Coimbra: The Complete Guide

Coimbra

Dubbed as the most romantic city in Portugal, Coimbra served as the inspiration for the renowned song “April in Portugal”. Situated on the weather-beaten right bank of the muddy Mondego River, this medieval city is home to numerous churches and also serves as the hub of education in the country. Its university was first founded by Dinis I in Lisbon in 1290, but was relocated back and forth between Coimbra and Lisbon before finally settling in Coimbra for good in 1537. Many of the country’s leaders, including the dictator Dr. António Salazar from 1932 to 1968, received their education here.

Coimbra is at its liveliest during the academic year, with a vibrant youthful spirit emanating from the city. Bustling cafeterias, boisterous bars, and various events such as crew races all contribute to the city’s exuberance. You can easily spot the students as they don black capes and carry briefcases adorned with colored ribbons indicating their respective schools (yellow signifies medicine, for instance).

Visiting Coimbra for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Coimbra on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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15 Best places to See in Coimbra

This complete guide to Coimbra not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Coimbra and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

San Sebastian Aqueduct

Aqueduto De São Sebastião
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Karine et Cyril
The Aqueduto de São Sebastião is popularly known as “Arcos do Jardim” – “Arches of the Garden”, given its location adjacent to the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra, this aqueduct was built in 1570 by King D. Sebastião, to supply water to the upper part of the city, taking advantage of the layout […]
Location: Aqueduto de São Sebastião, Alameda Júlio Henriques, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting San Sebastian Aqueduct

Explore Coimbra yourself with our self-guided walking tour!

University of Coimbra

University Of Coimbra
The University of Coimbra is a fascinating destination for any traveler interested in history, culture, and education. Founded in 1290, it is one of the oldest universities in Europe and has played a significant role in the development of Portugal and its culture. The university is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must-visit […]
Location: University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 9am-7.30pm Mar-Oct, 9am-1pm & 2pm-5pm Nov-Feb | Price: adult/child incl Paço das Escolas, Biblioteca Joanina, Capela de São Miguel & Museu da Ciência €12.50/free, without Biblioteca €7/free | Website | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting University of Coimbra

Jardim Botânico (Coimbra)

Jardim Botânico De Coimbra Portugal
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Vitor Oliveira
Established in 1772 to serve the medical and natural history faculties, the Botanic Garden at the University of Coimbra was utilized by the esteemed botanist Avelar Brotero during the early 19th century. Brotero not only founded several publications based on his discoveries within the gardens, but also established the university’s school for botanical studies. Encompassing […]
Location: Jardim Botânico, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 9am-8pm Apr-Sep, 9am-5.30pm Oct-Mar | Website | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Jardim Botânico (Coimbra)

Biblioteca Joanina

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Jl FilpoC
The Biblioteca Joanina, also known as the Joanina Library, is one of the most famous attractions at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. Built in the 18th century, the library is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, with its stunning baroque architecture, ornate decorations, and impressive collection of books. The library features […]
Location: Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 9am-7.30pm Mar-Oct, 9am-1pm & 2pm-5pm Nov-Feb | Price: adult/under 26yr/child incl Paço das Escolas, Capela de São Miguel & Museu da Ciência €12.50/10/free | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Biblioteca Joanina

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro

Museu Nacional De Machado De Castro
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Elisa.rolle
The Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro is a museum located in the city of Coimbra, Portugal. It is named after the famous Portuguese sculptor Machado de Castro, who was born in Coimbra in 1731 and is considered one of the most important artists of the Baroque period in Portugal. The museum is housed in […]
Location: Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro, Largo Doutor José Rodrigues, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 2pm-6pm Tue, 10am-6pm Wed-Sun | Price: adult/child €6/3, cryptoportico only €3 | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro

