrea, in front of the Faculty of Arts). If you choose to take part in a guided tour, make your reservation here.
  • Opening hours: check the site of the University of Coimbra

7. Coimbra’s Old Cathedral (Sé Velha)

The Sé Velha was designed by French Master Robert in the 12th century. The central gateway has a clear islamic influence, while the side door shows an elegant Renaissance style.

You should visit the church and its Gothic cloister  from 1218.

  • Tickets: 2€ Church and Cloister
  • Opening hours: Daily: 10h – 18h

8. Santa Cruz Church and Monastery (Igreja e Mosteiro)

An enthralling church beginning with its architecture: Gothic style and a gateway remembering Coimbra fado. 
Constituted by side chapels, the Santa Cruz Church Monastery does justice to all the history it represents.

  • Tickets: Free entry into the church
    To visit the Vestry, Chapter Room, Cloister and Exhibition: € 2,50
  • Tip: When I visited Santa Cruz Church there wasn’t a fixed price – the visitor would only give what he wanted.
  • Opening hours: From Mondays to Fridays 9h00 – 17h00, Saturdays 9h00 – 12H00 / 14H00 – 17h00, Sundays 16h00 – 17h30, Holidays: opened only in the morning

8.1 Café Santa Cruz

When you finish your tour to Santa Cruz Chuch and Monastey, take a brake in the magnificent Café Santa Cruz, located in the old Church of São João de Santa Cruz, built in 1530.

After the desacralization of this church, the building had many roles such as a hardware warehouse, a police station, a plumbing warehouse, a fire station and even a funeral home.

It was necessary to alter the façade to a Neo-Manueline style to enable the opening of the café in 1923.

  • Tip: Apart from drinking a cup of coffee you may also watch a representation of the Fado de Coimbra.
  • Schedule for Fado: check here

9. Portugal dos Pequenitos

Whenever you want to spend time with your family and are visiting Coimbra, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Portugal dos Pequenitos Park. You will find the biggest Portuguese monuments, the typical villages and the Portuguese discoveries. It is a world of beauty kept in a place with over 75 years of experience.

  • Tickets: 9,50€ per adult, 5,95€ for children between 3 – 13 years old
  • Opening hours: From 1st January to 28th/29th February and from 16th Octobre to 31st December from 10:00h to 17:00h
    From 1st March to 31st May and from 16th September to 15th October from 10:00h to 19:00h
    to 15th September from 09:00h to 20:00h

10. Almedina Arch and Tower (Arco e Torre de Almedina)


The Almedina Arch was the main gateway of the medieval wall. It is said that the oldest part of the door is from the 9th century.

The function of the Almedina Tower, erected over the Almedina Arch, was to surveil and protect the main gateway into the city.

I hope you have enjoyed these top 10 of the places to visit in Coimbra.
Naturally the city has other attractions but the ones described above are a must to make your trip to Coimbra worth your while.

 

  •     Days you will need to visit Coimbra: 1.5 days

 

Where to sleepWhere to eatTransportationWhere to go outUseful information

Where you can spend the night

Hotel Oslo*** (affiliate link)

Oslo is a family run hotel located at 50 metres from the trainstation and with views to the city and to its historic university. Renewed rooms with access to wi-fi and free parking are available at the hotel.

Information

Hotel Dona Ines Coimbra*** (affiliate link)

The Hotel Dona Inês Coimbra is located at a 10 minute walking distance from the historic centre of Coimbra and its trainstation. A business centre, a tennis court, an exterior swimming pool and car rental are avilable at the hotel. Wi-fi access is free in all the public areas.

Information

Casas da Alegria (Apartamento) (affiliate link)

Casas da Alegria is located next to Mondego river, in Coimbra, where you will find available studios and 1 bedroom flats with free wi-fi access.

Information

Hotel Ibis Coimbra Centro** (affiliate link)

Hotel Ibis Coimbra Centro offers Mondego river views and is located at 300 metres from Coimbra trainstation. Coimbra historic centre is 500 metres away. Free wi-fi is available.

Information

Where you can eat

Restaurante/Tasca Ze Manel dos Ossos : 7-20€ /person

La Botiga Bistrô & Mercearia : 15-20€ /person

Restaurante/Tasca Quim dos Ossos: 4-9€ /person

Tapas Nas Costas

Where you can go out

Café Santa Cruz : Check 8.1 of this article

O Moelas Cocktail Bar: Bar much frequented by students. Try the guizzard sandwiches!

Are you going to visit Coimbra? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room and your car by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!

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About Tiago

Tiago, 27 years old, Parisian since 12, I decided to go on an adventure and make my dream come true: get to know our country from one end to the other. I believe that if we don’t know our origins we don’t truly know ourselves. Read more here