After having spent our first day in Portugal at the beautiful Quinta das Lágrimas, we set out to visit Coimbra the next morning. Lisa from LL World Tour had told me it was doable to visit most of Coimbra in a day, and so that was our goal.
We’d gotten a map of Coimbra (pronounced ‘Kwimbra') at the hotel, but the city center is pretty small and with the river as a reference point, I’m sure you’d find your way without a map as well.
When we left the hotel we just had to go left on the Estrada das Lágrimas and then take the first street on the right. From there we could go under the busy street to the river Mondego through a tunnel that has some very nice graffiti (pictures taken at night).
We started our visit of the university city with a walk through the Parque Verde do Mondego, after we’d crossed the river on the Ponte Pedonal Pedro e Inês.
The Parque Verde isn’t really the kind of park you’d expect: it’s a stretch of green along the riverside where people come to stroll or run and where kids can play. If you follow the park to the city, it will end where the Parque Dr. Manuel Brasa starts.
This park ends at the Ponte de Santa Clara, where you can cross the street to find a tourism information office (there’s also a tourism office on the other side of town, at the Praça da Républica).
It’s also where you can enter the heart of Coimbra. There are signs guiding you uphill to the university buildings or you can stay on lower ground and explore some of the small, car-free streets.
Really nice to visit is the Jardim Botânico. We came from the Praça da Républica and entered the park on the Avenida Dr. Júlio Henriques, but the garden has several entrances.
At first, it didn’t seem like an interesting place as the first part is very structured, with straight lanes, but then there’s this part of the garden that looks more like a forest, with structures placed between the trees so that you can do a dead ride, climb from one tree to another, walk on ropes and climb ladders…
Of course, you have to do this under supervision, but it looked really cool. You have to be cold-blooded enough, though, as the trees you’d be moving in between are really high. Not my cup of tea, having a terrible fear of heights.
If you hang around Coimbra until dinner time, I suggest you have a seat at the Italian restaurant by the water in the Parque Dr. Manuel Brasa. It’s not a typical restaurant: the kitchen and small ‘bar’ are not in a real building but in a sort of container.
Then there’s an outside terrace next to the water as well as a more fancy ‘inside’ area that seems to hang over the water. This might sound a bit weird or hyper-modern but it really isn’t. It isn’t super fancy either. You can just walk by and grab a seat.
My ex and I both had a good, decent-sized pizza. I couldn’t even finish mine! In total we paid €28,80 for a salad my ex had as a starter, our two pizzas, one caipirinha, one sparkling water, and some tea.
Worth knowing: I almost always had tea after dinner when we were in Portugal and instead of just one cup (as often is the case in Belgium), I always got a tiny teapot which was good for about three cups of tea.
Be aware though: when you sit down to have a meal somewhere in Portugal, they’ll almost always bring you some olives, bread, sometimes tomatoes, or some other little snack. These are not for free! I knew this beforehand so we always kindly declined, but one night in Porto we were pretty hungry so we thought “what the heck” and just ate those snacks. We ended up paying about €6 for some bread, three cherry tomatoes, and some olives. That’s the price for a meal! We’ve only had this happen with “real meals”, though. Not when we went to have a sandwich or something else small for lunch.
Lunch and snacks
As for lunch: we just grabbed a quick bite at the square across the Ponde de Santa Clara and paid €1,7 for a slice of pizza and €3,5 for a small Italian salad. I’d taken the salad because I didn’t want to eat filling, but junky food throughout the trip (as I often do). I had been better off taking pizza as well though. Just an hour later and I was hungry again.
Luckily we were heading to a supermarket to get some small snacks. There’s a Minipreço supermarket just behind the train station. We paid €8,08 for 0,5l of Cola, 2×0,5l of water, 0,5l of Ice Tea, 4 beers (33cl), dinosaur cookies (6 packs with each 3 cookies), a big bag of chips, and 2 small cakes.
Small note: we’d been looking for a supermarket in the station area, but when we first couldn’t find one, we headed to the Tourism Office where they were very friendly and pointed us in the right direction.
As we were staying at walking distance from the center, we just, well, walked there, but if you’re coming from somewhere else you can either take the train (the station is located a five-minute walk from the tourism office) or go by car. Be aware though, that parking in Coimbra seemed a horror.
The streets are narrow and every car we saw parked there was either sticking to the car before and behind him or parked somewhere that didn’t really seem like a parking spot. I’d recommend parking just on the other side of the river and walking to the center via the pedestrian bridge.
I’m sure there are also buses going to Coimbra, but I didn’t see any and as train rides aren’t that expensive in Portugal, I’d go for the more comfortable option.
We stayed at the beautiful Quinta das Lágrimas, a hotel with a lovely garden and pool at walking distance from the city center.
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Our trip to Portugal was made possible by >Turismo Centro de Portugal. All opinions are my own.