View of Coimbra; is Coimbra worth visiting?

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting?

The first time I heard about Coimbra was when I got a board game with the same name. This deck-building game with its many scholarly characters is based on the UNESCO world heritage university city of Coimbra in Portugal. At the time it didn’t even occur to me to look more into the city. When I spent some time in Porto however and realised Coimbra is so close, I knew I had to do a day trip from Porto to Coimbra. In this article, I’m gonna try to answer the question: Is Coimbra worth visiting?

Considering its rich history, it’s quite surprising that it’s not more well-known. It was even the capital of Portugal once, from 1139 to 1260. Also, the first king of Portugal, Alfonso Henriques, is buried there. Coimbra is a great day trip when you’re 3 days in Porto and you love history.

I did a day trip to Coimbra from Porto. It’s also possible to do a day trip to Coimbra from Lisbon. Coimbra is about halfway in-between the two biggest cities in Portugal, which means it’s a great stop in-between.

Instead of giving you another itinerary, I’ll give you some options of what to see, sorted by category. And, of course, I’ll include my favourite of each category. I also made a short YouTube video about my day trip to Coimbra.

Getting there

You can easily get to Coimbra by public transport from Porto. The train and bus take almost the same time, the bus is usually cheaper than the train though. Both options are cheaper when you book in advance (depending on how much in advance you book).

I did a day trip to Coimbra from Porto. There the train and bus both set off from Campanhã station.
I took the train on the way there and the bus on the way back. My trip was kinda spontaneous so I got the tickets on the same day. That’s why I ended up in first class since that was the only ticket available (€23 one way, 2nd class would have been €17).
The Flixbus back cost €6, I bought the ticket online a few hours before departure. Prices vary quite a bit depending on how many seats they have left.

Is Coimbra worth visiting? View of Coimbra
View of Coimbra

An important thing to know is that the train and bus stops in Coimbra are outside of the city centre. It’s about a 20 min walk into the city or you can take a train. There’s not really anything interesting to see on the way, so you might as well take a train and rest your legs a bit, you’re gonna do enough walking later on. I walked both ways and my legs were killing me by the evening (about 30k steps! ).


The main thing to visit in Coimbra is the university, it’s one of the oldest in Europe and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a lot of different university buildings. Some departments, like medicine, for example, are housed in magnificent buildings. Other departments must have drawn the short straw and are in not-so-beautiful buildings (at least from the outside, I didn’t have a look inside).

The highlight is definitely the baroque Joanina Library.  
So if you like libraries, you should definitely answer the question “Is Coimbra worth visiting?” with yes! Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside but believe me, this gorgeous baroque library is one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever visited. Beware that you need to buy a time-slot ticket at the ticket office which is a short walk away or you can get it online. I got the combo ticket. Besides the library, I also could visit a very pretty Saint Micheal’s Chapel and a viewing platform. But like I said the star of the show is the library. So if you’re a big fan of old libraries, Joanina Library alone might be worth visiting Coimbra.


Coimbra has many parks, and most of them are free to enter. It was a positive surprise to find so much green area in the city. So if you like parks on your city trips the answer to the question “Is Coimbra worth visiting?” is yes. I visited the most recommended ones and listed them here with a short description.

Botanical garden

Near the university is the university botanical garden (Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra), it’s free to enter and definitely worth it. I loved that massive tree in front of the glasshouse and the beautiful fountain in the middle of the garden. There are also many benches where you can take a break from walking around. This is definitely my favourite park in Coimbra, although there are some other great ones.

Parks around the pedestrian bridge Pedro e Inês

Another nice green area is next to the river near the pedestrian bridge. On the side of the city centre, it’s nice to walk or relax under the trees. The opposite side is for more active people, you can see a lot of people swimming, stand-up paddling and so on (at least in summer). A bonus if you go is the amazing view of the city from the bridge.

Pedestrian bridge Pedro e Inês

Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas

The third park I want to mention is the Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas, a kind of forest on the property of a golf club. You have to pay a few euros for entry and get to see the Fountain of Love and the Fountain of Tears, where you can read up on the tragic love story of Prince Pedro and the lady in waiting Ines. If you don’t care about Portugal’s star-crossed lovers, go for the gorgeous arch overgrown with plants or the chill forest vibes.

Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas

Choupal National Forest

The last park on my list is the national forest Choupal close to the train station. Even though it’s considered a tourist attraction I think it’s not worth going there if you’re just doing a day trip to Coimbra. If you got more time on your hand and you’re looking for a nice walking spot in nature, then you should definitely go there though.

Cathedrals / Churches

Coimbra is a City rich with history, so of course, it has many churches. My favourite is definitely Igreja de Santa Cruz. It’s located at a busy square and as soon as you enter the church you’re surrounded by quiet. So you can calmly take in the amazing blue tiles on the wall, which are traditionally Portuguese. If you want to enjoy a walk through the inner courtyard and see the tomb of Portugal’s first king up close, you have to pay €3 for a ticket.

I personally preferred the Igreja de Santa Cruz to the more famous old cathedral SéVelha. Don’t get me wrong you should definitely go and admire the outside of the old cathedral. The outside is very unique, the inside however is not in my opinion. Maybe that’s just because in general I prefer gothic churches to romanesque ones. I know Santa Cruz is not Gothic either, but there you have the cool blue tiles. The entrance fee to see SéVelha from the inside and the courtyard is €2.50.


Walking around

When walking the streets of Coimbra you definitely notice if you’re at a well-visited tourist area or if you wandered a bit further. On some smaller roads, the pavement is dissolving and you can see graffiti everywhere. Don’t get me wrong I really appreciate well-done street art, but in Coimbra, that’s rare to find, it’s mostly scribbled words. But even though some streets look a bit sketchy I felt entirely safe as a female solo traveller.

Like in every city it’s still great just to wander around and get a feeling for the city. By chance I found those gorgeous tile pictures of the main sights in Coimbra across the road from the Mercado Municipal D. Pedro V. Unfortunately I only found them just before I was leaving again. I imagine it would be very interesting to go there first and then try to look for the places in real life.

Tile pictures of the main sights in Coimbra


When you’re spoiled with the many vegan restaurants in Porto, you might be a bit disappointed with the limited options in Coimbra. I had an amazing burrito though in the cosy little all-vegan restaurant O Burrito which I can definitely recommend. Since it was a very hot day when I visited I tried a cold burrito, well, I realised I prefer warm ones. It was still very good though.

Make sure you eat either early or late since a lot of places are closed in the afternoon.

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting?

So let’s finally answer the question “Is Coimbra worth visiting?”. With its rich history Coimbra has a lot to offer, a stunning baroque library, impressive churches and beautiful parks. When I was there I felt compelled to look up some of the country’s history, since it’s so intertwined with this city. So if you’re a bit of a history (or board game) geek Coimbra is definitely worth visiting. Even if you’re not you might enjoy the friendly vibe of the city.

Have you been to Coimbra? What do you think: “Is Coimbra worth visiting?”

Spending one night would definitely lead to a more relaxed time since there is quite a lot to see but a day trip works fine as well. I did a day trip from Porto and I think I managed to see everything I wanted.

If a day trip to Coimbra doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, maybe one of these day trips from Porto is more your league.


  1. I loved Coimbra when we visited earlier this year. We drawn to it by the old library in the university. So much history in one place, you can practically smell it!
    Thanks for reminding me of such a special place.

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