Are you looking for the absolute best list of things to do in Coimbra, Portugal? We have the ultimate Coimbra Portugal Guide for you, including the best Coimbra hotels and our favorite Coimbra restaurants!

things to do in coimbra portugal

Coimbra, the fourth-largest city in Portugal, is a stunning destination rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. The town is known for the world’s oldest universities, which dates back to the 13th century, and where JK Rowling may have had the inspiration for the black capes worn by students of Hogwarts. With many historical landmarks, picturesque parks and gardens, and an exciting nightlife scene, you’ll find plenty to see and do in Coimbra.

We stayed 3 nights in Coimbra during our 3-week Portugal Vacation! Here are the top attractions we recommend.

Best Things To Do in Coimbra, Portugal

1. Guided Walking Tour of Coimbra

A guided walking tour of Coimbra is an excellent way to explore the city’s history, architecture, and culture. With a knowledgeable guide leading the way, you’ll discover hidden gems and learn fascinating facts about the city’s past and present.

Most of the walking tours cover the highlights of Coimbra including Coimbra University, the Old Town of Coimbra, and the Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha.

Book: Coimbra Walking Tour!

walking tour of Coimbra located in central portugal
visiting Coimbra in central portugal -image of santa clara a nova

Recommended Coimbra Walking Tours:

2. Visit Coimbra University

Coimbra University, founded in 1290, is one of the oldest universities in the world. The university was initially established in Lisbon but moved to Coimbra in 1537, where it has remained ever since.

One unique feature of the university is the black cloaks that freshmen wear, which are said to have inspired the robes worn by characters in the Harry Potter series! We all agreed that taking a tour of the University was one of the best things to do in Coimbra!

Tip: Ask for photo permission from cloaked University students before taking photos of them.

photograph of the paço das escolas courtyard located at the oldest university in europe, also a world heritage site
one of the most famous bell towers in Coimbra portugal - University of Coimbra Portugal

Here is your link to book the Coimbra University tour (highly recommend).

The tour will guide you through The university’s major highlights, including the paço das escolas courtyard, Royal Palace, Chapel of St. Michael, Joanina Library, and the Academic Prison.

Book: The best University Tour!

photograph of the paço das escolas courtyard located at the oldest university in europe, a world heritage site
central portugal - girl in black cloak next to dilapidated bell tower

3. Joanina Library

Unsurprisingly, the Joanina Library is at the top of most travelers’ top things to do in the Coimbra list. The Joanina Library, located within the old University of Coimbra, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world! Built-in the 18th century, the Coimbra University library’s stunning baroque architecture will take your breath away.

To preserve the books, the Joanina Library will limit light exposure by only allowing 60 people inside the building every 20 minutes. You should book your tickets in advance and be mindful of your assigned admission time, as entrance times are strictly enforced.

Staying the night? Top Coimbra Hotels & Guest Houses

Ticket Options

  • (Recommended) Guided tour (& skip the line tickets) of the University of Coimbra Walking Tour with Joao!
  • Tickets to the University, the Joanina Library (self-guided) can be purchased here for ~17€.
Visit coimbra to see this stunning baroque library with bats!
need tickets to World heritage site in the old town of coimbra Portugal

Fun fact: The Joanina Library in Coimbra is known for its resident bat population. Yes, BATS! Bats have been home in the library’s ceilings for centuries and are considered an important part of the library’s ecosystem. These bats are known to come out at night and feed on flies and other insects that can damage books, thus helping to keep the library’s collection safe.

Also Read: Drink Port Wine in Porto! (The Ultimate Guide)

4. Stroll Rua Ferriera Borges

Rua Ferreira Borges is a charming street in the heart of Coimbra, Portugal. The pedestrian-only street is a popular destination for visitors to the city due to its vibrant atmosphere and historic architecture.

Staying the night? Check out our amazing Penthouse Airbnb located at the center of Rua Ferriera Borges!

beautiful buildings and shopping along the Rua Ferriera Borges main street
pink building and Narrow Streets that branch off the Old town of Coimbra

One of our favorite things to do in Coimbra is spend an afternoon or evening walking down the Rua Ferreira Borges, admiring the colorful buildings and storefronts that line the street. We loved the nightlife in this area!

