General Information: The city of Coimbra is roughly halfway from Porto to Lisbon. It’s actually closer to Porto. It’s a university city and has around 150,000 inhabitants. In other words, it’s not a big city and you can see everything you want by walking. Ok, there may be some hills so you kind of need to be in shape for Coimbra but it’s a good training.
How to get there?
I went by train, it’s not such a long trip and it’s very beautiful to see the landscapes. Of course, back it was longer because the train was slower and we stopped in all the small towns, even had a time for some coffee in Aveiro.
Where to eat?
The showcases of so many restaurants, cafes and bakeries invite you to enter. I loved the food, it doesn’t matter where you eat, whether sweet or salty, everything is delicious.
1) The University of Coimbra: it’s the oldest in Portugal and among the oldest in all Europe. In addition to the quality of its study programs, it’s famous for the peculiar clothing of its students, the same that inspired the famous British author J.K. Rowling for the official costumes of Hogwarts students. I only visited one part of the building because it was getting late, but by the time I get back I have to go to the library, they say it’s very nice.
2) The Santa Cruz monastery: a very nice monastery founded in the 12th century. I recommend entering because the walls are full of tiles, which I love and could stay to see them the whole day.
Personal observation: Honestly, I traveled to Coimbra just to see the university and the students clothing, because this is where J.K. Rowling was inspired by the Harry Potter saga. But, I will describe that in another article that will talk about my wanderings around the places connected to the Harry Potter story. Spending a day in Coimbra was very beautiful, I must admit, with or without Harry Potter things, Coimbra has magic and the visit is worth it. Actually, I think it could even be two days, a weekend, to be able to see and enjoy the city well. It’s nice and there is good food everywhere, quite a temptation. So I think my friend and I spend more time eating and drinking coffee than walking around the town.
What I have seen of Portugal so far (and I hope to see much more in the future) implies that good people live there, that they eat well, that there is a lot of history, culture and art out there, at each step a different legend, an old tradition, something special, … but also, it must be recognized that the country recently experienced an economic crisis. Of course, there are many tourists who don’t realize it, because they are on vacation just wanna relax and nothing else matters. But it seemed very evident to me, so many damaged facades, the depopulation, the pessimism of the Portuguese are out there, they float in the air and are easy to grasp. After all, it is the homeland of fado and saudade, melancholy and regret run through their veins. Don’t be fooled by appearances, Portuguese may seem Spanish and Mediterranean, but in reality they are not. They are from the Atlantic, much calmer and more nostalgic. Well, besides when they are partying. Because if I know something well, it’s the nightlife of the north of Portugal, and I can say that these people from the Atlantic have quite a good time. At the party there are no regrets, they are left in oblivion to remember them the next morning.
Small dictionary of Portuguese :
Hi – Olà
How are you ? – Como vai?
Where is… ? – Onde está?
When is the next train ? – Quando é o próximo trem?
Thanks – Obrigado
You’re welcome –Por favor
Welcome – Bemvindo
Check, please – A conta, por favor.
Can I please have a coffee with milk ? – Um café com leite, por favor.
I love this town. – Eu amo essa cidade.
How much is it ? – Quanto custa?