A Day in Coimbra

Since my parents bought their home in Portugal I’ve always wanted to spend a day exploring the city of Coimbra (pronounced Kwim-brah), central Portugal. When Jon came to visit Portugal for a week we caught a train and did just that!

Coimbra reminds me of Canterbury, which was where I went to university. The city does try to put Canterbury to shame by having not one but two cathedrals, which have been logically named the ‘old cathedral’ (sé velha) and the ‘new cathedral’ (sé novo), but they are nowhere near as beautiful as Canterbury’s cathedral (in my opinion).

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Canterbury Cathedral

About half way through my WWOOFing adventure I spent an hour in Coimbra waiting for a bus to my next WWOOFing host. In my ideal little world, I would’ve liked to have come up a day early, booked a cheap hostel for the night and spent the day wandering aimlessly around Coimbra’s cobbled streets and enjoying it’s nightlife. Instead, we settled for a morning and afternoon but I’d love to go back.

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Sé novo de Coimbra

So what did we do? If you’ve never ever heard of Coimbra then there’s three things that you should know about it, amongst many of other things. The first is that it used to be Portugal’s capital before Lisbon. The second is that it has one of the oldest and most successful universities in Europe and the grounds are beautiful! And lastly, all the students walk around in academic gowns!

Jon and I spent the majority of the day wandering the streets, dossing around the university and trespassing (whoops) in the famous botanical gardens. The only thing that annoyed me about Coimbra was the amount of graffiti (bad graffiti) and cars parked *everywhere*. Here’s Jon posing at the Universidade de Coimbra.

IMG_2598After visiting the university we went and explored the botanical gardens, where we found the tree that featured in Jurassic Park.

IMG_2612I might be slightly exaggerating but the botanical gardens are well worth a visit to see some incredible trees. I looked at some of them and felt just as insignificant as when I do when I look at stars in night sky, just to give you an idea of how old some of them are.

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Ponte de Rainha Santa Isabel

This is the view over the botanical gardens looking at the Ponte de Rainha Santa Isabel bridge. We had planned to walk to the footbridge near to it to get some fantastic photos of the bridge and the city but we ran out of time as we still had to have lunch (I was really hungry) and then catch our train back to the village. On the way to our lunch spot we passed another pretty little bridge:

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Ponte de Santa Clara

And walked down some terrifying stairs:

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Jon struggled to get down the last bit of the stairs as they weren’t made with his height (6’4″) in mind:

IMG_2616We rounded the day off by having a late lunch at the Jardim da Manga. The weather was quite warm (in English standards) but we were the only people crazy enough to want to eat lunch outside the restaurant.

Photos of Jardim da Manga, Coimbra
This photo of Jardim da Manga is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Our lunch was fantastic – I totally recommend the place. We went out of season (late November) so it was full of locals rather than tourists, so I can’t vouch for how it will be in the summer but the food and service was great. The company was great too – my favourite moment was when I pushed Jon into the deep end (not into the fountain!) and asked him to order everything in Portuguese, to which when the waiter appeared to take our food order he burst into speaking Japanese.

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Comments

  1. Reply

    Nice trip report!
    Now…what you really would need to do is get it done with the monuments and sights you want to see and just enjoy Coimbra :-)
    strolling around baixa and accross to the riverside, enjoying spring sun… I bet you'll love it.

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