Coimbra is a charming riverfront city in central Portugal, home to a medieval old town, many buildings from different historical periods, and the famous University of Coimbra. We arrived there in the early evening and didn’t have a chance to check out any of the attractions at that time, but the view of the city that greeted us when crossing over the Mondego River was indeed a lovely sight.
After checking in, we went out to see a bit of the city and look for a place to have dinner. We followed a couple of recommendations and after trekking up the hill and climbing a number of steps, we arrived at a tiny tapas restaurant called Maria Portuguesa. We decided to try it, and it was so worth the climb! We had some appetizers and their signature dish, “Cod on a Round Bed” (check out my version of the recipe), inspired by this delicious meal). The food at this restaurant can be described as simple ingredients with a creative twist, and everything we tried was very tasty. They offer some options for vegetarians/vegans as well, which is not very common in Portugal.
The next day was dedicated to exploring Coimbra. We discovered a city full of historic structures and landmarks, but also showing a lively and vibrant side, in part due to the huge number of students from all over the country, other parts of Europe and beyond, and also the friendly people who live in or visit this cultural hub.
There’s no shortage of things to see and do there, but be prepared for a lot of walking uphill and also steep steps. Here are some of the attractions we recommend:
- Universidade de Coimbra (University of Coimbra)
- Paço das Escolas
- Via Latina
- Porta Ferrea
- Biblioteca Joanina
- Sé Nova (New Cathedral)
- Praça do Comércio – with many local shops, bars and restaurants
- Igreja de Sao Tiago
- Sé Velha (Old Cathedral)
- Igreja de Santa Cruz
- Porta de Barbacã / Arco de Almedina
Note that many of the attractions have scheduled visit times and charge admission, so check the tourism guides, and buy your tickets online if possible, as lines can be long. We also recommend a stroll along the bank of the Mondego River, and taking a break from all the walking at one of the local bakeries and pastry shops in the old town – the perfect spots to sit back and people watch, have a coffee, admire the surroundings, and try the local sweet/savoury specialities.
We had still another memorable meal in Coimbra, and want to leave a recommendation for Dona Taska Restaurant. They serve tapas and dishes with Portuguese e Mediterranean flavours – the Cod with Cornbread (Bacalhau com Broa) was amazing, and the House Steak (Bife a Casa) had our friends swooning in delight! Great selection of wines and desserts too.
Have you been to Coimbra or plan on going? Ask questions or leave your suggestions in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you! 🙂