Loading ...

One Day in Coimbra: How to Plan a Quick Trip to Portugal's University City

Plan a one day in Coimbra itinerary. Find out about things to do in Coimbra, Portugal's university city.

Coimbra is a historic university city in Central Portugal located between Lisbon and Porto

You can easily spend one day in Coimbra to get a sense of the place when driving between Lisbon and Porto. 

To really appreciate Coimbra, I recommend spending a full 24 hours here by booking a hotel. 

Read on for my recommendations of things to do in Coimbra on a quick visit.

One Day in Coimbra: Church on a square

Getting to Coimbra

Coimbra is approximately a 2 hour drive from Lisbon Airport. Alternatively, you can take the train from Lisbon's Santa Apolonia Station in about an hour and 45 minutes direct. 

You can more easily drive from Porto to Coimbra in less than 90 minutes or take the train between Coimbra and Porto in about the same amount of time. As you can see, Coimbra is a convenient stopover point between Lisbon and Porto on your Portugal itinerary

Once you have arrived in Coimbra, the city is reasonably walkable (although you'll need stamina to get around because it is very hilly). We clocked over 20,000 steps over the course of our one day Coimbra itinerary.
Coimbra in a day: Yellow building with turrets

Where to Stay in Coimbra?

24 hours in Coimbra: Hotel Quinta Das Lágrimas
We stayed in historic Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas. The hotel is located across the Mondego River from the historic centre of Coimbra and is a good choice if you are driving. 

There is ample parking at Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas and you'll avoid having to drive on the narrow hilly streets of Coimbra Old Town. Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas also features a rich history dating back over 600 years and offers picturesque grounds to take a walk. 

We paid about 160 EUR per night for a deluxe room with breakfast included when we stayed in Coimbra in December.


Coimbra One Day Itinerary at a Glance

Now that you've arrived and know where to stay, let me summarize an ideal one day Coimbra itinerary. 

This itinerary assumes that you arrive in the afternoon or evening and stay through the following day for a full 24 hours in Coimbra.
  1. Dinner at Arcadas in Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas 
  2. Al Fresco Breakfast at Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas 
  3. Retrace the Story of Pedro and Inês in the Gardens of Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas
  4. Walk Uphill to Coimbra University
  5. Tour Historic Coimbra University
  6. Explore Coimbra Botanic Gardens
  7. Take a Coimbra Photowalk
  8. Eat Lunch at No Tacho
  9. Visit Igreja de Santa Cruz
  10. Shop Rua Visconde da Luz
  11. Cross Ponte de Santa Clara to Come Full Circle
One day in Coimbra: Coimbra University main quadrangle

Things to do in Coimbra in Detail

Now let's take a look at things to do in Coimbra on a short trip in more detail.

One day in Coimbra: Tall narrow buildings with umbrellas in front

Dinner at Arcadas in Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas 

We drove to Coimbra from Vila Nova de Gaia near Porto where we experienced all that the city had to offer as well as some of the best Porto day trips

We arrived in the early evening just in time to check in to Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas and freshen up for dinner. 

We sampled the 6 course tasting menu at Arcadas in the Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas. The highlight was a citrus dessert featuring a "fake orange" filled with cream and an orange jelly. The yuzu gelato was also fantastic. 

A bottle of Baga from Bairrada worked well with the meal. The entire experience was less than 100 EUR per person.

Coimbra in a day: Fake orange dessert at Arcadas in the Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas

Al Fresco Breakfast at Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas 

24 hours in Coimbra: Champagne Breakfast at Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas

After a good night's sleep, enjoy some sparkling Portuguese wine with breakfast at Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas outside under the shade of a giant spiny-leaf podocarp. 

The December weather felt warm to us (or at least warm enough!) and we wanted to take the opportunity to get some fresh air. 

Fill up on the extensive hot and cold breakfast buffet before heading into Coimbra City.

Coimbra in 24 hours: giant spiny-leaf podocarp at Hotel Quinta da Lagrimas

Retrace the Story of Pedro and Inês in the Gardens of Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas

Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas features extensive gardens that capture the the 14th century tale of forbidden love between Prince Pedro and Inês de Castro. Prince Pedro was heir to the Portuguese throne when he fell in love with Inês, one of his wife Constança's maids. 

