Coimbra is a city and a municipality in Portugal. The population at the 2011 census was 143,397, in an area of 319.40 square kilometres (123.3 sq mi). The third-largest urban centre in Portugal (after Lisbon and Porto), it is the largest city of the district of Coimbra, the Centro region and the Baixo Mondego subregion. About 460,000 people live in the Regiao de Coimbra, comprising 19 municipalities and extending into an area 4,336 square kilometres (1,674 sq mi).
Among the many archaeological structures dating back to the Roman era, when Coimbra was the settlement of Aeminium, are its well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus. Similarly, buildings from the period when Coimbra was the capital of Portugal (from 1131 to 1255) still remain. During the Late Middle Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre. This was in large part helped by the establishment the University of Coimbra in 1290, the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world. Apart from attracting many European and international students, the university is visited by many tourists for its monuments and history. Its historical buildings were classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013: “Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.
Student festivals : Coimbra is also known for its university students’ festivals. Two are held every year. The first one, Latada or Festa das Latas (“The Tin Can Parade”) is a homecoming parade that occurs at the beginning of the academic year, and is a welcome to the new university students (Caloiros).
The Festa das Latas goes back to the 19th century when the Coimbra students felt the need to express their joy at finishing the school year in as loud a way as possible, using everything at their disposal that would make noise, namely tin cans. The highlight of this festival, which now takes place at the beginning of the academic year (November) is the special parade known as the Latada. After marching through the streets of the city the new students are “baptized” in the Mondego River thus entering into the Coimbra academic fraternity. The students from the penultimate year, normally the 3rd year’s students, are awarded their Grelos (a small ribbon). The Grelo is a small, woollen ribbon with the color(s) of the student’s faculty that is attached to a student’s briefcase. Previous to this, at the morning the students must have visited the Dom Pedro V market where they must get a turnip to sustain the Caloiros during the day’s festivities. Besides the tin cans they have tied to their legs, the new students wear all kinds of costumes made up according to the creativity and imagination of their godmothers or godfathers who are older students. They also carry placards with ironic criticisms alluding to certain teachers, the educational system, national events and leaders.
Undergraduate Medicine students participating in Coimbra’s Queima das Fitas parade
The second one, Queima das Fitas (“The Burning of the Ribbons”), takes place at the end of the second semester (usually in the beginning of May) and it is one of the biggest student parties in all Europe. It lasts for 8 days, one for each University of Coimbra’s Faculty: Letras (Humanities), Direito (Law), Medicina (Medicine), Ciencias e Tecnologia (Sciences and Technology), Farmacia (Pharmacy), Economia (Economics), Psicologia e Ciencias da Educacao (Psychology and Education Sciences) and Ciencias do Desporto e Educacao Fisica (Sports Sciences and Physical Education).
Although being University of Coimbra’s festivals, other higher education students of Coimbra such as the polytechnic’s students or private institution’s students, are invited every year by the University of Coimbra students who manage and organise this events, to participate in the Tin Can Parade and also in the Burning of the Ribbons. The academic festivities are opened to the entire city community and attract a large number of national and international tourists as well.
Music acts : Coimbra has a lively music scene that caters for most tastes with lots of festivals and events beyond the academic festivals and the traditional Coimbra fado genre. It boasts several live music venues, and some of the most popular club nights and music festivals in Portugal. Moreover, the Conservatorio de Musica de Coimbra, the music-related departments of the Associacao Academica de Coimbra and the music programmes of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Coimbra are regularly cited among the top music schools in the country. Modern bands and artists with some degree of recognition in the Portuguese music scene include Andre Sardet, Bunnyranch, WrayGunn and JP Simoes.
Parks and gardens : Coimbra has many attractive and pleasant green spaces such as parks, playgrounds, gardens and forests. The most famous park in the city is probably the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra, the fifth oldest in the world. The Portugal dos Pequenitos park is an educational theme park built during the Estado Novo. Its buildings are scale copies of Portuguese architectural landmarks and were completed in the 1950s. The city’s green areas also include the Mata Nacional do Choupal, the Mata Nacional de Vale de Canas, Jardim da Sereia (also known as Jardim de Santa Cruz), Penedo da Saudade, Parque Manuel Braga, Parque Verde do Mondego and Choupalinho. Quinta das Lagrimas, a 19th-century palace and estate, which was transformed into a hotel and golf resort, contains also a large park. Also noteworthy is the Paul de Arzila, a natural reserve occupying an area in Coimbra municipality (in Arzila), and in the neighbouring municipalities of Condeixa-a-Nova and Montemor-o-Velho.
Not far away from the urban center, close to the city itself, and fully set in the municipality of Coimbra, there are plenty of mountain and river landscapes. These include the river beach of Palheiros do Zorro in the parish of Torres do Mondego.
Accommodation : There is a wide variety of accommodation available, ranging from the camping-park or one of the many inexpensive hostels to the charming downtown hotels and international chain hotels.
Main attractions : Old library (Biblioteca Joanina) of the University of Coimbra
Secular monuments , 1 University of Coimbra. On the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2013 – the famous old library shuts at 7PM.
Medieval Downtown (Sao Tiago, Sao Bartolomeu). 2 Quinta das Lagrimas. and its tragic story of love Quinta das Lagrimas on Quinta das Lagrimas 3 Eurostadium Cidade de Coimbra. one of the Euro 2004 stages Estadio Cidade de Coimbra Religious monuments , Old Cathedral , 4 Old Cathedral (Se Velha). Old Cathedral of Coimbra 6 Igreja de Santa Cruz. church in Baixa Monastery of Santa Cruz (Coimbra) 7 Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha o 8 Sta. Clara-a-Nova Convent. Sister Lucia of Jesus Memorial.
Parks and gardens : Botanical garden of the university of Coimbra
9 Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico da Universidade de Coimbra). Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra on Wikipedia Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra
10 Parque Manuel Braga. 11 Parque Verde do Mondego. City park by the Mondego River
Jardim da Sereia (Mermaid’s Garden aka Jardim de Santa Cruz). 12 Penedo da Saudade.
Museums 13 Machado de Castro National Museum. 14 Museum of Science. Museum of the University of Coimbra 15 Portugal dos Pequenitos (Portugal of the little ones).
Go next :