Coimbra is sort of a half-way point between Porto and Lisbon and seemed like as good a place as any for me to hang out for a few days. The city is most known for its university, one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in…1290. Now that’s pretty old.
The campus is chock full of wonderful gothic architecture, but one building that I highly recommend going inside of is the library. The Biblioteca Joanina sits on the school’s main courtyard and only allows people in at certain times. This full-on baroque stunner was built in the 18th century. Inside, there are three great rooms divided by decorated arches, and every inch from floor and including the ceiling is covered in gilded or painted exotic wood. The national monument houses about 250 thousand volumes here, mostly works of medicine, geography, history, science, law, philosophy and theology, many of which are in Latin.
University hill is on top of the entire town so be prepared for lots of steps and steep inclines if you are going to walk around. There is an ‘elevator’ that literally takes people from the lower town to the upper without having to huff it up all the hills and steps. But the best part is walking around all the tiny lanes and alleys and discovering Coimbra on your own. And a walk along and across the river shows you a completely different side to this charming town.