June 30, 2022
Best things to do in Coimbra

Best things to do in Coimbra

June 30, 2022

coimbra university splanade portugal
Coimbra is one of the spots in Portugal that you can't miss together with Porto and Lisbon. From majestic churches, a Hogwarts-like university library, to lively streets and university life, there are plenty of things to do in Coimbra.

Did you know that Coimbra used to be the capital of Portugal? That was from 1139 until 1260, when it was replaced by Lisbon. That's probably why there's so much history in the streets of Coimbra. 

Here's a city guide on how to spend a day in the charming town of Coimbra.

Best things to do in Coimbra: university and Biblioteca Joanina 

Established in 1537, the University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in the world and the oldest in all of Portugal. Its palace-like architecture, a very colorful chapel and Biblioteca Joanina are the university's main attractions nowadays. In fact, Biblioteca Joanina (the main library) is said to have inspired Harry Potter's movie designers.

If you are planning to visit Coimbra during peak season. You can skip the queue by buying tickets online here.
coimbra biblioteca joanina university library

coimbra university chapel portugal

coimbra university statue portugal

Best things to do in Coimbra: eating with a view

Loggia restaurant is a wonderful place to eat for several reasons. On the one hand, it's a cheap eat offering both buffet and menu options. On the other hand, you can eat your meal at the terrace while enjoying the best views of the city.

loggia restaurant hamburger menu coimbra

loggia restaurant outdoor views terrace patio coimbra portugal

Best things to do in Coimbra: the cathedrals and churches

Apart from the university, Coimbra is know for the high amount of religious heritage for such a small town. For instance, Coimbra has two cathedrals: the old one, Se Velha, and the new one Se Nova.

The architecture of the old cathedral is incredibly interesting. Here you can find a mixture of Moorish, Renaissance, Romanesque and baroque design which makes it so unique. I recommend taking a peaceful stroll around the gothic cloister to unwind before continuing your sightseeing.

The New Cathedral of Coimbra, of baroque style, is located near the historical University of Coimbra in the upper part of the town.

Another place that deserves a visit is the 12th-century Monastery of Santa Cruz. The monastery is decorated with bas reliefs of the Passion story, as well as an impressive baroque pipe organ. 

coimbra column architecture detail portugal church

coimbra pipe organ tile ceramic portugal church

coimbra new cathedral facade

coimbra old cathedral facade portugal

Best things to do in Coimbra: Cafe Santa Cruz and Cafe Central

Cafe Santa Cruz, built into the former Church of São João, which dates to 1530 is the most popular cafe in Coimbra. Its popularity makes is one of the busiest spots, so if you are looking for a place to sip your coffee quietly while people watching, Rua Ferreira Borges has some really lovely spots like Cafe Central. Take your order outdoors and enjoy live music provided by buskers along this commercial street. If you want to try a traditional dessert with your coffee, don’t miss the pasteis de nata -a.k.a. pasteis de Belem- a delicious Portuguese egg custard tart pastry.

coimbra central cafe ice-cream

Have time for more? If you are spending more than one day in Coimbra, you should check out these places as well:

  • Praça do comercio: in this square, one of the prettiest in Coimbra, there are the São Tiago and São Bartolomeu Churches
  • Quinta das lagrimas gardens: setting of one of Portugal’s most famous love stories between King Pedro I and Inês de Castro, a noblewoman from Galicia. They had a secret affair in the 14th century, but sadly Inês was murdered. Legend says that she died in this park and shed a tear at Fonte dos Amores (pictured below). 
  • Santa Clara-a-Velha convent: once home to nuns, it has a mini-museum.

coimbra fonte amore quinta lagrimas portugal

Planning a trip to Portugal? Read my Portugal guides:

Top things to do in Aveiro

Costa Nova: the most instagrammable place in Portugal

Planning a trip to Southern Spain and Portugal

My travel essentials

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coimbra city guide landmark