GUEST ARTICLE: The 700 year old city of Coimbra lies smack bang in the middle of the popular tourist hotspots of Lisboa and Porto, inviting travelers to revel in its epic monuments and taste sensations, beating to a chilled student vibe.
Feel the Pulse of the City
Pull up a chair at a café and indulge in a national ritual. Sip a fresh cup of coffee (Café/Bica in Portuguese) with a Portuguese tart (Pastéis de Nata) and soak up the stream of students flowing out of the university and channeling through the pastel coloured buildings in the city’s commercial heart, Praca do Commercio. When you get restless, wander through the narrow lanes branching off the square and discover unique little eateries and small businesses.
Historic Architecture, Youthful Vibe
Step back in time and discover the rich architecture and history of one of the world’s oldest universities, the 13th century University of Coimbra.
Buy a ticket to explore beyond the Palace Gate and Royal Palace courtyard to uncover the opulent 18th century Baroque library, the Biblioteca Joanina, Saint Michael’s Chapel and the Panoramic Balcony overlooking the red rooftops.
Catch the cosmopolitan student scene spilling out of the campus and pulsating energy into the many parks, bars and eateries lining the River Mondego as the sun goes down.
Portuguese Tapas with a Twist
Fangas Mercearia & Bar is not your typical Mercearia (grocery store). If you want to deepen your understanding of regional wines while sampling an array of fresh and distinctly flavoured snacks, stroll down the hill at the back of the university and snuggle into this warm and cozy Portuguese tapas bar. The owner and staff are very welcoming and are happy to explain the menu options.
Located 2 minutes from the buzzing student social hub of Praça da República, Grande Hostel de Coimbra offers the weary traveler a budget bed, a DIY breakfast in the guest kitchen and terrace lookouts. There’s also a comfy lounge room stocked with books, including travel guides to help you plan the rest of your passage around Portugal.
Praça da República is surrounded by pizza, burger and takeaway joints catering for the student crowd, so a step into a slightly more authentic Italian restaurant that offers more than just pizza, pizza and more pizza is a welcome change. Despite having a name that sounds like Pizza, Piazza has pizzas, pastas, risotto and gelati at reasonable prices.
Velvety Coffee and Heavenly Cakes
The Cafeteria do Museu is a real all-round gem hidden behind the University’s Laboratorio Chimico. The coffee is rich and intense, hot chocolate, thick and creamy and the cakes, melt-in-your-mouth moist. If you’re around for lunch tuck into one of their mains like pasta – you can’t go wrong. Service is friendly and attentive and the atmosphere has a casual student vibe.
Coimbra is easily accessible on Comboios de Portugal’s national railway network.
This article has been written by Pranav Bhatt. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University. He has an interest in world travel, cricket, politics, technology and the media. To view more of Pranav’s photos from around the world visit his Flickr PhotoStream.