Top 10 of the places to visit and things to do in Coimbra

There are so many things to do in Coimbra and soon you’ll realize that it has a very special mystique, the result of a past full of history. This city located in Central Portugal 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 is the top 10 of the places to visit and things to do in Coimbra

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning i get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

1. Seminário Maior de Coimbra

© https://www.seminariomaiordecoimbra.com/

Located close to the Botanical Garden, the seminary Seminário Maior de Coimbra is more than 250 years old and is one of the treasures yet to be found by those visiting the city.

At this seminary built and inspired by 18th-century Italian architecture, you can admire unique places like the Episcopal Chambers, the beautiful church Igreja da Sagrada Família and the amazing library Biblioteca Velha where you can admire more than 8500 books dating back from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

Apart from all this, take the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent views over Mondego river in the noble floor of the building. Don’t miss it!

2. Fado ao Centro

© wikimedia.org – FlyingCrimsonPig

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. Definitely one of the things to do in Coimbra!

  • 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

Visitar Coimbra - Mosteiro_santa_clara_a_velha

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.

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 flooding of Mondego river.

5. Machado de Castro National Museum

© wikipedia.org – Manuelvbotelho

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.

  • Opening hours and prices: patrimoniocultural.gov.pt
  • Tip: next to the entrance, you’ll find a restaurant where you can admire the views over the old city while enjoying your meal

6. University of Coimbra Alta & Sofia

Listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, a visit to the University of Coimbra must be on your list of things to do in Coimbra! It is one of the oldest universities in Europe and was founded in Lisbon in 1290; it moved permanently to Coimbra in 1537.

One of the points of interest you can’t miss in this university is its library. 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.

Visitar Coimbra - Biblioteca Joanina
© wikipedia.org – Wirdung

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 60 000 volumes, dating from the 12th century until the 18th century, of which law, theology and philosophy books stand out.

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 characterised as being on a higher region, the University of Coimbra is accompanied by the city’s 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.

Sé Nova
  • Tip: 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, send an email to reservas@uc.pt.
  • 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 Moorish influence, while the side door shows an elegant Renaissance style.

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

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

Visit Coimbra - Sé Velha

An enthralling church, starting 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.

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 desacralisation 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 be allowed 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 (definitely one of things to do in 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 the theme park Portugal dos Pequenitos Park. You will find the biggest Portuguese monuments, the typical villages and the Portuguese discoveries’ theme but at a small scale.

It is a world of beauty kept in a place with over 75 years of history and visiting it should be one of the things to do in Coimbra, especially if you have kids.

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 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 sleep in Coimbra

Hotel Oslo*** 

Oslo is a family-run hotel located at 50 metres from the train station 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. If you want, the staff can also help you run through the things to do in Coimbra.Information

Price: 85 €/night, double room

Services: Free Wi-Fi and free parking

Check-in: starting at 14h

Check-out: until 12h

Location: Av. Fernão de Magalhães, 25, 3000-175 Coimbra, Portugal

Hotel Dona Ines Coimbra*** 

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

Price: 85 €/night, double room

Services: Free Wi-Fi and free parking

Check-in: Starting at 14h

Check-out: Until 12h

Location: Rua Abel Dias Urbano, 12, 3000-001 Coimbra, Portugal

Casas da Alegria (Apartamento) 

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 so that you can check your list of things to do in Coimbra.Information

Price: 65 €/night, apartment for 2

Services: Free Wi-Fi

Check-in: 14h – 21h30

Check-out: 8h – 12h

Location: Rua da Alegria n 13-15, 3000-018 Coimbra, Portugal

Hotel Ibis Coimbra Centro** 

Hotel Ibis Coimbra Centro offers Mondego river views and is located at 300 metres from Coimbra train station. Coimbra historic centre is 500 metres away. Free Wi-Fi is available.Information

Price: 45 €/night, double room

Services: Free Wi-Fi

Check-in: Starting at 14h

Check-out: Until 12h

Location: Avenida Emídio Navarro, 70, 3000-150 Coimbra, Portugal

Where to eat in Coimbra

Restaurante/Tasca Ze Manel dos Ossos

La Botiga Bistrô & Mercearia

Restaurante/Tasca Quim dos Ossos

Tapas Nas Costas

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

How to get to Coimbra

Coimbra is located 200 km north of Lisbon’s airport and 130 km south of Porto’s airport. If you’re taking a flight to Portugal, then you can rent a car and take the A1 highway. If, on the other hand, you cross the border in Vilar Formoso, then you should take the A25 highway and then IP3 highway.

As an alternative to the car, you can also take a Rede Expressos coach or the train.

In the city, you can explore the historic centre on foot. However, to discover other places, you can take SMTUC buses, covering most of the city. One of the best services is the blue line Linha Azul composed of electric buses and that cover the medieval area of the city.

Are you staying in Porto and would like to visit two of the most beautiful cities in Central Portugal? If that’s the case, don’t hesitate and click here  for a unique trip to the “city of students”, Coimbra, and to the “Portuguese Venice”, Aveiro.

In the morning, this tour will take you to the beautiful city of Aveiro and its beautiful canals. Part of the visit will be made on board of a moliceiro, the traditional boat of this city, which was used to collect seaweed and transport salt. For an hour, explore the canals and enjoy the beautiful buildings, some of which in art nouveau style. A unique and memorable experience!

In Coimbra, you will have the opportunity to discover the oldest university in the country, where the world famous library Biblioteca Joanina is located.

During this tour , you can also admire the beautiful palace Paço Real de Coimbra, go down the narrow streets and discover the cathedral Sé Velha de Coimbra, and discover the most beautiful and tragic love story of the Portuguese royalty, between D. Pedro and D.ª Inês de Castro. All of this in an atmosphere full of authenticity and which has earned this place the title of World Heritage Site.

Click on the map to access Google Maps

Are you going to visit Coimbra? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities 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!

What will also interest you: