Coimbra. History and Culture
History and Culture.
A visit to the fascinating university city of Coimbra is one of the highlights of our itinerary at Walking Portugal. It is located only 15km to the north of our base near Penela and is known as the cultural center of Portugal. Coimbra is also a municipality and is located in the Beira Litoral region of Central Portugal, which is often referred to as the ‘Green Heart’ of Portugal.
Wrested from the Moors in AD878 and again in 1604 by Ferdinand the Great Coimbra has a wealth of fascinating historic associations. Coimbra was settled by the Romans in approximately 100AD and was known as Civitas Aeminium. It later got its current name from the nearby Roman settlement of Conimbriga. (Conimbriga is the destination of our first walk on the itinerary)
Coimbra was the medieval capital of Portugal for over a century, from 1139 to 1256 and is home to one of the worlds oldest and most famous universities. It was first established in the thirteenth century by papal decree to teach medicine, arts and law. The university was eventually sited in the royal palace of King Joao III and today is one of Coimbra’s main tourist attractions.
The old university rests on the crown of a hill surrounded by the old town (called Cidade Alta or upper town) and overlooks the beautiful Mondego River. One of the main tourist attractions of the university is the magnificent Joanina Library. Housed in an 18th century spectacularly ornate Baroque building this part of the library contains ancient books and manuscripts dating up to 1800AD.
As well as the old university there is a huge amount to see and enjoy in Coimbra including monuments, fine old churches, museums and gardens. Down by the river is the commercial heart of the city with narrow streets, lively shops, cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
And when you are looking for a place to relax we recommend the Cafe Santa Cruz. This popular cafe offers the perfect location to sit and enjoy a cold beer in the shade whilst looking out over the busy square and beautiful 16th century Romanesque Santa Cruz Monastery.