Things To Do In Coimbra: 10 Must-Sees In Medieval Capital of Portugal

things to do in coimbra
| 4 min read

Coimbra is a city that used to be the capital of Portugal in the medieval age for more than 100 years. The city lies on the Mondego River, over 190 kilometers (118 miles) from Porto. Coimbra is a pure beauty, filled with longtime history. It´s a charming, unique place that has importance in Portuguese past and present. It´s also a place where you will find the oldest and largest university of Portugal - the University de Coimbra. Read these tips before you go to Coimbra.

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Consider making a stop in Coimbra, a UNESCO site: it's a must see place, filled with history on every corner. It is truly worth spending some time exploring!

Coimbra lays by the Mondego banks, and it's famous for its university, which was established in 1290. It is the oldest in the country. You can visit the breathtaking masterpiece called Joanine Library here, which has around 55,000 books arranged in beautiful gilt-covered bookcases.

The university buildings occupies the former palace where the first Kings of Portugal lived, when they made the city the capital of the kingdom.

1. Monastery of Santa Cruz

Coimbra igr sta cruz 1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carlos Luis M C d... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The monastery of Santa Cruz, founded in 1131 during the reign of Afonso Henriques, stands on the Praça 8 de Maio right in the center of Coimbra. The monastery was built outside the protecting walls and used to be the most important monastic house of the early age. The first form of the monastery was predominantly built in Romanesque style. In the 16th century, King Manuel ordered to renovate the monastery and most of the original building disappeared. An important symbol is the main portal with features of Manueline Renaissance style and other Renaissance styles.

Address: Praça 8 de Maio, 3001-801 Coimbra, Portugal

Price: Free entrance

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:00 - 17:00. Saturday: 9:00- 12:00 /14:00-17:00. Sunday and religious holidays: 16:00 - 17:30

Contact: +351 239 822 941

Website: Monastery of Santa Cruz

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2. Biblioteca Joanina

The Biblioteca, or library, is a place visited by many tourists for its unique complex with an interesting history. The stunning library was built in the18th century during the reign of King John V. It contains an indispensable part of the University of Coimbra’s General Library. The building is a Portuguese National Monument and one of the highlights of Coimbra.

Address: Pátio das Escolas da Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-531 Coimbra, Portugal

Price: Adults: 11 USD, students/seniors: 8.60 USD

Opening Hours: Mo-Su: 9:00-18:15

Website: Biblioteca Joanina

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3. Old Cathedral of Coimbra

Coimbra Old Cathedral - Sé Velha de Coimbra
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Digitalsignal used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The old Cathedral, in Portuguese called Se Velha, is a great example of Romanesque style architecture, in Portugal. The Cathedral was built in the 12th century during the reign of Afonso Henriques. He initiated the construction after his victory in the battle of Ourique and declared himself as king. Afonso made Coimbra the capital of Portugal and the city became the focal point of the whole country.

The Cathedral was designed by renowned French designers, Robert and Bernardo and Portuguese designer Soeiro, and features both Romanesque and Gothic styles.

Address: Largo Sé Velha, 3000-383 Coimbra, Portugal

Price: 2.70 USD

Opening Hours: Mo-Sa: 10:00 - 18:00. Sunday and religion holidays: 11:30- 18:30

Contact: +351 239 825 273

Website: Old Cathedral of Coimbra

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4. Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha

Most sta clara a velha 1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carlos Luis M C d... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Santa Clara a Velha monestery is a Gothic building located on the left banks of the Montego River, in the center of Coimbra. The monastery was built in the 14th century but in the 16th century was abandoned due to flooding. The forgotten monastery got attention over 300 years later. The building passed through the hands of many talented artists and masons, and today is open to the public.

The original monastery was founded by Mor Dias and Domingos Domingues was employed as the primary architect. Construction was continued by Estavao Domingues, architect of the Lisbon Cathedral. You can see the ruins of the building via tours which are provided through the visitor center. There you can find more information about the history, architecture and the on-going projects of the building.

Address: Rua das Parreiras - Santa Clara • 3040-266 Coimbra

Price: Adults: 4.50 USD, students/seniors: 2.15 USD

Opening Hours: 10:00-19:00 (last entrance at 18:15). October to April: 10:00 – 17:00 (last entrance at 16:30)

Contact: +351 239 801 160

Website: Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha

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5. National Museum Machado de Castro

Coimbra November 2012-5
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alvesgaspar used under CC BY-SA 3.0

In the National Museum Machado de Castro you can see many historic and antique objects. Many of them were brought here from the historic monuments of Coimbra. The building was founded in the 12th century and used to be an Episcopal palace until the early 2000s. The museum was named after Joaquim Machado de Castro, one of the most famous sculptors in Portuguese history.

