Coimbra is the first capital of Portugal. However, nowadays, this place can’t be called a capital. People come to the secluded little town between Porto and Lisbon for comfort and solace rather than the energy of big cities.
Good Portugal team spent a few days here and now we tell you about the main points of attraction for locals and visitors alike.
Perhaps the most obvious place to walk around. The main thing is not to be intimidated by the imposing stairs at the approach to the oldest alma mater in the country. It is where the famous Antonio de Salazar graduated from the Faculty of Law.
Wikipedia states that up to a third of the city’s residents are somehow connected to work or study at the university. However, in the summer the students go on vacation and it is hardly possible to check this for sure. The more so, the city streets are filled with vacationing Brits, who lazily sip beer in the nearby pubs.
You can buy an excursion to one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1290, and visit the famous Juanine library. But more often people just come here for a walk.
The spirit of study is felt in the perimeter around the faculty buildings. This is also where the large dining hall, closed during the off-season, is located. Looking around, there are lots of cool facades.
Separately, graffiti catches your eye. There’s a lot of it here, and what’s especially cool is that it’s not being painted over by grown-up bureaucratic guys. They say that the bulletin boards say a lot about the city. Street art speaks a lot about how young people live.
But most of all, people like to come to the campus by sundown. Being on the hills, you see a mesmerizing picture. Being able to see the sun over the horizon like that is one of the main advantages of the old capital over the current one.
- The waterfront
Another of the city’s highlights is the Montegoo River. There are almost no beaches within the city, and ships are seldom on the water. But there is a good waterfront, where it is nice to walk and play sport.
Perhaps some people may find it a bit dull, but the creative understatement is filled with the romantic mood of couples who line the shore in the evening. There are so many of them here that it seems the town was made for dating.
There are several bridges across Montague that catch the eye. Don’t make the author’s mistake of trying to walk along the river to the most conspicuous one, for at some point you’ll just stumble into the bushes.
But on the other side there is an unusual fountain, which is set right in the middle of the river and powerfully beats up high jets. In the evenings it’s lit up beautifully.
- Stadium and Mall
Many East European countries have a similar affliction where a large event venue is built in a small city and then left to sit idle. Coimbra was one of the host cities for Euro 2004, so there was a similar risk with the local stadium.
The local club “Akademica” is hanging out in the second league and clearly does not match the size of its arena. The Portuguese did not get confused and did not try to attract teams from other cities, but simply set up one of the city’s largest shopping centers in the stadium building. As a result, it didn’t become an exclusion zone and continued to be the focus of residents’ attention.
It’s funny that being around, it is difficult to understand that this is a soccer facility, and if you do not discern it beforehand from above, it is easy to take the building for an ordinary business building. Moreover, at the entrance you immediately get into a multi-storey hall with famous brand pavilions.
It is probably the main shopping place for locals. Although, there is plenty of entertainment too. In addition to children’s centers with trampolines, on the top floor there is a movie theater. The only thing worth considering is that there’s nothing to see there in the morning and the first show starts after 1 p.m.
Otherwise everything is like everywhere else: food courts, clothes stores, big hypermarkets. A separate “technical” Auchan attracts attention. By the way, if you haven’t got unlimited internet, there is free WiFi.
- Botanical Garden and City center
Finally, another place which is bustling with life is the garden in the old part of town. In the middle of it is an atmospheric fountain with a dangling mud, as if it had just been brought in from the deep marshes.
There are mazes of walking paths all around, and under the trees there are tables in the shade for lunch. The surrounding trunks are striking in their reach and the power of their roots. They seem to have been growing here for hundreds of years.
It is a special pleasure to take a walk in the bamboo grove. Here as if you find yourself in a tropical jungle, waiting to meet with a wild animal. But the names scratched into the bamboo remind us that humans live here.
The cool thing about the Botanical Gardens is that there are several paths leading out of them, one of which leads directly to the center. In the evening, the ancient streets are filled with people and street musicians, who provide a high-quality cover of classic rock.
It remains only to walk through the main streets of the lower town and catch the incredible beauty of the monastery of Santa Cruz, the tomb of the first Portuguese kings. It’s a rare place to catch tourists in the morning, even on weekdays.
It’s unlikely that sedate Coimbra will suit those who love metropolitan cities. Also, it may seem plain and rugged at first, but its charms will eventually wear off. Interestingly, you’ll learn to save energy as you explore the city. Knowing your route will allow you to arrive at your destination with a drastically different amount of energy.
What Coimbra has in common with capitals is its love of tourists. Rarely do you see several young men striding towards you with confidence just to say one short phrase: