Travelling to Coimbra
It was a grey transit day to Coimbra. We headed up into the mountains before coming back down to the sea. We opted to take the highway most of the way. The road tolls were adding up on this 4 week Portugal trip. But we avoided the small towns and delays from weather. When we saw the “fog” and “snow” signs, it was a sure sign that we were climbing high. We were happy to not be travelling in the winter.
A University Town
Hotel Oslo was located close the river and the train station. We had originally planned to travel by train. It would have been a quick transit to the hotel.
Coimbra is known for its university. The campus sat high on the hill over Coimbra. Everywhere we walked in Coimbra, the university was always visible. Narrow streets ran up to the university.
When we sat on our rooftop patio, we could look out at the university as dusk turned to night.
We arrived in Coimbra unknowingly on graduation weekend. The town was full of proud parents and grads dressed in their black gowns. This would not be the visit for us to walk around the university.
Wandering Around the Old Town
From the hotel, it was a short walk to the downtown area. Small narrow cobblestone streets led to an open court. On the last Saturday of the month there was a large flea market in the square. Every manner of used goods was on display.
In the square we found pastry shops, gelato and great seafood for lunch. There were stores selling products made of cork. It was amazing what could be made from cork. There were stores that looked like only locals might visit and a large number of souvenir shops.
There were a lot of interesting buildings to see as we walked about the old town. It was quite an eclectic mix of artistic styles. But after the artistic buildings we saw when we explored Porto, nothing quite was as grand or interesting.
We like to get different perspectives of new cities. In Lisbon, we found several way to get high for a great view. We headed high in Coimbra to get good panoramic views.
We strolled along the riverfront and got good views of Coimbra and Santa Clara on the other side of the river. From the bridge we could see the fountain and the suspension bridge in the distance. When we looked back, we could see the colourful downtown area.
We caught the artistic Hotel Astoria and the Bank of Portugal from multiple angles as we walked in town or crossed the river. The main town square provided the a green space with benches, statues and the roosting pigeons.
Dinner And A View
We had dinner one night in a small restaurant high up the narrow streets. There was a great view out over the river.
We ordered our standard dinner – octopus for me and seafood risotto for David. We were not disappointed. Dinner was delicious. I ate so much octopus in Portugal that I was concerned that I would start growing additional arms!
Old and New Churches
When we asked our hotel concierge what we should see in Coimbra, he circled a number of churches on the map. Some were old and some were new. We saw the outside of quite a few on our short stop in Coimbra. But we had seen so many awesome churches in Porto, that we really were not up to exploring more in detail in Coimbra.
There was the old gothic looking Sao Tiago Church in the main square. We went past this church several times but never did find it open. David also found a very old church decorated on the outside with amazing detailed sculptures when he went wandering one morning in search of pastries.
When we walked across the river, we could see the Rainha Santa Isabel Church high on the hill.
The Santa Clara Monastery was also across the river. This monastery was abandoned when the river encroached on it. But it has been dug out and was being restored.
Seeing the History of Portugal in Miniature
Located across the river we found Portugal do Pequenitos. We thought the concierge called this the place to see miniature statues of Portugal. But the name really means “Portugal For Little Ones”. It was designed to entertain and educate children about the history of Portuguese exploration and the cities and monuments in the country. But we found this miniature view of Portugal to be a great place to spend a few hours.
As we explored Portugal do Pequenitos, we found a section that was a miniature view of Coimbra. We quickly realized that there was so much more to see in Coimbra.
A Short Stop In Coimbra
We enjoyed our short stop in Coimbra. It was meant as a waypoint on our travel from the Douro River Valley down to Lisbon. But it was nice to walk the small streets of this town. There was great food wherever we ate. We would have liked to have wandered around the university. It is one of the main universities in Portugal and was supposed to be beautiful. I would have liked to see the library. But it was a reminder that we were often not very good at looking at what is happening in a town when we plan our itinerary.
We were off to our next stop in Obidos. We had 3 days to enjoy this walled city. David had been waiting for this visit since we arrived in Portugal. Obidos was known for the cherry liqueur Ginja served in chocolate cups. We did however miss the chocolate festival in Obidos!
Have you done a short stop in Coimbra? What did you find was your most interesting discovery?