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Perched atop a hill alongside the Mondego River, Coimbra has been an important city since Roman times, when it was known as Aeminium. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was on its own for a couple of hundred years, and conquered first by the Visigoths and then by the Moors in 711. The city became an important center of trade under the Moors.

It was reconquered by Christian forces under the command of Ferdinand I of LeĂłn in 1064. It became a county for some time before Afonso I, first King of Portugal, made the city into the capitol of his new Kingdom. Although it was no longer the capitol after 1255, the city continued to rise in importance.

In the Renaissance era, it was home to many important painters and artists, and the University of Coimbra, founded in Lisbon in 1290, moved to Coimbra once and for all in 1537. The university has been an important part of life in Coimbra ever since.

Today, Coimbra is a thriving city with diverse industries. The university continues to be crucial to the local economy, as are traditional industries such as wine, ceramics and livestock. The city is also home to more modern software and pharmaceutical industries.

There is much to see and do in Coimbra. The university, and in particular the library, are must-sees. This ancient city is packed to the gills with historical buildings and sites: be sure to check out the Old Cathedral, the Santa Cruz Monastery, the 16th century Anto Tower (it is home to an art gallery now) and the Botanical Gardens.

Besides the university, the other don’t-miss in the city is the Machado de Castro National Museum, which is a world-class art museum set in an old bishop’s palace. Those following the tragic love story of Pedro and Inés will want to see the Quinta das Lágrimas, where Inés de Castro was cut down by assassins sent by the King of Portugal.

The Roman ruins of Conímbriga are not in Coimbra itself, but are not far away. If you’re staying in Coimbra, you may also want to day trip out to the town of Luso and the Palace of Buçaco there.

If you want to shop, just head down to the Baixa area, which is full of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.

Due to the number of students and visitors, there are a number of good hotels in Coimbra. There are also many good restaurants in Coimbra as well.


Other places nearby Coimbra: Aveiro and Luso.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
28 Sep 2007

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The University of Coimbra

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View Coimbra Map

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