Walking through Coimbra one is immediately struck by its medieval architecture. As a former Portuguese capital, the city is still abundant with history and tradition. The most famous attraction is the Coimbra University, which is one of the oldest in the world and now UNESCO World Heritage-listed.
Johannine Library Exterior
The historic buildings of the University are set around the main courtyard, and include a former Royal Palace, a grand 12th century Cathedral and the notable Johannine Library – known as ‘Biblioteca Joanina’ in Portuguese. Built in the Baroque style, it is adorned in ornate wood and paintings and houses important books dating back to the 16th century. Today it is very well preserved, so much so that the staff even release a colony of bats inside every night to protect the books from insects. It is fascinating and well worth the visit.
Take a short stroll on from the University, and you can pass through a 12th century archway, the ‘Arco de Almedina’, and find yourself in the heart of the old-town, which was formerly a Jewish quarter. An afternoon can easily be spent here discovering more historic cathedrals, towers, museums and even a nearby monastery.
Coimbra Old Town
The recommended way to spend an evening is to visit a Fado show. Believed to have originated from University students, and relating to students leaving to starting new lives, it is performed by men in traditional black shawls singing with guitars. The music is powerful and melancholic, and is a memorable way to end your stay in Coimbra.
See Portugal for yourself on a Bunnik small group tour!