Paço das Escolas

Paço Das Escolas
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Halley Oliveira
This historic university is located in a former royal palace and remains the heart of the institution to this day, hosting traditional academic ceremonies. The Sala dos Capelos is the main ceremonial hall, named after the academic cape awarded to graduating doctoral students. It was originally an examination room adorned with dark portraits of Portugal’s […]
Location: Paço das Escolas, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 9am-7.30pm Mar-Oct, 9am-1pm & 2pm-5pm Nov-Feb | Price: adult/child incl Biblioteca Joanina, Capela de São Miguel & Museu da Ciência €12.50/free, without Biblioteca €7/free | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Paço das Escolas

Museu da Ciência de Coimbra

Museu Da Ciência Da Universidade De Coimbra
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Daderot
The Coimbra Science Museum, located in Coimbra, Portugal, showcases the historic collections of various faculties of the University of Coimbra. These collections were consolidated into the present building in 2006. The museum’s extensive collection includes scientific and astronomical instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as displays related to anthropology, botany, mineralogy, medicine, […]
Location: Museu da Ciência da Universidade de Coimbra, Largo Marquês de Pombal, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 10am-7pm Tue-Sun Mar-Oct, to 6pm Nov-Feb | Price: adult/child incl Paço das Escolas, Biblioteca Joanina & Capela de São Miguel €12.50/free, without Biblioteca €7/free | Website | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Museu da Ciência de Coimbra

Sé Nova de Coimbra (New Cathedral of Coimbra)

Sé Nova De Coimbra
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Concierge.2C
Built gradually over a century between 1598 and 1698, the Sé Nova (New Cathedral) in Coimbra was originally a Jesuit church. The church’s first architect was Baltazar Alvares, and he based the design on the Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon. However, when the Marquis de Pombal expelled the Jesuits from Portugal in […]
Location: New Cathedral, Largo Feira dos Estudantes, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Sé Nova de Coimbra (New Cathedral of Coimbra)

Torre da Universidade

Torre Da Universidade De Coimbra
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Marcio
The Coimbra University Tower, which dates back to 1728, is widely recognized as an iconic landmark of the city. This towering structure, standing at a height of 34 meters, boasts an ornate exterior. It comprises of multiple levels, with the second-to-last level featuring openings that provide a glimpse of the bells within. At the topmost […]
Location: Torre da Universidade de Coimbra, Rua do Norte, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 9am-7.30pm Mar-Oct, 9am-1pm & 2pm-5pm Nov-Feb | Price: €2 | Distance: 1.50km
Visiting Torre da Universidade

Sé Velha de Coimbra

Sé Velha De Coimbra
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Anamaia
Coimbra, also known as Aeminium in Roman times, became an Episcopal seat in the 5th century, succeeding the nearby city of Conímbriga. Despite its long history, there is no record of a cathedral until the construction of the Santa Maria de Coimbra Cathedral, which began in 1164 under the initiative of Bishop Miguel Salomão. Although […]
Location: Sé Velha de Coimbra, Largo da Sé Velha, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 1-6pm Sun | Price: €2.50 | Website | Distance: 1.60km
Visiting Sé Velha de Coimbra

Largo da Portagem (Toll Square)

Largo Da PortagemToll Square
CC BY-SA 2.0 / ho visto nina volare
Largo da Portagem is the main square and the center of the city of Coimbra in Portugal , next to the Ponte de Santa Clara and on the banks of the Mondego river in the parish of São Bartolomeu. Largo da Portagem, named after its historical use as an open place to collect tolls, which […]
Location: Largo da Portagem, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.70km
Visiting Largo da Portagem (Toll Square)

Igreja São Bartolomeu

Church Of Saint Bartolomew, Igreja São Bartolomeu, Coimbra
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Peter K Burian
Located on Rua dos Esteoros near Commerce Square, the Church of St. Bartholomew, or Igreja de S. Bartolomeu, is one of the oldest buildings in the city of Coimbra. Built in the 10th century and named after the apostle Bartholomew, the church’s facade boasts a portal with two bell towers, an oval window with bars, […]
Location: Igreja de São Bartolomeu, Adro de Cima, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.70km
Visiting Igreja São Bartolomeu

