Coimbra (pronounced queem-bra) is one of the oldest cities in Portugal. Situated between Lisbon and the northern city of Porto, the university town has a poetic sensibility and a vibrant nightlife. Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and a third of the city’s 35,000-strong population are students.
Always a fun place to visit during term-time, Coimbra is a UNESCO world heritage site and a beautiful place to explore on holiday.
Backpackers travelling through Portugal will find budget hostels available throughout the year. You can book your holiday here and make huge savings while staying in Coimbra.
Situated on the hills sloping down towards the Mondego river, the city is divided between Cidade Alta and Cidade Baixa – the High and Low City. The university makes Coimbra a magnet for cultural events and parties, which is captured by the city’s nightclubs and bustling café culture.
At the top of the old town stands the university campus, the main attraction for visitors and students alike. Here you can explore the UNESCO approved Velha Universidade including the Baroque Library, the Great Hall of Acts, the Private Examination Room and St. Michael’s Chapel for under 10 euros.
After exam season is over in May, local students burn their ribbons in a ceremony called ‘Queima das Fitas’. This student celebration has become a Coimbra tourist attraction in recent years, attracting thousands of travellers to its parades, dances and serenades.
A wave of joy and enthusiasm descends upon Coimbra when the students gather in front of the Sé Velha (Old Cathedral) to hear the traditional serenade. This is the ‘Song of Coimbra’ that officially starts the Queima das Fitas (Burning of the Ribbons).
Away from the university and heading towards ‘Baixa’ (downtown) is the commercial heartbeat of the city, with its lovely cafes, pastry shops, restaurants and designer stores leading towards Comercio Square. Here you will find the 12th century Church of São Tiago and the historic Santa Cruz Monastery, which contain the tombs of Portugal’s first two kings.
Wandering down into the city you’ll find gorgeous market squares and alleyways adorned with luminous flower displays. Quiet and understated for most of the year, the student population brings Coimbra to life in a spectacular fashion every summer. Visitors to the city will find a city brimming with designer cafes, hostels and a spectacular bar scene that will match any in southern Europe.
Book your holiday today and explore Portugal’s most famous university town this forthcoming May.
Where to stay in Coimbra
- Serenata Hostel is a funky designer hostel offering luxury hotel standards at budget prices. Super clean and Wi-Fi friendly, the Serenata Hostel is one of the coolest in Portugal. Rooms are available from €15.72.
- Hotel Avenida Coimbra is one of the oldest hotels in Coimbra and is ideally located for travellers in the city centre. They also have one of the best international restaurants in the city. Rooms are available from €13.75.
- Pete’s Place is a stone cottage situated in the scenic village of Varzea Pequena, 45 minutes far from Coimbra with a river swimming, picnic and barbecue area. Rooms are available from €16.00.