Bars and Restaurants stay open late into the night. If you are lucky, you may even stumble upon a free Fado Show in the evening.

Book Car:  Portugal Car Rental 

5. Jardim Botanico

The Jardim Botanico at Coimbra University is a beautiful botanical garden founded in 1772 by the Marquis of Pombal and was initially used for teaching botany to medical students. Today, the botanical gardens cover an area of about 32 acres and house over 1200 plant species from around the world.

Although we only had 30 minutes to explore the botanical gardens, it’s evident that this free attraction could keep visitors occupied for hours!

botanical gardens in Coimbra that has long Portuguese history with the old university of Coimbra

The Jardim Botanico of Coimbra (botanical garden) is divided into two distinct areas: the Forest and the Classic Garden.

What to visit in the Forest section of Jardim Botanica of Coimbra?

The Forest, with about 19 acres, connects the Alta to the Baixa of the city and contains century-old exotic trees and free-growing vegetation.

  • Cold Oven: plants in humid and dark environments next to a wall waterfall that runs through the greenhouse.
  • Bamboo Grove
  • Chapel of São Bento

Read: The Cutest Fairytown Village of Portugal

baroque and neoclassical styles at the Main Gate of the botanical gardens in Coimbra Portugal
botanical gardens at the ancient university of coimbra portugal

What should you visit in the Classic Garden section of Jardim Botanica of Coimbra?

  • Main Gate: (image above ^) Wrought Iron Gate at the main entrance. Completed in 1839 by the master locksmith Manuel Bernardes Galinha
  • Statue to Brotero: fine sculptures that honor Felix de Avelar Brotero (also considered the Father of Botany in Portugal)
  • Upper Terrace: centuries-old eucalyptus trees
  • Julio Henriques Terrace and Statue: A recent storm knocked most trees down. New planting is underway in this area
  • Tropical Greenhouse- 3 rooms with different environments
  • Fig Tree Garden
  • Central Square and Fountain
  • Garden of Camellias- beautiful white, pink, or red flower garden

6. Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha

One of Coimbra’s famous landmarks, the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, is a quick walk from the city center. This magnificent Gothic-style monastery dates back to the 14th century.

The monastery was abandoned for centuries after flooding from the Mondego River caused significant damage in the 17th century. The monastery was eventually restored and reopened to the public in 2010.

Visitors can now explore the monastery’s many highlights, including the beautiful cloisters, the chapter house, and the chapel.

Image of the Santa clara monastery. We were visiting The Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha in the old city with gothic ruins

Book: #1 Coimbra Tour

7. Coimbra Old Cathedral

The Coimbra Old Cathedral, also known as the Se Velha de Coimbra, is one of the city’s most impressive monuments and has become a popular tourist attraction.

The name “Se Velha” translates to Old Cathedral. The old cathedral dates back to the 12th century and is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture.

Old Cathedral with Romanesque architecture
cloisters Old Cathedral with Romanesque architecture

The town’s “new cathedral” was built in the 18th century.

Don’t Miss: Top Things To Do in Porto

8. Listen To Coimbra Fado

Coimbra Fado is one of the top things to do in Coimbra, Portugal. Original Fado (from Lisbon) is classified as a traditional Portuguese music genre that is known for its melancholic melodies and soulful lyrics.

listen to Fado one of the top things to do in the coimbra portugal
Jordyn and Michael sitting on steps as University students host music concerts to share Fado throughout the charming town of Coimbra

Coimbra, however, is famous for its own unique style of Fado, which is sung by male University Students (wearing their black cloaks) and is characterized by the use of instrumentals like the Portuguese guitar.

Many bars and restaurants in Coimbra offer live Fado performances. The Fado Al Centro the most popular Coimbra Fado.

At the time of writing this article, Fado Al Centro and Port Tasting tickets can be purchased for $15.

9. Igreja de Santa Cruz (also known as the Monastery of the Holy Cross)

The Santa Cruz Church is another impressive monument in Coimbra. The monastery dates back to the 12th century and houses the tombs of the first two kings of Portugal- Alfonso Henriques and Sancho the I.

