Coimbra: The Complete Guide
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. Top help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!
This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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
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 of a previous Roman aqueduct . The design of this imposing structure, which extends over a kilometer, is attributed to the Italian engineer Felipe Terzi. The first arch, called the “arch of honor” differs from the rest; topped by a cornice, in which the coat of arms of Portugal is inserted, it is topped by a canopy, resting on Doric colonels and crowned by a dome and lantern; on each side there are two niches with images of São Sebastião and São Roque.
Read our full blog post on Visiting San Sebastian Aqueduct!
Address: Aqueduto de São Sebastião, Alameda Júlio Henriques, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 0.98km
Jardim Botânico (Coimbra)
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Jardim Botânico (Coimbra)!
Address: Jardim Botânico, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 9am-8pm Apr-Sep, 9am-5.30pm Oct-Mar | Website | Distance: 1.26km
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 for anyone traveling to Coimbra.
Read our full blog post on Visiting University of Coimbra!
Address: 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: 1.33km
Museu da Ciência de Coimbra
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, and zoology. The museum owes its existence to the 18th-century reforms of science education at the University of Coimbra, implemented by the Marquis de Pombal.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Museu da Ciência de Coimbra!
Address: 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: 1.38km
Sé Nova de Coimbra (New Cathedral of Coimbra)
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Sé Nova de Coimbra (New Cathedral of Coimbra)!
Address: New Cathedral, Largo Feira dos Estudantes, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.39km
Paço das Escolas
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 kings and decorated with crimson quilt-like designs. Close by, the Sala do Exame Privado (Private Examination Room) was where graduates underwent secret examinations at night.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Paço das Escolas!
Address: 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: 1.42km
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Biblioteca Joanina!
Address: 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: 1.44km
Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro!
Address: 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: 1.44km
Torre da Universidade
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Torre da Universidade!
Address: 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: 1.46km
Sé Velha de Coimbra
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 the rest of the building was not yet finished, the cathedral was consecrated in 1184 and in the following year, the second Portuguese king, D. Sancho I, was crowned there. It is the only surviving Portuguese Romanesque cathedral from the time of the Reconquest, largely intact to this day.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Sé Velha de Coimbra!
Address: Sé Velha de Coimbra, Largo da Sé Velha, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 1-6pm Sun | Price: €2.50 | Website | Distance: 1.55km
Porta de Barbacã & Torre de Almedina
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Porta de Barbacã & Torre de Almedina!
Address: Porta de Barbacã, Coimbra, Portugal | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 1.70km
Largo da Portagem (Toll Square)
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Largo da Portagem (Toll Square)!
Address: Largo da Portagem, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.71km
Igreja São Bartolomeu
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, a triangular pediment, and a balcony. Four pilasters connect the tower tops to the ground level.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Igreja São Bartolomeu!
Address: Igreja de São Bartolomeu, Adro de Cima, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 1.73km
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.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas!
Address: Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas, Rua José Vilarinho Raposo, Coimbra, Portugal | Distance: 2.11km
Ruínas de Conímbriga
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 forum and public baths - both of which are reimagined in the museum.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Ruínas de Conímbriga!
Address: 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: 13.51km