Overview

Introduction

A two hour drive from Lisbon Airport and 35km from the beaches of Figuera da Foz, Coimbra is the capital of the Centro district, the Heart of Portugal.  It is one of the most historic and vibrant cities in the country, boasting one of the oldest and most famous universities in Europe. Founded in the 5th century AD, Coimbra, now with a population of around 100,000, was the Portuguese capital in the Middle Ages and is now the third most important city after Lisbon and Porto.

Located over a hill and bordering the Mondego River, the city was called Aeminium in Roman Times and the stunning Machado de Castro Museum, housed in the former Bishops' Palace and the second most important museum in Portugal, shows off the very well preserved cryptoporticus and a multitude of historical artefacts and religious paintings found in the city over the ages.  

In the 15th and 16th centuries Coimbra was one of the main artistic centres of Portugal as a result of local and royal patronage.  The cathedral, the  Monastery  of Santa  Clara-a-Velha, the medieval centre, the Monastery of Santa Cruz and of course the ancient university, the jewel in the crown of the city have to be visited.

The university, like the Vatican City, still has its own police force and permission has to be given for any other law enforcement body to enter the precinct.  In fact the Rector of the university is so powerful that only the King and now the President of Portugal held higher rank.  The university was founded by King Dinis 1st in 1290 but was initially transferred to Lisbon and was finally re-located to Coimbra to be housed in the Royal Palace in 1537.  Since then, the whole city revolves around the university which now has 20,000 students, 4,000 being foreign.  The students are known as bats, after the black gowns they wear.  The university buildings and the Baroque University Tower are magnificent and can be visited on a guided tour.  The 18th century Baroque Library took 10 years to build and is one of the most impressive libraries in the world.  So ancient is it and the volumes so precious that bats still live in the building in order to eat any insects that might damage the priceless volumes.  The oldest volume dates from 1523. A spectacular and fascinating city, the University has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi
Note: Map is for guidance purposes only.

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Cristiana da Silva
Cristiana da Silva

With its lush valleys, vine-clad hillsides, historical towns and a National Park, it is easy to understand what Cristiana is so passionate about northern Portugal, her ancestral home. Fluent in Portuguese and conversant in Spanish, she has been able to scratch under the surface of these countries on her travels and loves nothing more than sharing her findings with our guests. Recently Cristiana has returned from Swedish Lapland, a destination which was on her own bucket list and which did not fail to impress.

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

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  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
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