Veganderlust contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. For more info, see the Disclosure Policy.
Are you in Portugal and wondering, is Coimbra worth visiting? I’ve got you covered.
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.
I really enjoyed visiting Coimbra and I think this historic city is worth visiting for everyone who enjoys history, culture and beautiful green areas in a city.
A quick history of Coimbra
Coimbra played an important part in Portugal’s history. From 1139 to 1260 it was even the capital of Portugal.
The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, is buried in Coimbra and you can visit his tomb in Igreja de Santa Cruz.
Coimbra played also a very important role in the educational development of Portugal. The University of Coimbra was established in 1290 and is one of the oldest universities in the world.
All in all, Coimbra is a perfect place to be if you love history. You can spend more time in Coimbra or spend 3 days in Porto and do a day trip from Porto to Coimbra.
How to get to Coimbra
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 on a road trip from Lisbon to Porto.
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 different local 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.
How to get from Porto to Coimbra
You can easily get to Coimbra by public transport from Porto. The train and bus take almost the same time, about one and a half hours. The bus is usually cheaper than the train. Both options are cheaper when you book in advance.
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 bus from Coimbra to Porto cost about €6, I bought the ticket online a few hours before departure. Prices vary quite a bit depending on how many seats they have left.
How to get from Lisbon to Coimbra
It takes about 2 hours to get from Lisbon to Coimbra by both car and train. The bus from Lisbon to Coimbra is cheaper than the train.
Since the journey to Coimbra from Lisbon is quite long, I think it’s best to either take a guided tour, so you can get the most out of your time or to stay over in Coimbra.
Stop on a road trip from Lisbon to Porto
The best way to visit Coimbra is on a stop over on a road trip from Lisbon to Porto since Coimbra is almost halfway between Portugal’s biggest cities, Lisbon and Porto.
Coimbra is not the only great place between Lisbon and Porto. Other amazing destinations on the way are Obidos, Nazare, Fatima and Aveiro.
The best way to do this road trip is by hiring a car for the most flexibility or doing one epic one-way day trip from Lisbon to Porto.
The 5 best things to do in Coimbra
A city is worth visiting if there are incredible things to do. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Coimbra Portugal. Those are the reasons why I think Coimbra is worth visiting.
If you’re a more visual person, get a glimpse of what Coimbra is like in my video about this old city:
1. Admire the ancient University of Coimbra
The main thing to visit in Coimbra is the University of Coimbra, it’s one of the oldest in Europe, the oldest university in Portugal 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 of visiting the old University of Coimbra is without a doubt the beautiful Biblioteca Joanina. It’s one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen and I’ve been to my fair share of libraries.
Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside but believe me, this gorgeous baroque library is worth visiting. It makes you feel like stepping into the world of Harry Potter.
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 so I could also visit Saint Micheal’s Chapel and the viewing platform.
Saint Micheal’s Chapel
Besides the library, I also visited the very pretty Saint Micheal’s Chapel. On the walls of the chapel, you can admire the traditional blue tiles.
The chapel is the best place to find some peace and quiet since the door is closed all the time and you have to know to be let in.
Viewing platform at the bell tower
There’s also a great viewing platform at the university bell tower. From the top of the viewing platform, you have the best view of Coimbra in different directions.
You can even see the Mondego River and the modern pedestrian bridge Pedro e Inês which is another one of Coimbra’s top attractions.
2. Wander around the courtyard at Igreja de Santa Cruz
Coimbra is a city rich with history, so of course, it has many churches. The most beautiful church in Coimbra in my opinion is Igreja de Santa Cruz.
The Santa Cruz Church is located on 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 of the monastery of Santa Cruz and see the tomb of Portugal’s first king up close, you have to pay €3 for a ticket.
3. See the unique SéVelha cathedral
Coimbra’s old cathedral Sé Velha is one of the main attractions of the heart of Coimbra. It’s a Romanesque church which was built in the 12th century.
