This city holds a special place in the hearts of all the Portuguese. Rich in its history and is the oldest seat of learning in Portugal with a University founded on the 13th of August in 1290 by King Dinis. This makes it one of the oldest in the world.
Coimbra was liberated from Moor occupation in 1064 and was then developed as a town by the capable Conde de Sesmundo who was the master here for 27 years. Six of Portugal’s Kings were born here and between 1139 and 1256 it was the chosen capital of the country.
The name of this city during the Roman period was Aeminium, and but it later developed under the influence of the greater nearby town of Conimbriga. This latter place is now an important archaeological site of great interest with a museum to display the findings from the diggings.
At first sight the town appears more devoted to commerce than learning but the skyline above the lower part of the city suggest its real purpose.
The Sé Velha was originally built in the 12th Century and is one of the best examples of Romanesque churches in Portugal. The Sé Nova was built at the turn of the 16th Century by the Jesuits to demonstrate their growing strength within the country.
The charming and elegant 16th Century Museu Nacional Machado de Castro was formerly the Bishop’s Palace and is now the depository of some of Portugal’s finest sculpture. On display is a mixture of other items including ancient art and up to the 20th Century. In an underground maze of linking Roman passages it exhibits items from that all the periods.
The visually interesting 12th Century Mosteiro de Santa Cruz has been added to at various times and within is the tomb of the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. The 16th Century addition of the Claustro do Siléncio is a fine example of a Manueline cloister.
Two of Portugal’s most revered Queens were temporary laid to rest in the 13th Century Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha. They were Santa Isabel and the tragically murdered Inês de Castro. The Claustro de Santa Clara-a-Nova was constructed in the 17th Century to re-house the nuns from the often-flooded older Convent. It became the final resting-place of the remains of Queen Santa Isabel who is most revered as a Saint. Her preserved corpse is on display in a structure behind a glass frontage.
In the city there are many churches that are also worth visiting, especially from the 12th Century. Igreja de Santa Cruz is a church that was later altered in the 16th Century to its present fine example of Manueline carved architecture work. Coimbra also boasts the largest Botanical Garden in the country which covers 20 hectares.
The University buildings have over time been generally replaced and the main buildings tend to have been constructed or re-constructed in the early 18th Century. Within the students library of Biblioteca Joanna there is an amazing collection of over 300,000 books dating from the 12th Century.
A private collector and his home after whom the Casa Museu Bissaya Barreto is named, presents an impressive collection of decorative tiles, period paintings, sculptures, and porcelain objects, especially from the Comphania das Índias.
Next door to the Convento da Santa Clara-a-Velho is a park dedicated to the enjoyment of smaller children. Here, all the most important buildings, monuments, and typical homes in Portugal have been reproduced on a much smaller scale and providing a "period toy town".
In a tradition from the distant past, the students by wearing colour ribbons which they attach to their gowns, indicate to which faculty to whom they belong. Every year in May when the academic year ends they ceremonially burn these ribbons and a enthusiastic celebration takes place. This event is called, "Queima das Fitas".
The students also reflect their optimistic attitude to life and culture by singing a lighter and happier version of their very special traditional songs that are generally referred to as "Fados da Coimbra".
To the south of Coimbrais the town of Condeixa-a-Nova with its 17th to 19th Century palaces and manor homes. Just south of here are the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, the largest unearthed archaeological find of its kind in Portugal. The site was in existence in about 2.000 BC, and in the era of the Emperor Augustus in 25 BC the settlement really flourished.
This area has many interesting aspects for visitors including the Grutas da Lapinha. Lying to the west of Coimbra is the once fortified town of Montemor-o-Velho. Nobody has managed to ascertain its age with opinions differing between 4.000 and 2.400 years old as an important stronghold over the Mondego valley.
Beyond this town and on the coast is Figueira da Foz, a popular holiday resort town with a 16th Century fort. To the northeast is the small charming town of Santa Comba Dão that dates back to the 10th Century. It has become more known as the birthplace of both Alves Mateus and Oliveira Salazar, the first being a renown preacher and the second the 20th Century dictator of Portugal. The area is mainly residential and contains typical examples of period homes through the ages besides having a 15th Century church.
To the east of Coimbra are the towns of Lousã and Góis, both of which are worth visiting to see the architectural buildings and feel the serenity that the towns emit. This is in complete contrast to their turbulent histories that both towns have suffered throughput history.
To the north is first the town of Penacova that dates back to about 1105, and then there is the Parque do Buçaco, a monastic centre from the 6th Century. This later acted as a residential retreat commissioned by Dom Carlos in 1889. It was converted this century into a luxury hotel maintaining its original furnishings and style. Close by again to the north are the Spa towns of Luso and Curia that both provide hotels and sports activities for their guests.
|Feira do Livro (Book Fair)
|Festival de Queima das Fitas
|Festival de Santos Popular
|Festa da Rainha Santa Isabel
|Festa da Cidade
||1st week July
||239 857 500
||239 822 121
||239 827 766
|Hospital de Universidade
||239 400 401
||239 832 591
|Support to Tourists
||800 296 296