The museum covers various categories such as jewelry, archeology, sculptures, precious metals, and furniture.

Address: Largo Dr. José Rodrigues, 3000-236 Coimbra, Portugal

Price: Adults: 6.50 USD, seniors 50% discount.

Opening Hours: Mo- closed. Tu- 14:00-18:00. We-Su - 12:00-18:00

Contact: +351 239 853 070

Website: National Museum Machado de Castro

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6. Conímbriga

Conimbriga muralha baixo imperio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carlos Luis M C d... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Conímbriga has been a national monument since 1910, and it´s the scene of the largest and best preserved Roman settlement in Portugal. Conímbriga is located in the municipality of Condeixa-a-Nova, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Coimbra. Although, the largest Roman settlement in Portugal, archaeologists contend that only 10 percent of the whole complex has been uncovered.

Address: Conímbriga, Condeixa-a-Velha • 3150-220 Coimbra

Price: 4.90 USD

Opening Hours: October to May: Museum – From Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 – 18:00, Ruins – Everyday: 10:00 – 18:00. June to September: Museum – Tuesday to Sunday: 09:00 – 20:00, Ruins – Everyday: 09:00 – 20:00

Contact: +351 239 941 177

Website: Conímbriga

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7. New Cathedral of Coimbra

Catedral Nueva, Coímbra, Portugal, 2012-05-10, DD 01
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Diego Delso used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The New Cathedral of Coimbra, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy name of Jesus was founded in 1543. The Cathedral is located in the Alta de Coimbra or upper part of the town, nearby the University of Coimbra. The building was formerly the Jesuit Formation house of Coimbra and is currently used as the bishopric seat of Coimbra. The niches of the Cathedral feature statues of significant Jesuit saints. The upper side of the facade is decorated in Baroque style, while the lower part follows Mannerist style. The Cathedral is one of the most visited monuments in Coimbra and should be on every visitor’s itinerary.

Address: Largo Feira dos Estudantes, 3000-213 Sé Nova, Coimbra, Portugal

Price: 1.10 USD

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday; 10:00- 18.30. Sunday 10:00-12.30

Contact: +351 239 823 138

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8. Portugal dos Pequenitos

Portugal dos Pequenitos is a recreational and educational park that was opened in 1940. The park was opened by Bissaya Barreto who sponsored the whole project. Here you can see many quality architectural works, all in miniature. The park has five thematic areas: Portuguese-speaking Countries, The Islands, Coimbra, Regional Houses and Monumental Portugal.

The place is intended primarily for kids but can be attractive for all generations.

Address: Portugal dos Pequenitos,Rossio de Santa Clara, 3040-256 COIMBRA

Price: . Child (3-13) 6.50 USD, Adult (14 -64) 10.70 USD

Opening Hours: From 01 January to 28/29 February and 16 October to 31 December from 10 am to 5 pm From 01 March to 31 May and 16 September to 15 October from 10 am to 7 pm From 01 June to 15 September from 09 am to 8 pm


Website: Portgal dos Pequenitos

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9. Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra

Jardim Botânico de Coimbra2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vitor Oliveira used under CC BY 2.0

The Botanical Garden lies in the center of the city of Coimbra. The Garden was founded in 1772 by then prime minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. The area is 13 hectares (32 acres) in total and most of what can be enjoyed here has been donated by Benedictine monks. The Botanical Garden was created as a complement to the Natural History and Medicinal studies at the university and has an important role in nature conservation. The Garden is a peaceful place filled with beautiful, exotic nature that will caress your soul.

Address: 3000-456 Coimbra, Portugal

Price: free entrance. Groups have to make an reservation in advance.

Opening Hours: Mo-Su: 9-17:30

Contact: +351 239 855 216

Website: Botanical Garden

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10. Largo da Portagem

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user ho visto nina volare used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Largo da Portagem is the main square in Coimbra. The plaza is filled with cafés, shops, and important buildings and is located at the foot of the Ponte Santa Clara in Baixa district. On the square stands the statue of Joaquim Antońio, former prime minister, and here you can also find the Astória Hotel built in 1926, the architectural symbol of Coimbra. The square is connected to the main street (Ferreira Borges Street) in the center, which is currently closed to traffic but opened to the public.

Address: Largo da Portagem, 3000-337 Coimbra, Portugal

Price: free

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Much more to visit around Coimbra

The tips above will be enough to help you explore and look into the history of Coimbra. It´s one of the most popular cities in Portugal, which you shouldn’t miss! If you have a lot of time and you are eager for more places, try any of these recommendations to visit in and around Coimbra: Arco de Almedina, Praça do Comércio, Porta da Barbaca in Coimbra, Gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas and the Santa Clara a Nova Monastery.

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