The outside of Sé Velha is very unique, unfortunately, there was construction all around the cathedral when I visited.
Seeing the SéVelha cathedral from the outside is definitely worth it. But to be completely honest, I don’t think it’s worth paying the entrance fee to see the inside.
But if you do want a look inside, the entrance fee is only €2.50.
The new cathedral in Coimbra is the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus, close to the old cathedral of Coimbra in the University complex.
4. Look at tile pictures of the main attractions and find them in real life
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.
5. Relax in one of the city’s beautiful parks
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 gardens Coimbra
Near the university is the university botanical garden Coimbra (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. Coimbra botanical garden 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).
From the bridge, you have a great view of the city of Coimbra.
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 Inês de Castro.
If you don’t care about Portugal’s star-crossed lovers, go for the gorgeous arch overgrown with plants or the chill forest vibes.
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.
Things I didn’t like in Coimbra
In Coimbra, you immediately notice when you leave the well-visited tourist area. On some smaller roads, the pavement is dissolving, the buildings look run-down and you can see ugly graffiti everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong I really appreciate well-done street art, like in Valencia, but in Coimbra, that’s rare to find, it’s mostly scribbled words.
But to be fair even though some streets look a bit sketchy I felt entirely safe as a female solo traveller.
Vegan food 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.
However, I had an amazing burrito in the cosy little all-vegan restaurant O Burrito Coimbra 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.
Best time to visit Coimbra
In the summer months, it can get really hot in Coimbra. So, I recommend visiting in spring or fall. That way you can still spend some relaxing time in the parks but it’s not too hot for sightseeing in the city.
Where to stay in Coimbra
If you decide to stay in Coimbra over night there are some great accommodation options.
I recommend the Sapientia Boutique Hotel, it’s a highly-rated hotel with beautiful interior design in a great central location.
If you prefer apartments, like I usually do, I’d recommend Sophia Studios. They have beautiful bright apartments in a central location.
FAQ about visiting Coimbra
Is it worth going to Coimbra Portugal?
To visit Coimbra is worth it if you’re interested in Portugal’s history and if you love beautiful libraries.
How much time do you need in Coimbra?
One full day in Coimbra is enough to see the main sights of the city.
Should I visit Coimbra or Aveiro?
Visit Aveiro if you want a chill day, strolling around, taking a boat ride and relaxing at the beach. Visit Coimbra if you want a full day of sightseeing.
Does Coimbra have beach?
No, Coimbra does not have a beach. It’s located in central Portugal.
Is Coimbra cheaper than Lisbon?
Yes, Coimbra is cheaper than Lisbon. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is also the country’s most expensive city.
How long is the train from Porto to Coimbra?
The fast train from Porto to Coimbra takes 1 hour and 15 minutes and the slow train takes about 2 hours.
Is one day enough for Coimbra?
Yes, one day in Coimbra is enough to see the main sights.
What is the difference between Coimbra and Coimbra-B?
The fast trains only stop in Coimbra-B which is outside the city centre, from there you can take an urban train to Coimbra.
How many days in Coimbra?
The main sights in Coimbra can be seen in one day.
Final thoughts: Is Coimbra worth visiting?
So let’s finally answer the question “Is Coimbra Portugal 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?” Tell me in the comments what you think of the city.
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.
Read more on what to do in the North of Portugal:
- Ultimate 3 Day Porto Itinerary
- Best Boat Tours in Porto
- The 5 Best Douro Valley Wine Tours
- 7 Best Day Trips from Porto by Train
- We Tried Out 11 Vegan Restaurants in Porto
- Is Aveiro Worth Visiting? A trip to Portugal’s Venice
- Is Coimbra Worth Visiting? 5 Reasons Why It Is!
- Amazing Day Trip from Porto to Guimarães
- Day Trip to Braga from Porto: Is it Worth it?
- Best Beach Near Porto
- Does it Snow in Portugal? Magical Winter in Portugal