The beautifully preserved medieval city of Coimbra, Portugal used to be the country’s capital before Lisbon stepped in. Coimbra is known for its university, which is the oldest in Portugal, and one of the oldest in Europe. But the school isn’t what attracted me to visit this city, I was falling for its architecture way before I even arrived. There are several cool things to do in Coimbra that I will list below. Hopefully, the photos alone can give you a glimpse of what this place has to offer. This city is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re looking to explore towns that aren’t overrun by tourists.
Many people do a day trip to Coimbra on their way to either Porto or Lisbon, which is doable, but I do recommend at least one night to really experience its charm.
How to Get to Coimbra
Getting to Coimbra is very simple, you just jump on the Lisbon to Coimbra train. The ride is less than 2 hours long. When visiting Portugal, most people either fly into Lisbon or Porto, and Coimbra is right in the middle of both and easily accessible by train. That’s why I mention that many make a stop in Coimbra on their way to either of those big cities.
Click here to book your Coimbra train tickets. I linked the CP (Comboios de Portugal) website because that is the national train operator of Portugal. I’ve found that if you book directly with operators it’ll be slightly cheaper than booking through a site like Rail Europe. I believe you can purchase tickets up to 60 days ahead of time. You can also get tickets up to 15 minutes before departure at the station.
If you’re going from Lisbon to Coimbra (which was our route) make sure you enter “Lisboa” in the from section, and “Coimbra” in the to section. You’ll also see a “Coimbra B” in the drop-down list but that’s a bit further out from the city center. You may need to switch trains in Coimbra B, but the “Coimbra” ticket will take you all the way to the center.
If you are visiting Lisbon as well, check out this post for the ultimate guide to the city.
Where to Stay in Coimbra
We spent 2 nights in Coimbra and stayed right in the heart of the old town at Living Santa Cruz. We really enjoyed our stay at this well-decorated Bed and Breakfast. The location was perfect and within walking distance to everything we wanted to explore. I especially liked the view of the old cathedral of Coimbra from our room (shown below), and the host’s hospitality from the moment we walked in. Click here to book your stay.
Where to Eat in Coimbra
Tapas nas Costas– A great place for tapas!
A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves– This place is near the train station and I stopped in for something quick. They had savory croissant-like sandwiches that were a lot yummier than I expected! Good place for a cheap bite.
Café Santa Cruz– This cafe used to be a church back in the 1500s, the bathrooms used to be confessionals! We stopped by for some coffee. My cappuccino was nothing special, but Jorge really liked his espresso. Cool place to visit in general. Living Santa Cruz b&b is just right up that street.
Weeel Frozen Yogurt- Frozen yogurt near the university that’s perfect for a warm day!
Passaporte Lounge Terrace– I recommend watching the sunset over the water from this terrace because just look how stunning it is! The drinks were also good and not badly priced.
Things to do in Coimbra
Walk the Old Town- Plan your own walking tour! Coimbra’s old town is small enough that a self-guided tour will be a breeze. I loved exploring Coimbra’s old town, it was a nice mix of medieval doors and colorful architecture (my fave).
Visit the University of Coimbra- Probably the most popular thing to do while in Coimbra. I never care about stuff like this but they have a gorgeous library (that’s covered in gold and bats live in it!) And they also had a great terrace to see the city. Worth a visit in my opinion. Note: They don’t allow you to take photos of the library.
Viewpoint of the city from the university’s rooftop:
See the city from different angles- We were pleasantly surprised to wander into some of the prettiest viewpoints in Coimbra. They were all near or around the Old Town or near the bridge, plus the one above is from the university. You’ll be sure to spot these as you’re doing your self-guided walking tour.
Will you be adding Coimbra to your Portugal list? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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