The "Cidade dos Estudantes" (City of Students)
Coimbra, known as the "City of Students", is a World Heritage city located in the centre of Portugal, about 2 hours away from Lisbon and 1 hour from Porto. The city has a good transport facility which provides easy access to airports and beaches, for instance, Figueira da Foz and Aveiro.
The city has an extraordinary History with several important archaeological remains, Fado and other important stories such as Pedro and Inês and their forbidden love affair. With an exciting nightlife, the daily life is marked by students with their so-called "Harry Potter capes", coming and going back from their lectures, stopping on the way to chat with friends, gossiping and discussing University issues in some of the Praça da República or Sé Velha pubs.
Coimbra is divided into two main areas:
• Alta (uptown): is the older part which consists of steep narrow cobbled streets, where the Repúblicas (typical communal student housing) are to be found, as well as some of the city’s most important monuments: Sé Velha, Sé Nova and the University of Coimbra.
• Baixa (downtown): where most of the city’s traditional commercial activity is concentrated. It is well known for its small and labyrinthic streets filled with old houses. By the Mondego River, the Monastery of Santa Cruz and several medieval churches can easily be found.
TOP 5 Coimbra Attractions
1. The University of Coimbra and Paço das Escolas
Founded in 1290, the building is home to Biblioteca Joanina, the famous University library which is richly decorated with exotic wood in green, red and gold. The library now operates as a museum with an amazing collection of about 300,000 volumes. It was recently named as UNESCO World Heritage. The tour around Paço das Escolas is free for University of Coimbra students.
2. Botanical Garden
Created by the Marquês of Pombal, Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico) is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Portugal, covering an area of up to 13 acres.
3. Machado de Castro Museum
It is one of the most important art museums in Portugal, containing Roman material from excavations, medieval sarcophaguses, Romanesque and Gothic sculpture in stone and wood, goldsmith’s work, furniture, tapestries, porcelain and paintings.
4. Sé Velha (Coimbra Old Cathedral)
The Cathedral dates back from the reign of King Afonso Henriques and is based on Romanesque style, which was popular at that period in Coimbra. It is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Portugal.
5. Convento de Santa Clara a Velha
Located on the left bank of Mondego River, it is a beautiful representation of the Gothic style in Portugal.
Universities in Coimbra
The University of Coimbra is a public university and its origins date back to the XIII century (as it was founded in 1290 by the Portuguese King Dinis I). Nowadays, it has students from 70 different nationalities; almost 10% of the students are foreigners, which makes it the most international university in Portugal. The University of Coimbra holds great historical meaning in the Portuguese speaking world as well as in Europe’s higher education system, being part of UNESCO World Heritage. The University of Coimbra consists of 3 campuses, called “Polos”.
Besides the University of Coimbra, there are private universities such as Miguel Torga and Vasco da Gama, and the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra, composed by 6 schools.
Traditional University Parties
Queima das Fitas
“Queima das Fitas” of Coimbra is classified as the largest and oldest academic festival in Portugal. It involves not only the entire student community of Coimbra, but also countless people around the country who join in this extraordinary party. It has many attractions and people come for either the concerts, sports and cultural activities surrounding the event or for all the traditional and mystique parades it proudly holds. It is relevant to mention that “Queima das Fitas” is an event with a national and international context in which all the activities take place in a consecutive period of four months. Queima das Fitas lasts one week, usually the first of May, and has in "Serenata" (Thursday) and "Cortejo" (Sunday) its highest moments. The legend says that Queima das Fitas is the second place where more beer is consumed, right after the Oktoberfest in Germany.
Festa das Latas e Imposição das Insígnias (Latada)
Festa das Latas e Imposição das Insígnias, commonly known as "Latada" occurs in the beginning of the academic year and celebrates the arrival of the new university students (called "caloiros", which means "freshmen"). The highlight of Latada is the parade where the students use any object available that produces noise, especially cans, and wear outfits according to their fantasies, carrying banners with critical messages, depicting the life which circles the school and/or national level without excluding international issues as well. By the end of the parade day, the freshmen go to the Mondego River for the "baptism", which means that they're finally joining the fraternity of the University of Coimbra.