Home to the country’s only university from the mid-16th to the early 20th century, vibrant Coimbra (pop. 103,000) continues to be a mecca for backpackers and youth around the world.
The unspoiled Costa da Prata (Silver Coast), the plush greenery of the interior, and the rugged peaks of the Serra Estrela comprise the Three Beiras region. Beyond trellised vineyards, azvlejo-lined houses grace charming streets.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains (a808 20 82 08) from other regions stop only at Estacao Coimbra-B (Velha), 3km northwest of town, while regional trains stop at both Coimbra-B and Estacao Coimbra-A (Nova), two blocks from the lower town center. A train connects the two stations, departing after trains arrive (4min. ‚0.70). Trains run to Lisbon (3hr. 23 per day, ‚8.50-9.50) and Porto (2hr. 21 per day, ‚5.60-9.40). Buses (a239 82 70 81) go from Av. Fernao Magalhaes, past Coimbra-A on the university side of the river, to Lisbon (212hr. 17 per day, ‚9.40) and Porto (lVihr. 10 per day, ‚8.10). From the bus station, turn right, follow the avenue to Coimbra-A, then walk to Largo Portagem to reach the tourist office, (a 239 85 59 30. Open June-Sept. M-F 9am-7pm, Sa-Su lOam-lpm and 2:30-5:30pm; Oct.-May M-F 9am-6pm, Sa-Su lOam-lpm and 2:30-5:30pm.) Check email at Central Modem, Escada de Quebra Costas, down the stairs from Lg. da Se Velha. (‚0.60 per 15min. Open M-F 1 lam-1 lpm.) Postal Code: 3000.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. With both newly renovated and older rooms, Residencial Vitoria , R. da Sota 11-19, across from Coimbra-A has prices to suit any budget, (a 239 82 40 49; fax 84 28 97. Reception 24hr. Singles ‚10-25; doubles ‚20-40; triples ‚45. MCV.) Residencia Lusa Atenas , Av. Femao Magalhaes 68, between Coimbra-A and the bus station, next to Pensao Avis, has rooms with bath, phone, AC, and cable TV in a classic aristocratic building, (a 239 82 64 12. Reception 8am-midnight. July-Aug. singles ‚20-25; doubles ‚30-40; triples ‚45-50; quads ‚50-60. Sept.-Apr. ‚18-2025-3038-4040-50. May-June ‚20303850.) The best cuisine in Coimbra lies off Pr. 8 de Maio around Rua Direita, on the side streets between the river and Largo Portagem, and around Pra?a Republica in the university district. Supermercado Miniprego, R. Antonio Granjo 6C, is in the lower town center. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-8pm, Su 9am-lpm and 3-7pm.)
SEA SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. Take in the sights in Old Town by climbing from the river up the narrow stone steps to the university. Begin your ascent at the Arco de Almedina, a remnant of the Moorish town wall, one block uphill from Largo da Portagem. The looming 12th-century Romanesque Se
One evening many years ago, a rich landowner hosted a magnificent banquet. The evening turned sour when he discovered that someone had stolen his silver. He accused an innocent guest, who was tried in court and, with a great deal of evidence against him, declared guilty and sentenced to death. The accused man maintained his innocence and pleaded with the town magistrate for one last chance to save himself. Moved by the man’s resoluteness, the magistrate agreed. Upon seeing a tray with a roasted rooster on it, the man declared, “If I am innocent, the cock will crow!”
And crow it did. Just before being hanged, the prisoner’s life was spared.
The legendary rooster, known as 0 Galo de Barcelos, has become the national symbol of Portugal, representing honesty, integrity, trust, and honor. Today, the Portuguese commemorate the merciful animal with hundreds of rooster statues and statuettes. Vendors sell rooster key chains and trinkets decorated with red and yellow flowers and hearts; likewise, artisans create roosters with original patterns and coloring that are displayed in homes and museums. Though the Portuguese no longer call upon 0 Galo in desperate times, they continue to respect and value the bird who, when faced with an opportunity to speak for justice, certainly was no chicken.
Velha (Old Cathedral) is at the top. (Open M-Th lOam-noon and 2-7:30pm, F-Su lOam-lpm. Cloister ‚0.75.) Follow signs to the late 16th-century Se Nova (New Cathedral), built by the Jesuits (open Tu-Sa 9am-noon and 2-6:30pm; free), just a few blocks from the 16th-century University of Coimbra. The Porta Ferrea (Iron Gate), off R. Sao Pedro, opens onto the old university, whose buildings constituted Portugal’s royal palace when Coimbra was the kingdom’s capital. (Open May-Sept. daily 9am-7:30pm; Oct.-Apr. 9:30am-12:30pm and 2-5:30pm.) The stairs to the right lead to the Sala dos Capelos, which houses portraits of Portugal’s kings, six of whom were Coimbra-born. (Open daily 9:30am-12:30pm and 2-5:30pm. ‚2.50.) The university chapel and the mind-boggling, entirely gilded 18th-century Biblioteca Joanina (University Library) lie past the Baroque clock tower. (Open May-Sept. daily 9am-7:30pm; Oct.-Apr. 9:30am-noon and 2-5:30pm. ‚2.50. Students free. Ticket to all university sights ‚4; buy tickets in the main quad.) Cross the bridge in front of Largo Portagem to find the 14th-century Convento de Santa Clara-a-Velha and the 17th-century Convento de Santa Clara-a-Nova. (Closed indefinitely for renovations and repairs.)
Nightlife in Coimbra gets highest honors. Bar Que-bra Costas, R. Quebra Costas, blasts jazz and funk. (239 821 661. Beer ‚1-3. Mixed drinks ‚4-5. Open daily noon-4:00am.) The recently renovated Pitch-club, Lgo. da Se Velha 4-8, one of Coimbra’s newest dance spots, pulses with house, Brazilian, African, and pop. (Beer ‚1. Mixed drinks ‚2.50. Open June-Sept. 15 M-Sa llam-4am; Sept. 16-May M-Sa 9pm-4am.) Via Latina, R. Almeida Garrett 1, around the corner and uphill from Pr. Republica, is hot in all senses of the word. (Beer ‚1.50. Open M-Sa llpm-7am.) In early May, university graduates bum the narrow ribbons they got as first-years and get wide ones in return during Coimbra’s week-long Queima das Fitas.
COIMBRA Photo Gallery
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