Coimbra, a very old university town!

Coimbra is on every “what to see in Portugal” list.  So, we packed our bags and hopped on the train.  It was a comfortable and scenic trip south of Porto. The train system was easy to use, convenient, and very reasonable. One of the folks who pointed us to the francesinas in Porto turned us on to the train systems app which made it really easy to find and book our train travels.

When we arrived in Coimbra and checked into our hotel the woman who helped us was so enthusiastic about what we could see and do! We were arriving just as the University term was ending so there were lots of students in town doing end of term activities, including lots of Fado singing. Fado is traditional Portugese singing and Coimbra is considered to be quite the hotspot. While we are still avoiding crowds and stayed away from the really big gatherings we did come across groups of students in their black academic robes singing and playing as we wandered around town. It was very enjoyable.

This church dates back to the 1100s and has beautiful detail on the columns and entries.
Zoom in for some information on the church. The restoration is pretty impressive.
The entry to the monastery in town. It is now a museum. A popular and crowded museum, so we may go in on another visit during a quieter season.
We were encouraged by our friend from the hotel to check out the “amazing beautiful botanical garden.” She was not wrong. And, we love it when someone is so enthusiastic their place!
Blooms in the Botanical Garden.
The view from the top entrance of the Botanical Garden over the River Mondego.
The old Roman Aqueduct that runs along the side of the gardens.
At the University there are many old buildings housing various academic departments and activities. While the Library is famous (and too crowded for us this trip) we wandered in to the psychology building and came across this lovely area.
Just some public art in the student quarter.
The arched entry to the park. They were taking down the last of the booths that had been there for a week long francesina festival that we missed by one day.
A fountain in the park. Coimbra is very hilly and the park flows up hill. It is a nice shady walk though.

One morning we set out from the hotel with no plan. Dan said something like “let’s just take a short walk to the other side of the river.” At least we brought the backpack and water bottle because we ended up spending most of the day meandering up the other side of the river valley, visiting an impressive Monastery, and wandering around a new neighborhood.

Across the river is a huge building, the Monastery Santa Clara-a-Nova. The remains of Queen Isabel, who is also a saint, are there in a silver casket on the alter. Her husband the king was important in setting up the University. I think. I gotta start taking better notes about the many factoids we come across. Anyway the courtyard was lovely.
In the church, back in a smaller chapel/sacristry, they had some fancy light fixtures and decorations.
This isn’t even the main chapel.
Again, not in the main chapel, the elaborate decor of the churches always amazes me.
Looking from the alter to the back of the main chapel.

Coimbra also has a large cemetery with mausoleums that can be seen from the river valley. After spotting them, we put that on our list of places to find. One morning off we went, uphill, in that direction.

The central chapel surrounded by family monuments.

Coumbra is a city with a lot of history that also has the energy of a university town. The narrow streets and hilly terrain give you the opportunity to turn a corner and find something fun every time you head out.

3 thoughts on “Coimbra, a very old university town!”

  1. I was one of the founders of Coimbra…my first teaching job in fact. These are wonderful posts. Thank you. Love, Dad


  2. All of these Portugese towns seem lovely. Have you found that fixer-upper place yet? …you know, the one that would require a live-in manager/caretaker? Coimbra seems ideal – centrally located between Porto and Lisbon, with all the cultural amenities of a university town as well as a beautiful setting. (I’m jus’ sayin’…)


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