Coimbra, Portugal – Photography and Travel Tips
Coimbra, Portugal is a short train ride away from Porto and it is a nice university city. Coimbra is right on a river, as is Porto, on the Mondego River.
I stayed in Coimbra last summer for a couple of days. I recommend the Astoria Hotel, which is right at the edge of the historical city center, across from the tourist information center, and by the river. The Astoria Hotel is also in a charming building with a fun elevator (I happen to be a fan of elevators, especially the older models by Otis) with a fold down seat (first time I have seen that in an elevator)!
*Side note: Hotel beds in Portugal tend to be extremely hard and frankly not much different then lying on the floor. Just a fair warning that if you don’t exhaust yourself during the day with site seeing and walking all over, chances are it will be hard to get a good night sleep.
What to see in Coimbra:
1 – University of Coimbra
Since Coimbra is a University city the main site is the University of Coimbra which is one of the oldest in Europe as it was established in 1290!
There are many buildings that you can visit of the University of Coimbra and it does take a good portion of the day. (There are varying ticket prices according to how many buildings you want to see).
I saw all of the buildings around the old courtyard, all of which are impressive, especially the library and chapel. All the rooms have a stand with papers with descriptive explanations in different languages.
*Also, big tip here! You might think you can’t get into any of these buildings because the doors aren’t open and do not open from the outside. In fact there is a room caretaker, if you will, who opens the doors to let people in and out. Of course since they only open the door to let people out they don’t know when people are waiting to get it. So… stand by the doors and wait! It is a strange system but seems to work for them and if anything it is rather humorous.
2 – The Old Cathedral
This Cathedral looks like a sand castle from the outside and it is beautiful inside. This Romanesque Cathedral dates back to the 12th century and the small cloister was built in the early 13th century.
3 – Santa Cruz Monastery
The original monastery was actually reformed in the 16th century. The church interior has blue and white tiles adorning the walls and a most impressive red organ.
These are just a few highlights of Coimbra. Of course I also recommend wandering around the streets to see the local houses and make sure to visit a few bakeries which all seemed to have enormous pastries.
If you are looking to buy pottery I recommend “Casa de Artesanato se Velha” which is owned by a kind older man whose family does all of the hand painted ceramics. This pottery store is right across from the Old Cathedral. The owner proudly pointed out that he also has everything available on-line and you can click on the store name for the link.
There is more to see in Coimbra, especially across the river. My stay didn’t allow for further exploration but I intend to return one day and see more! I do suggest going on the one hour tour bus – you can get it right in front of the Astoria Hotel and tickets are available in the hotel or at the tourist office. The bus ride is an hour and takes you all around Coimbra, even to the outskirts so you really get a sense of the city.
So enjoy! And if you have been to Coimbra and seen more sites leave a comment and let me know what I shouldn’t miss on my next visit.
Interesting and helpful links about Coimbra, Portugal: