The narrow streets, alleys and steps make Coimbra’s downtown, and they make it unique and full of life. It’s here that, since the beginning of the history of the city, the trade, crafts and traditions are made.
At times, more specifically in the 12th century, downtown has even been the point of division of the city, when the nobles and the members of the clergy inhabited the high area and employees – as merchants and craftsmen – were spread over the lands near the river. Later, students also began to occupy the area next to the University and, eventually, the differences between social classes started to blur over the ages. This, also because, in the 19th century, the city begins to grow beyond the walls and, in upper part of town, the Botanical Garden and the University expands.
Church of Santa Cruz
It’s in downtown that you’ll find some of the greatest city icons like the Church of Santa Cruz, which embellishes the Praça 8 de Maio. The former monastery was founded in 1131 by the order of Cónegos Regrantes of Santo Agostinho, with the support of the kings Afonso Henriques and Sancho I. It’s in this church that these portuguese rulers are buried and, with them, part of national history. This building is today one of the main landmarks of the country, also due to its manueline style.
Old Cathedral of Coimbra
On the upper part of town, is the Sé Velha, one of the most important buildings of romanesque style still intact in Portugal. The construction of the monument, where thousands of people are concentrated during the serenades of the great student festivals, began after the battle of Ourique, which happened in 1139, when Afonso Henriques became king of Portugal and chose Coimbra as capital of the kingdom.
The river Mondego almost bathes this historical centre with its water born in Serra da Estrela, running to the sea and finding it in Figueira da Foz. This is the largest river with origin in Portugal and was even dubbed of Munda, in roman times. The old people called like that inspired by its transparency, clarity and purity.
In addition, the Mondego is the Portuguese river more sung by poets and, above all, by the traditional song of Coimbra. The first known references on the presence of the Mondego in portuguese art date back to the early 16th century, when the poets were marveled by his inspiring waters that serve as the city’s mystical mirror.
Praça da República
Another central point of Coimbra is the Praça da República, where nightlife is concentrated and where you can visit some of the most iconic places in the city, as the Jardim da Sereia. At night, the bars fill this area with academic spirit, particularly during the period of classes, and the square becomes a meeting point for students and locals. However, you can also find good bars in other areas of the city, like the area of Sé Velha.
In addition, if you decide to learn about the city’s nightlife, take the opportunity to experience some of the typical beverages of the region. In Coimbra, you can taste wines from Bairrada and from the Dão also. One of the most popular drinks in Portugal is the Licor Beirão, made in Lousã, situated near the city of Coimbra. If you’re in town, you have to taste it!