Situated on the banks of the Mondego River, Coimbra is a university city which served as the capital of Portugal for over a century. Divided into an Upper Town and a Lower Town, the hilltop city offers plenty of historic landmarks alongside cosmopolitan bars and cafes serving its thriving student population.
Coimbra is home to a rich collection of ancient structures that are best explored on foot. The most prominent among these is the UNESCO-listed University of Coimbra, the oldest university in the country. The grand complex includes a chapel, a clock tower and an ornate baroque library, Biblioteca Joanina. A few steps away lie the 12th-century Sé Velha (Old Cathedral) built in the Romanesque style and the 17th-century Sé Nova (New Cathedral) boasting a baroque design. As you wander the old quarter, stop to admire the Igreja de Santa Cruz, a sculpture-studded monastery and church housing the tombs of Portugal’s first two kings.
When in Coimbra, make some time for the museums in town, especially the Machado de Castro National Museum, built where the Roman Forum once stood. When travelling with kids, check out Portugal dos Pequenitos – an amusement park featuring a miniature Portuguese village and a Barbie museum. If you’re after a relaxing afternoon, you can head to one of the city’s tranquil green spaces replete with fountains and foliage, such as the 18th-century Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra or the Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas steeped in ancient legend.