Are you visiting Central Portugal for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Coimbra, the capital of tradition and knowledge.
If you’re planning a trip to Coimbra and the rest of Central Portugal, try and make some time to see the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in Europe. While you’re at it, take in the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery for a local, authentic experience.
Traveling with kids?
Need a little peace and quiet? If you want to escape some of Central Portugal’s tourists, check out Coimbra’s botanical garden.
If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Quinta das Lágrimas Gardens Hotel and Pedro & Inês Bridge for kissing with a view.
Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the Exploratorio and Portugal for the little ones (Portugal dos Pequenitos).
Portuguese food in Central Portugal and Coimbra
While you’re in Portugal, you should find some authentic Portuguese cuisine. If you are looking for typical Coimbra’ cuisine, try leitão à bairrada – suckling pig. For a drinkable taste of Coimbra, try bairrada, a sparkling wine that is a specialty of the region.
The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Café Santa Cruz. They have a wide selection of pastries and coffee. If you want to bring home a memory of central Portugal, I recommend Amor de Biscoito, www.amordebiscoito.com. I was introduced to these little gems after dinner at Villa Pedra Natural Houses.
Looking for cheap food in Coimbra? Choose one of the bistros downtown or go to the Cafetaria of the Santa Clara’s Monastery – they make great sandwiches.
If you’re looking to splurge a little, go to Arcadas Restaurant by Quintas das Lágrimas Hotel. The Fangas Mercearia bar is a great spot for late night dining. Just outside of Coimbra you can visit Aveiro, and have lunch at the Bairro restaurant.
Things to see and do
Seeing a lot of young people in the area? Coimbra is best known for the academic life and fado music, making it a great European “college town.”
Coimbra has some spectacular views and vantage points. When you come to Coimbra, get your picture taken at Pedro & Inês’ Bridge. The best vantage points are seen by walking to the top of the tower of Coimbra’s University.
Want to dine with a great visual backdrop? The Loggia restaurant at Machado de Castro National Museum (Coimbra’s best museum) offers great views to the roofs of the uptown area of Coimbra.
Looking for a little exercise? You’ll work up a sweat walking up and down the cobble stone streets of old Coimbra. Walk along the Mondego River at Parque Verde do Mondego or Choupal.
Are you a night owl? Experience some of Coimbra’s exciting night life and go dancing at Rock Planet or NB Club or Rock Bar for live music – all within walking distance of Praça da Républica’ square.
Seasonal activities in Coimbra
Coimbra is great to visit at any time of year. Visiting in the winter? Take a Portuguese class at the University. You must visit the library with its many books and gold painted walls.
In the spring, take a day trip to Slates Villages (Aldeias do Xisto), just outside Coimbra. In the summer, you can enjoy the annual art festival, which takes place in the second half of July.
What are your favorite things to do in Coimbra and Central Portugal?
Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Portuguese National Tourist Office and Centro Portugal.