When Constança died in childbirth, Pedro wanted to go public with his relationship with Inês, but it was forbidden by his father King Alfonso and ultimately ended in tragedy. 

Coimbra in a day: Australian fig tree at Quinta das LagrimasCoimbra in a day: Fountain of Love at Quinta das Lagrimas

Coimbra Itinerary: Fountain of Tears at Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas

We stopped at the Fountain of Love and Fountain of Tears. Legend has it that Prince Pedro would put letters into tiny wooden boats and they would travel across the water originating at Fonte dos Amores (the Fountain of Love). 

The Fountains of Tears is where Inês de Castro was murdered over 650 years ago by knights sent by King Alfonso IV because he feared her influence over Crown Prince Dom Pedro.

Walk Uphill to Coimbra University

Coimbra viewed from a colorful bridge

Now let's head into Coimbra Town which is within walking distance from Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas. We walked through a street art filled tunnel and over a bridge spanning the Mondego River which featured multi-colored panels to the base of the hill in Coimbra in about 15 minutes. 

Coimbra is extremely hilly. I recommend a power walk up to the top to start because then it's all downhill from there. 

There are also public buses which I believe must be piloted by drivers with nerves of steel to navigate the narrow, steep, and twisting roads to Coimbra University. You have this option if you don't feel up to the walk. 

Things to do in Coimbra: Street art featuring 2 owls

You'll find whimsical architecture and elegant doors on your walk. Don't be too rigid about your route to the top of the hill, take some time to discover the little hidden surprises on the alleyways of Coimbra. You won't get too lost if you keep heading uphill.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for more ideas about where to travel in Portugal? Coimbra is in Central Portugal and so is Óbidos where you can plan a visit timed to coincide with the the Obidos Chocolate Festival. Aveiro has a fantastic Art Nouveau vibe and is within an hour of Coimbra by car. Why not experience Lisbon for Christmas? Take the time to explore Lisbon's secret places (such as Queluz National Palace) and awesome coffee shops or take a day trip to Tomar. You could also go wine tasting in Setúbal or in Alqueva Lake in Alentejo. Alternatively, spend a weekend in winter in the Algarve. Did you know that Madeira is also part of Portugal? Madeira is full of surprises including great food. You won't regret spending a long weekend in Madeira.

Tour Historic Coimbra University

Did you know that Coimbra University is a UNESCO World Heritage site? You can tour three different buildings and the historic library at Coimbra University for 8 EUR per person. 

The ticket office is a little hard to find and is hidden away from the central quad of Coimbra University behind the Museu da Ciência da Universidade de Coimbra on R. Estudos. 

Things to do in Coimbra: Books at Coimbra University

Biblioteca Joanina is the highlight of a visit to Coimbra University and is located above the former academic prison (the university had its own laws and governance until the 1830s). No photos are allowed in the main chamber. 

Spend 10 min exploring exhibits in the intermediate level and then spend 10 min in the gilded library chamber with 2 levels of floor to ceiling centuries old books. I took a picture outside looking in as we were leaving. 

Biblioteca Joanina is simply breathtaking and the door to the library wasn't bad either!

Things to do in Coimbra: Door to Biblioteca Joanina

The Chapel of São Miguel is included in the Coimbra University ticket price. Knock on the door and a docent will let you in and scan your ticket. I was super impressed by the organ and colorful ceiling.

24 hours in Coimbra: Pipe organ at the Chapel of São MiguelThings to do in Coimbra: Historic Chemistry Lab at Coimbra University

Coimbra University ticketed attractions close from 13:00 - 14:00 for lunch. Since we were only in Coimbra for a day, we didn't have time to see both remaining attractions and opted for the historic chemistry lab and science museum instead of the palace. I am Dr. J after all

We got to see a cool historic lecture hall, lab benches, fume hoods, and scientific equipment from throughout the ages.