Visitors to the Santa Cruz church can explore its many highlights, including the ornate Baroque-style façade, the beautiful cloisters, and the stunning altar.

Baroque style Santa Cruz church painted alter
incredible harp and azulejos inside the Santa Cruz Church with stunning baroque style design

One of our favorite features inside the Santa Cruz church is its azulejos walls. During winter storms, the Mondego River often flooded the church, causing damage to many of its paintings. To hide these damaged paintings, the walls were covered with beautiful azulejos.

Fun Fact: The alters inside the Church of Santa Cruz look like they are made of marble, but these columns are actually made of wood and are painted to look like marble!

10. Jardim da Manga (Garden of the Sleeve)

The Jardim da Manga, or the Garden of the Sleeve, is located behind the Santa Cruz Monastery. Our tour guide says it’s believed that King John III of Portugal created the design for the Jardim da Manga by drawing it on his sleeve, hence the name The Garden of the Sleeve.

picture of one of coimbra portgual's top tourist attractions - the Garden of the sleeve

The yellow structure consists of a central dome with 8 columns and a fountain that then connects to 4 small chapels surrounded by 4 bodies of water. The water was inspired by Arabic architecture.

11. Day Trip to Aveiro, Portugal

A day trip from Coimbra to Aveiro is a great way to explore more of Portugal’s charming towns. Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is famous for its picturesque canals, colorful boats, and charming old town.

Tickets: Aveiro Tour with Katerina! Walking Tour Beira Mar & Canal Boat Cruise (bundled)

day trip to aveiro Portugal boat ride
strolling narrow streets on our day trip to aveiro Portugal
day trip to aveiro Portugal man in front of art deco building

While in Aveiro, you can take a 45 minute ride on a traditional barcos moliceiro boat, uniquely painted in bright colors depicting scenes from the town’s history.

How to Visit Coimbra

Getting There

Most international visitors will fly into either Porto or Lisbon international airports. From there, you can visit Coimbra by renting a car, or booking a train, bus, or private transfer.

We have outlined Coimbra transportation options below.

We flew into Lisbon and rented a car. Follow along with our 3-Week-Portugal Vacation.

Coimbra by Car (driving times)

  • Lisbon to Coimbra by car in about 2 hours (~126 miles or 204 kilometers)
  • Porto to Coimbra by car in 1 hour and 15 minutes (~75 miles or 121 kilometers)
  • If you are following along our 3-week Portugal Road Trip– you will be driving from Nazare to Coimbra (~67 miles or 108 kilometers)

Book Car:  Portugal Car Rental 

picture of our luggage we had to walk with because the charming city of coimbra portugal has streets many streets with no cars
things to do in coimbra portugal - drink wine from rooftop terrace

Porto by Train

You can book train tickets from Lisbon or Porto to arrive at Coimbra Train Station. We recommend using Omio to book your train tickets ahead of time. Tickets range from 10-20 Euro each way.

Note: You can upgrade to first-class train seating for around 7 Euros.

Train rides from Lisbon to Coimbra take around 2 hours, while trains from Porto to Coimbra take around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

There are 2 train stations in Coimbra: Coimbra B and Coimbra.

  • Coimbra (Estação Nova or New Station)is the city center station. This station is located along the Mondego River and is walkable to all major city attractions.
  • Coimbra B (also known as Estação Velha or Old Station) is the main station where trains from Lisbon and Porto stop. It’s a little over a mile from the center and major Coimbra attractions. You can catch an Uber or bus from this station to the town center.

Train: Purchase tickets on  Omio!

How to book a Coimbra Train Ticket :

OMIO is the easiest way to book transportation to the Coimbra Train Station. We recommend a ticket with a transfer included. When you search Omio, you’ll find multiple Coimbra options.

Tip: Locate the ticket option that lists ‘Coimbra’ (not Coimbra B or Bencanta Halt) as your final stop. The ticket booking option will look similar to this:

train from Porto to Coimbra train map option

Purchase: Train tickets to Coimbra on Omio!

Coimbra by Bus

  • The bus trip from Porto to Coimbra takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, and the price ranges between €8 €13 each way.
  • The bus from Lisbon to Coimbra takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and the price ranges between €10 and €15 each way.

