Around Coimbra: Things to do and see outside the city, day trips and excursions
Coimbra is the capital of the District of Coimbra with a population of 143.369 inhabitants. The city is crossed by the Mondego River, and retains a rustic appearance with narrow streets, backyards, stairways and arches that reflects its medieval past. Once was the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal and now it is the one of the most important cities in the country. Thanks to its long and agitated past, Coimbra has a long display of relevant spots and monument of historical value. The Unesco declared Coimbra World Site in 2013.
Knowing more about Coimbra
The area where Coimbra is located has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The first known dwellers were Celtic tribes and the land took the name of Conimbriga. In the first half of the II century , Romans started their domination, introducing great changes into the life of the population. The constant arrival of new immigrants added particular characteristics to the town evolution. Visigoths invaded the place during the beginning of the VI century and in the year 711, Coimbra is the center of an important Mozarabic community, changing the city name to Almedina.
During 1064 the city was won back by the Christian King Fernando Magno. Lately was added to the Portuguese kingdom by Alfonso Enriquéz, becoming its capital. The period of the Renaissance represented the booming of the city cultural importance with the establishment of the University, the first university of Portugal and one of the oldest of all Europe. All this historical facts are reflected in the various monuments and buildings of the city. Let´s begin with the ancient times.
Traveling back to Roman Times, a nice excursion
Excursions in Coimbra are really interesting, with the possibility of extend the tour a few kilometers out of the city skirts, to the place where the original foundations of the Roman city are located. Considered one of the best preserved Roman ruins of the peninsula, the tourist can see clearly how the Roman passed their days. The ruins exhibit a great degree of preservation of the city walls, the foundations of public buildings, including tiled floors. A truly travel back in time getting around through temples, ancient lordly homes, water channels and a Roman forum.
The city offers the visitor four splendid parks, Parque Verde de Mondego, a long strip of green trees and shrubs, plentiful of fresh air, where the environment invites to relax. The flocks of ducks complete the nice view of the city and the river, making this excursion very especial for the children. No fees charged for entering the park. The Botanical Garden of the University is a small but pretty garden where the visitor can find vegetal specimens of the entire world, some of the stars of the park are the giant sequoias, the water fountain in the center of the garden and the stairs that facilitates the access of the various levels. It is ideal for families and couples, and it is totally free. Penedo de Saudade is another free park to visit. It is close to the Botanical Garden, it offers a very good view from here to Coimbra Stadium and the rest of the area. The site contains stones carved with poems and phrases in commemoration of the former university students. It is a curiosity that has a touch of melancholy. The fourth park is the Choupal National Forest. The park is ideal for an outdoor pinic, along with trekking and biking. Admission fees vary with the months and stations. Consult about the availability of the park during colder seasons.
See the sights from a bus
There is a new way to see a classic city during the summer and the Holy Week: the FunTastic, a double-decker, topless bus which allows the tourists to see the best of the town while they listen to recorded description in five languages. The FunTastic can stop in any place of its routes and let the new passenger get it with a ticket sold in the ticket outlets of the city.
The walking excursions are served for some local agencies. The itinerary was thought to experience the old legends and glory of Coimbra. The highlights of the excursion are the visit to the University of Coimbra, where Don Denis I (1261-25), King of Portugal and Founder of the University lived, continuing with the impressive Church of Santa Cruz ( built in 1131), where the kings Alfonso I and Sancho I, both sponsors of the early church and monastery, are buried; and the two monasteries of Santa Clara, Santa Clara-a-Velha and Santa Clara-a-Nova. A local guide acompanies the visitors and refers them the traditional historical facts and a couple of romantic legends related to the city.
There are always new excursion being offered or planned in Coimbra, depending in the season. Planning with anticipation helps to get the best excursion of every season.