Coimbra is home to Portugal’s oldest university dating back to the 13 century.
It was also the seat of royal power in the medieval ages. So many a king was born and buried here.
Besides this, there is not much to see in this town.
I took Bla Bla car from Porto to Coimbra about 10 and arrived about 11.10. Bla Bla is a ride share app that people who are heading to a certain plce might want company/gas money and people can tag along. I tried it before in Hamburg, but this experience was no where close.
In Hamburg, my drivers (I took it there and back) didn’t speak English or were not comfortable speaking English and just spoke German to the other German passenger.
This ride, the man spoke perfect English and tried encouraging this young Portuguese student to practice her English. She was a bit shy at first, but aren’t we all when learning a new language? I know I was in Spanish.
Anyways, it was a really fun ride. He even dropped us off separately/to places convenient for us.
After saying goodbye I walked into this square and spotted a tourist office, which was great luck because sometimes I never find it.
The two elderly men were really helpful with maps and train times (also gave me a Lisbon map). They even held my bag for free while I toured around!
So I heard Coimbra was small and more like a day trip so I figured to go there during the day and continue on to Lisbon that night (that’s why I had my bag etc).
I headed to the university first. It’s quite expensive to tour around and due to my age/being a student, I got my ticket for 10 euros. There are 2 programs – one is cheaper, but it doesn’t include the library, which is the biggest attraction at the university.
They also have special entrance times. I’m not sure why, maybe due to the small space only certain amounts of people fit?
Mine was in 3 minutes so I hurried to the library entrance. The ticket woman told me I had ten minutes before being able to go into the library. So the actually library tour is separated into 3 floors. The bottom are old prison cells for bad students. I found this extreme, but it was the 1500s….the middle floor holds some books and an exhibit on a famous writer from there. Finally, the top floor is the library. No pictures allowed as it’s really beautiful!
The information panel said that they have bats and at night they fly around eating bugs that would harm the books. They also lay leather cloth around to catch all the bat droppings….I was intrigued and weirded out by this. (You have 10 minutes in the library).
I walked through the other university rooms- it used to be a palace so the room that they use on special occasions used to be the throne room and they show the bedroom. There is a balcony that offers views of the city.
It is a nice view, but because the city itself isn’t that pretty, the view lacks.
The ticket also includes this science museum. My understand it that the building used to hold classrooms and now one side is science information and the other is about the classroom and the Jesuits (it’s a Jesuit univeristy).
One of the science information that I found hilarious was that someone basically developed condoms for animals.
What was cool about this too was that I arrived in time for a tour of another building and old class rooms. The first half was chemistry and physic equipment and the second half was zoology. Lots of stuffed animals. I couldn’t help laughing because the eyes were done so bad in my opinion.
The tour guide was quite impressive. She can speak English, Portuguese, and Spanish (maybe more???) fluently. She offered to say everything in all three and I told her I can speak Spanish so she just had to say it twice instead. This surprised her, actually, it surprises a lot of people. I know most native English speakers can’t speak a second language, but the reaction I get is interesting. Like they don’t believe me haha.
I continued to walk around the city. I passed several churches, but didn’t feel like paying to enter even if it was less than 3 euros. Finally, I made it to the Botanic Gardens, which I think saved the town for me. It was beautiful and so green being that I went in January!
I picked up my bag and took the public bus to the train station. A ride is an euro, but the rechargeable card (Portuguese are on top if this!) is 50 cents. I started laughing when she said for the next time because….I don’t think I’ll be back in Coimbra, but she was nice :)
I actually only had to wait like 10 minutes for the train to Lisbon and I also received a young person discount per the recommendation of the tourist office so the ticket was 15 euros. Online, the bus ticket was almost 14 euros so I thought I did well.
Coimbra is a nice town and perhaps I was expecting too much because I had 3 people suggest it and maybe I missed something, but if you are short on time, I suggest going somewhere else.
Ciao for now