Getting Around Coimbra, Portugal

The historical center is small, and most of the top things to do in Coimbra are within walking distance. Like Lisbon and Porto, the town has quite a few hills, so be prepared (with comfortable walking shoes) for some uphill and downhill climbing.

We opted for a guided walking tour of Coimbra.

Top Rated Coimbra Portugal Tours:

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Where to Stay in Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra offers a range of accommodations for visitors, including hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and apartments. We recommend staying in the Baixa, Coimbra’s downtown district.

The area’s main street, Rua Ferreira Borges, is a pedestrian-only street lined with cafes, bars, shops, and lively nighttime entertainment.

On our last visit to Coimbra, we had the pleasure of booking this 3-bedroom Penthouse! One of the highlights of our experience was enjoying Portuguese wine while taking in the absolutely stunning views of Coimbra’s main street, Rua Ferreira Borges, and the Mondego River from the comfort of our balcony. We highly recommend it!

Be aware: Cars can not come down Rua Ferreira Borges. If you plan on driving to Coimbra, you must find a hotel with dedicated parking or use a public car park. We parked in this lot, which was an 8-minute walk from our downtown accommodations. Most parking lots in Coimbra do not take credit cards, and very few take larger bills. Be sure to have a small coin Eruo for payment.

Our airbnb in the old capital city in central portugal - Coimbra, Portugal hotel options

Best Airbnbs & Hotels Coimbra:

Our airbnb in the old capital city in central portugal - Coimbra, Portugal hotel options
City center penthouse called the Unesco World Heritage Site Penthouse

Eating and Drinking in Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra has a vibrant culinary scene that offers a range of delicious traditional dishes, including grilled sardines, Leitão (roasted suckling pig), arroz de marisco (seafood rice), and Santa Clara pastries.

discovered coimbra best restaruant, the Boutique Tapas
dinner in the charming town of coimbra

Top Coimbra Portugal Restaurants:

The best restaurant in Coimbra is Boutique Tapas and Petiscos! It’s a very small restaurant, so we highly recommend you make reservations.

We were completely blown away by the exceptional experience set up by the owner, Daniella. Every aspect, from the ambiance and decor to the quality of service and food, was flawless. The restaurant’s charming location along the narrow streets added to its appeal.

We chose to sit outside and indulge in some of the best dishes, including mushroom asparagus risotto, pumpkin and chicken risotto, and pica pau. To top it all off, we enjoyed a variety of port wines that perfectly complemented our meal.

Famous Coimbra Portugal Nata pastries, often found in Portuguese capital
best things to do in coimbra is try the Famous Coimbra Portugal pastries

Check out this Duoro Port Wine Tasting Tour!

Coimbra FAQs

Is Coimbra worth visiting?

It is absolutely worth a visit to Coimbra, Portugal. The city has a rich history and culture reflected in its stunning architecture, museums, and monuments. Be sure to visit Coimbra University, Santa Clara a Velha, Santa Clara A nova, the university botanical garden, and the many lively shops and delicious local cuisine that branch off from the Mondego River.

Also Read: Our Top Portugal Planning Guide

visit coimbra to see this ancient university

Is one day in Coimbra enough?

While it is possible to see most of Coimbra’s tourist attractions in a day, we highly recommend spending at least one night in the city to fully immerse yourself in its unique culture and atmosphere.

Coimbra has a lot to offer, including its world-renowned university, historic landmarks, and vibrant nightlife, and it would be a shame to rush through it all in just one day. Therefore, we recommend taking the time to explore the city and truly experience everything that Coimbra offers.

If you only have a day to spare, check out this day trip to Coimbra: Fatima and Coimbra Day Trip From Porto.

What is Coimbra known for?

Coimbra is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, with plenty of things to do and see. One of its most famous landmarks is Coimbra University, one of the oldest universities in Europe with a lovely baroque facade that is definitely worth visiting. Coimbra is also known for its unique fado style, which is often performed in the city’s numerous bars and cafes by male students in black capes.

one of Europe's most beautiful cities - Coimbra, Portugal
walking tour top rated things to do in coimbra portugal

This post is all about the best things to do in Coimbra, Portugal.

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