Explore Coimbra Botanic Gardens

When you are finished touring Coimbra University, it's time to head downhill. We followed Aqueduto de São Sebastião to the Coimbra Botanic Gardens, an idyllic green space in the middle of town. 

Take a moment to sit on a bench and relax. Your legs will be tired after all that uphill walking earlier.

Things to do in Coimbra: Aqueduto de São Sebastião and the entrance to the Coimbra Botanic Gardens

Take a Coimbra Photowalk

As you leave the Coimbra Botanic Gardens, head toward Praça da República. You'll find fantastic architecture (although some has seen better days) between Praça da República and Mercado Municipal D. Pedro V in Coimbra. 

Take a photowalk in this area. I'm a huge fan of doors (especially the doors of Dublin) so I focused my photowalk on the many beautiful doors of Coimbra.

Blue and pink buildings in Coimbra Portugal24 Hours in Coimbra: Pair of doors against a rich pink background

Eat Lunch at No Tacho

By this time, we were getting hungry. We ate lunch at No Tacho which is located on a small alley near Igreja de Santa Cruz in Coimbra. 

We tried marinhoa beef and partridge stew with rice which were filling and delicious. I have a sweet tooth and so we just had to try the yolk pudding with port wine for dessert. 

We ate outside at No Tacho (the only downside of doing this are the smokers who walk up and down the alley). A bottle of Bairrada white wine was the perfect drink to go with our fine Portuguese meal on a gorgeous December day.

Coimbra Itinerary: Yolk pudding dessert at No Tacho for lunch Things to do in Coimbra: Tomb of one of the first kings of Portugal

Visit Igreja de Santa Cruz

After lunch, pay 3 EUR per person to visit the sacristy at Igreja de Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Monastery and Church). Visit an ornate reliquary, admire fantastic tile work, and see where the first two kings of Portugal are buried. Igreja de Santa Cruz is a great value thing to do in Coimbra.

Places to visit in Coimbra in a day: Igreja de Santa Cruz

Shop Rua Visconde da Luz

Things to do in Coimbra: Shop on Rua Visconde da Luz

Rua Visconde da Luz is the main pedestrianized thoroughfare in Coimbra. We shopped for irresistible sweet treats at Doce Meu. 

We shopped and took pictures on R. Visc. da Luz from Igreja de Santa Cruz to Largo da Portagem. This is such a pretty stretch to explore in Coimbra. 

Make sure to take a detour down some of the side streets that run off of Rua Visconde da Luz. You never know what you'll find. 

I bought a pair of shoes and a belt made from cork. We also picked up some Arrufadas de Coimbra at Pastelaria Briosa. We soon discovered that they look better than they taste (a sort of slightly sweet bread).

Largo da Portagem in Coimbra at Christmas

Cross Ponte de Santa Clara to Come Full Circle

By now, the sun had set on our winter day in Coimbra. We walked back to our hotel via Ponte de Santa Clara. 

Look back and admire the twinkling lights and Coimbra views as you walk across the bridge. We also caught a quick glimpse of Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha and Portugal dos Pequenitos (a miniature world) on our way back to Hotel Quinta Das Lágrimas to conclude our 24 hours in Coimbra.

Coimbra in a day: Coimbra viewed from Ponte de Santa Clara

Did you enjoy this post about spending one day in Coimbra Portugal? Sharing is caring...