Porta de Barbacã & Torre de Almedina

Porta Da Barbacã
CC BY-SA 3.0 / HenGomes
The Porta de Barbacã was built in the 12th century, around the corner from what is now the city’s main pedestrian street (Rua Ferreira Borges), and was remodelled in the 16th century. During the 11th century, the Arab conqueror Almansor reconstructed the walls surrounding Coimbra, allowing entrance to the citadel through only three gates. Today, […]
Location: Porta de Barbacã, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 1.70km
Visiting Porta de Barbacã & Torre de Almedina

Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas

Jardins Da Quinta Das Lágrimas
©
Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas or the Gardens of the Palace of Tears is a historic garden located in Coimbra, Portugal. It is situated on the grounds of the Quinta das Lágrimas Palace, which was once home to Inês de Castro, the subject of a tragic love story and one of Portugal’s most famous heroines. […]
Location: Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas, Rua José Vilarinho Raposo, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 2.10km
Visiting Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas

Ruínas de Conímbriga

Ruínas De Conímbriga
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Halley Oliveira
Conímbriga, once a Celtic castro of the Conii tribe during the late Iron Age, is now recognized as one of the most significant archaeological sites in Portugal. Following the Roman occupation in 139 BC, the town became entirely Romanized, achieving its peak under Emperor Augustus during the 2nd century AD with the construction of a […]
Location: Ruínas de Conimbriga, Rua Professor Vergílio Correia, Condeixa-a-Velha, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Friday: 10 am.-5.30 pm.; Saturday: 10 am.-6.30 pm.; Sundays and holidays: 11.00 am.-5 pm. Closed:1 January, Easter, 1 May and 25 December. | Price: Ruins & museum adult/child €4.50/free | Website | Distance: 13.50km
Visiting Ruínas de Conímbriga

Best Time to Visit Coimbra

Coimbra, a historic city in central Portugal known for its prestigious university and vibrant cultural scene, offers different experiences across the seasons. Here’s a guide to the best times to visit Coimbra based on weather, crowds, and events:

Spring (March to May): Spring is a wonderful time to visit Coimbra. The weather is mild and the city’s gardens, especially the botanical garden at the University of Coimbra, are in full bloom. This season offers comfortable temperatures for exploring the city’s many historic sites and walking along the Mondego River. Spring is also less crowded than summer, providing a more relaxed atmosphere.

Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Coimbra. The weather is warm and sunny, ideal for enjoying outdoor cafes and late-night activities. The city also hosts various cultural events, including the Queima das Fitas in early May or June, a traditional student festival marked by parades, music, and festivities. However, be prepared for higher temperatures and more crowded attractions during this time.

Fall (September to November): Autumn is another excellent time to visit Coimbra. The weather remains warm in September but starts cooling down pleasantly in October and November. This season is ideal for attending academic and cultural events as the University of Coimbra begins its school year. The city is less crowded than in summer, making it a good time to explore museums and historic sites more leisurely.

Winter (December to February): Winters in Coimbra are mild compared to many other European cities, though it can get quite chilly and rainy. This season sees the fewest tourists, which can be a great advantage if you prefer a quieter visit. Winter is also a good time to enjoy the city’s indoor attractions, such as its libraries, museums, and cafes, without the rush of tourist crowds.

For those looking to avoid the heat and crowds while still catching some of the city’s lively cultural events, late spring and early fall are ideal times to visit Coimbra. These seasons offer a perfect blend of pleasant weather and an array of activities, making for a rewarding travel experience.

Average Temperatures in Coimbra

  • January 16°C 14
  • February 18°C 14
  • March 20°C 12
  • April 24°C 12
  • May 27°C 7
  • June 28°C 4
  • July 34°C 1
  • August 32°C 1
  • September 31°C 6
  • October 27°C 16
  • November 19°C 16
  • December 16°C 16