Coimbra which straddles the Rio Mondego, was commonly known as the third city of Portugal was in fact the capital for over 100 years. The Kings of Portugal favoured the city thanks to its strategic position on the River Mondego, but despite building the country’s first university and other impressive and expensive buildings moved further south.
Coimbra is a vibrant city and has an active nightlife. Though there may be a lack of city centre bars offering low cost lager the attraction for tourists is its history.
Though the boundaries of the city are every expanding with a variety of hi-tech, uber-modern shopping malls the appeal of Coimbra lies in its historic monuments, notably the Old University.
Coimbra, which straddles the Rio Mondego, was Portugal’s capital for over a century (1143-1255). Its famous university – founded in 1290 and permanently established there in 1537 after a series of moves back and forth to Lisbon – was the only one in Portugal until the beginning of the last century.
Even today it remains highly prestigious and provides the greatest of Coimbra’s monuments and buildings most notably the renowned Baroque library.
The city has two cathedrals – Se Velha, Portugal’s supreme example of the Romanesque style, and Se Nova, a Jesuit church featuring an opulent altar, dozens of churches and lots of ancient mansions.
Children will like to visit the Portugal dos Pequeninos (“Portugal for the Little Ones”), a park with child-sized models of typical Portuguese houses, mansions, temples and palaces.
Just south of Coimbra are the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, the largest unearthed archaeological find of its kind in Portugal. The site was in existence in about 2.000BC, but it was in the era of the Emperor Augustus in 25BC that the settlement really flourished.