Portugal Itineraries: Coimbra in One DayThings to do in Coimbra Portugal

#DrJSabbatical,38,Adriatics,5,Africa,12,Americas,52,Argentina,7,Asia,40,Asia Pacific,25,AUNZ,21,Australia,13,Austria,5,Baltics,4,Barcelona,1,Belfast,1,Belgium,13,Berlin,3,Best of,405,Best of Europe,2,Beyond Dublin,31,Bologna,3,Boston,2,Brazil,2,Bruges,2,Brussels,2,Bucharest,2,Budapest,1,Buffalo,3,Bulgaria,2,California,13,Cambodia,6,Canary Islands,1,Canterbury,2,Cardiff,1,Central America,3,Central Europe,69,Chile,7,China,5,Christmas Market,4,Copenhagen,1,Cork,3,Costa Brava,3,Costa Rica,2,Croatia,2,Cyprus,1,Czech Republic,1,Denmark,3,Dresden,1,Dublin,51,Dusseldorf,1,Eastern Europe,8,Edinburgh,3,El Calafate,1,England,19,Essen,1,Estonia,1,Europe,236,Faversham,1,Featured,5,Financial District,1,Finland,3,Fisherman's Wharf,1,Flanders,1,Florida,3,France,19,Galway,2,Gdansk,1,Germany,19,Girona,1,Granada,1,Greece,4,Greece and Cyprus,5,Hamburg,1,Hangzhou,1,Hanoi,3,HCMC,2,Helsinki,1,Ho Chi Minh City,2,Hobart,1,Hoi An,2,Hungary,1,Hurling,1,Hyderabad,2,Iceland,5,India,5,Ireland,93,Ireland & UK,122,Ireland Road Trips,16,Italy,14,Itinerary,3,Jackson Square,1,Japan,12,Kaunas,1,Kilkenny,1,Kuala Lumpur,1,Kyoto,1,Languedoc,2,Lanzarote,1,Latvia,1,Leipzig,1,Liechtenstein,1,Lima,1,Limerick,1,Lisbon,17,Lithuania,2,Ljubljana,1,Lloret de Mar,1,London,9,Los Angeles,2,Louisiana,1,Lucerne,1,Luxembourg,2,Machu Picchu,1,Madeira,3,Malaga,1,Malaysia,1,Malta,1,Marrakech,1,Marrakesh,1,Massachusetts,2,Mendoza,1,Menton,1,Miami,1,Midwest,3,Modena,2,Monaco,1,Montpellier,1,Morocco,1,Muenster,1,Munich,1,Naples,1,Netherlands,4,New England,3,New Orleans,1,New York,9,New Zealand,8,Nice,2,Noe Valley,1,Nordics,19,Norrkoping,1,North America,43,North Beach,1,Northern Ireland,1,Norway,5,Nuremberg,2,Ollantaytambo,1,Osaka,1,Palafrugell,1,Panama,1,Paris,1,Parma,2,Patagonia,3,Pennsylvania,6,Perth,1,Peru,5,Philadelphia,1,Pingyao,1,Piran,1,Pittsburgh,5,Poland,9,Porto,1,Portugal,42,Puerto Natales,2,Punta Arenas,1,Queensland,1,Recent,102,Regensburg,1,Reykjavik,1,Riga,1,Rio de Janeiro,1,Rochester,1,Romania,3,Rotterdam,1,Rovinj,1,Russia,2,San Francisco,4,San Sebastian,1,Santiago,1,Scandinavia,10,Scotland,5,Seattle,3,Segovia,1,Seoul,2,SF - Further Afield,7,Sicily,3,Siem Reap,2,Singapore,1,Sligo,3,Slovakia,1,Slovenia,2,South Africa,1,South America,19,South Beach,1,South Europe,1,South Korea,2,Southeast Europe,14,Southern Europe,75,Spain,19,St. Petersburg,2,Stockholm,2,Strasbourg,1,Stuttgart,1,Sweden,3,Switzerland,12,Sydney,3,Taipei,2,Taiwan,3,Tallinn,1,Tasmania,4,TBEX,1,Telegraph Hill,1,Texas,3,Thailand,1,Tipperary,1,Tokyo,2,Top World Destinations,4,Torres del Paine,1,Transylvania,1,Trieste,1,Uganda,10,UK,29,Union Square,1,United States,46,Uruguay,1,Valparaiso,1,Vietnam,9,Vilnius,1,Wales,2,Warsaw,2,Washington,3,Western Australia,1,Western Europe,39,Westfield,1,Whitsundays,1,Wicklow,2,Wroclaw,1,WWI,1,Xi'an,1,Zurich,5,
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: One Day in Coimbra: How to Plan a Quick Trip to Portugal's University City
One Day in Coimbra: How to Plan a Quick Trip to Portugal's University City
Plan a one day in Coimbra itinerary. Find out about things to do in Coimbra, Portugal's university city.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog