Walk in Old Coimbra - Day 1.

JUL 19,2014 - JUL 19,2014 (1 DAYS)

Portugal

1 DAYS

Citywalk

Coimbra - Day 1:

Main Attractions: Coimbra B railway station, Praça do Comércio, Church of São Tiago, Church of São Bartolomeu, Largo da Portagem, Arco de Almedina, Torre de Almedina, Old Cathedral of Coimbra, Largo de Porta Ferrea, University of Coimbra (Porta Férrea, Via Latina, Páco das Escolas, University Tower, Sala dos Capelos (and Private Examination Room and Arms Room), Academic Prison, Saint Michael's Chapel and Joanine Library), Largo Dom Dinis, Coimbra city walls, Coimbra Botanical Gardens, Jardim de Sereia, Praca da Republica, Jardim de Avenida Sá da Bandeira, Rua Olímpio Nicolau Rui Fernandes with its Azulejos, Jardim da Manga, Municipal Museum, Santa Cruz Monastery.

Duration: 1 busy day.

Start: Coimbra B railway station.

End: Praca 8 de Maio (8 minutes walk from Coimbra B).

Distance: 14 km.

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First of all - Coimbra is pronounced as Ko-EEM-bra. The country’s third-largest city, Coimbra lies at the centre of an agricultural region and has a large market. Perched on a hill overlooking the Rio Mondego, Coimbra is surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful countryside. The city itself is a mixture of ancient and new, rural and urban.

Coimbra is sort of the Oxford or Cambridge of Portugal —the home of its most venerable university. Coimbra, the former capital of Portugal is 50km. from the Atlantic, and two hours north of Lisbon. From Lisbon  Oriente station: two trains per hour leave for Coimbra, taking two hours or the slower ones - two hours 20 minutes. All trains from Portugal and Lisbon stop in Coimbra-B, a station far from the city center. Your ticket includes a 5-minute connection to Coimbra-A, the station in downtown Coimbra.

The bus station is located at Av. Fernão de Magalhães and is easily reached by local bus or on foot (a long walk{10 minutes} to city center). It has destinations for all of Portugal (with changes for some far away destinations), and it's faster and fares are normally cheaper than the train.

With your back to Coimbra B railway station -

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opposite us is Rua Antonio Granjo.We cross this road and Largo das Ameias. On our right is Hotel Mondego and on our left is Hotel Braganca. We cross (cross-lights) Avenida Fernão de Magalhães and enter narrow Rua Adelino Veiga. This road is typical to the Baixa (downtown) of Coimbra: pebbled-roads, blooming containers of flowers in the entrance of every shop and window. Down by the river is Coimbra's "Baixa" (downtown), the commercial heart of the city, with lively cafes, pastry shops, restaurants, boutiques, and other shops leading to the Comercio Square. In the end of Rua Adelino Veiga (and turning, a bit, to the right, east) we arrive to the Praça do Comércio. A beautiful, spacious square in the heart of the historical center of Coimbra. It is entirely closed to traffic, a very nice and easy to get to and accessible pedestrian area.
There's a large number of great cafe's all with, of course, tables outside too. Many bars, restaurants and a pub with outdoor tables and umbrellas. Once a month in the square there is the Feira de Flea Market with exposure of Coimbra. The square, which at one time was also called Praça de São Bartolomeu and Praça Velha, owes its name to the 'intense trade activity' that took place here, until the last century, before the creation of the new Mercado Dom Pedro V (see later). The square , is irregularly shaped oblong, full with character and potential, BUT, shows clear signs of economic decay:

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As you end Rua Adelino Veiga, opposite,In a corner of Comercio square is the Church of São Tiago (Saint James), with a plain 12th-century façade, but in its interior is an exuberant Rococo alterpiece in gilded wood. Note the beautiful capitals decorating its portals. This Church is very small. Most of the time it is closed.

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Another church, at the end of the square,  is the Baroque Church of São Bartolomeu. This modest but beautiful church located in the historic center of Coimbra in the main street Rua dos Esteireiros, in Largo de Portagem. Very nice facade although it would need a light restoration. The church was built in the 10th century and reconstructed in the 12th and 18th centuries. The reconstruction in the 12th century turned it into a Romanesque church. Today the church has the Baroque look. The façade has two bell towers, one on each side of the main door. There is one nave in the church. The main altarpiece is gilded and is Baroque. In the back you can see some Medieval houses:
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Above it is a large painting of the martyrdom of St. Bartholomew and was painted by the Italian artist Pasquale Parente. On the Gospel side there is a Mannerist altarpiece from the 16th century with a painting showing the death and resurrection of Christ:

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There are Sanitarios in the Praca Comercio (the east side, in the direction of Largo de Portagem).

The Baixa, the downtown neighborhood. It is a steep, exhausting but walkable uphill climb from there to the Alta, where the University campus sits. In general, Coimbra is a very steep city, and visiting the old quarter is hard. You may use the elevator that stands right behind the market (quite distant from where we are now...) to go up, and make your visit from top to base. It's cheap and comfortable:

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Another mean of transportaion: From Coimbra B train station take Trolleybus No. 1, it stops next to the Library. From Coimbra A (you will have to change there) in case the connecting train just left - take bus No. 5 or 25 to Praca de Republica (near the University).

We shall climb to the Alta Cidade - on foot. I suggest to go to the University on foot. it's a great experience to walk along the narrow and cobbled streets. I know that it's quite steep, but it's not a long way. Furthermore, in between, there are some wonderful sights to visit. Both areas (Baixa and Alta) are graced with narrow, winding streets, though the Alta is mostly taken up by University buildings and graffiti-covered student housing, whereas the Baixa is loaded with shops, restaurants and other commercial activity. Ancient churches, picturesque plazas and the nearly total lack of international chain stores can make both areas feel like the 1950s — or the 1590s...

If our back is to Largo da Portagem we turn RIGHT along the stairs (east) to Escadas de sao Bartolomeu. If our back is to Church of São Tiago and the start of Praca do Comercio (where we came from) - turn LEFT (east) along the stairs to Escadas de sao Bartolomeu. In the end of the Escadas, if you cannot resist, turn right and walk along Rua Ferreira Borges until you arrive to the Largo da Portagem. The Largo da Portagem is located down by the river and is the place where various means of transportaion of the city pass by. Many municipal buses seem to go there, including the Yellow Bus tourist bus that takes an hour tour of the city. You can do a river boat tour from there. The main shopping street (Rua Ferreira Borges) is there too. There are a many restaurants in the Largo itself, offering a wide variety of things. They're not all budget ones, but they are useful if you want a quick rest and a snack. Recommended for a little stop and a drink in one of the cafes outside, perfect for soaking up a bit of sun and taking a rest (before we climb to the Alta Cidade). Pleasant classic music from the loudspeakers around:

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Retrace your steps and walk back along Rua Ferreira Borges and turn right (in the first turn to the right) (there is a signpost - "Universidade, Zona Monumental) to the Arco de Almedina. The city of Coimbra had a fence walls, dating back to the sixth century, furnished with several watchtowers. Arco de Almedina was one of the main entrances to the city. The Almedina Arch and the lofty lookout tower formed part of the complex defense of this old city. It is assumed that this arch was built during the reign of King Afonso III and Dinis. The entrance to the ancient, upper town (once both a Jewish and Moorish quarter), is, mainly, through the Arco de Almedina. Steps lead (on your left) (DO NOT TURN LEFT along these steps)up to the Torre de Anto, a 16th century tower that now houses an arts and crafts gallery. Here are also houses called "Republicas" where the university students live, just as they have for centuries. We shall return to Torre de Anto in another day's blog.

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Two-three minutes of climb behind the arch - you see, on your left the Torre de Almedina. Opposite it stands this sculpture:

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This was possibly one of the most imposing towers on the perimeter of the wall, due to its strategic importance, since they constitute the most important access, civil and military, to the city. It may date back to the time of Count Sesnando Davides who conquered Coimbra in 1064, having been over the centuries repeatedly renovated and refurbished. Its present appearance may be the result of a reconstruction in the early sixteenth century by order of Manuel I of Portugal. On the outside of the arc you see the oldest heraldic coat-of-arms of Coimbra and bas-relief of the thirteenth century made ​​by a serpent and a lion. The Almedina Tower is divided into two floors and looks robust as one stone unit. The upper part of the tower is torn by barred windows with columns. One reaches the exterior door by a steep stone staircase outside. Internally, the first and second floors are connected by a narrow staircase masonry.
Previous building was added in 1541 in order to settle there the Town Hall. It had been known then as the Tower of Appeal. From 1878 worked at the site the Free School of Arts of Design, under the guidance of António Augusto Gonçalves. Currently, and after various interventions of restoration and conservation, the tower houses the Municipal Historical Archive. Adult - 1.80€, senior - 1.20€.

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The Baixa Cidade of Coimbra from Torre de Almedina windows:

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Torre de Almedina interior (Recoltar Palarras organization - Alice Cardoso):

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From Torre de Almedina climb a few steps to Rua Quebra Costas (in Portuguese: Backbone breaker...) and take a photo of this sculpture:

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Continue to climb along Rua Quebra Costas. Arriving to an intersection - turn RIGHT (signpost: Munumentos Universidade). Climb the stairs (on your right - resthouse) and you arrive to Largo da Se' Velha.

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Here stands the Se' Velha de Coimbra - the Old Cathedral of Coimbra. Entrance fees: €2, Opening hours: Mon–Thu and Sat. 10.00 – 18.00, Fri. 10.00 - 16.00. It is one of the most important Romanesque Roman Catholic buildings in Portugal. The Sé Velha (Old Cathedral), renovated in the 20th century, was built between 1162 and 1184. It served as a cathedral until 1772, when the episcopal see was moved to the Sé Nova. Construction of the Sé Velha began some time after the Battle of Ourique (1139), when Count Afonso Henriques declared himself King of Portugal and chose Coimbra as capital. The first Count of Coimbra, the Mozarab Sisnando Davides, is buried in the cathedral. Coimbra Cathedral is the only one of the Portuguese Romanesque cathedrals from the Reconquista times to have survived relatively intact up to the present. From the outside, Coimbra's old cathedral looks like a small fortress. The fortress look is common to the cathedrals of that time and can be explained with the battle time that was taking place at that time. There is a tower-like structure in the middle of the western façade with a portal and a similar-looking upper window.

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The most notable aspect of the Romanesque decoration of the Old Cathedral is the large number of sculpted capitals (around 380), which make of the monument one of the main Romanesque sculpture nucleus in Portugal. The main decorative motifs are vegetal and geometric interlacements and reveal Arab and pre-romanesque influences, but there are also pairs of quadrupeds (including centaurs) or birds facing each other. There are practically no human representations, and no Biblical scenes.

The north façade has a remarkable, although eroded, Renaissance-style portal called the Porta Especiosa:

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The exterior doesn't give you any indication of the beautiful carvings and sculpture that await inside. The interior of the cathedral has a nave with two aisles, a small transept, and an eastern apse with three chapels. All columns of the interior have decorated capitals, mainly with vegetable motifs, but also with animals and geometric patterns. The windows of the lantern-tower and the big window in the west facade are the main sources of natural light of the cathedral. The cloister, built during the reign of Afonso II (early 13th century), is a work of the transition between Romanesque and Gothic. Each of the Gothic pointed arches that face the courtyard encompass two twin round arches in Romanesque style. The intricate Gothic altar within is of gilded wood, created by two Flemish masters in the 15th and 16th centuries. Sancho I was crowned king here in 1185, and João I in 1385. There are several tombs in the cathedral, including those of the 13th-century Bishop Dom Egas Fafe (to the left of the altar) and Dona Vetaça, a Byzantine princess who was a governess in the Coimbra court in the 14th century. Inside the highlights are a number of fine tombs, a large Late Gothic altar, and a Renaissance font. From the south aisles, a flight of steps leads up to the Early Gothic 13th century cloister:

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From the Old Cathedral climb and zig-zag with Rua da Ilha (south to the Cathedral). Look backward to the the Se' (cathedral) turrets:

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All twisting roads around - are pebbled. The road continues with a light slope downward. You arrive to a signpost pointing to: Universidade, Museu machado castro, Se' Nova. Continue to climb along Rua da Ilha. On your left an asphalted road. You can choose to climb along this asphalted road - just to have a marvelous view over the city roofs:

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Trace back, return and turn left to Rua da Ilha and climb up. Look at the typical roofs of the old buildings around:

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Continue up along this road that changes its name to: Rua Doutor Guilherme and Rua José Falcão. Turn left (road without name) and you arrive to Largo de Porta Ferrea / Ferrera. In 1544, it was the Paço das Escolas which agglutinated all the Faculties of the University of Coimbra, after the final accommodation of the University in this city in 1537. I stress the point that Largo de Porta Ferrera (Ferrea) is the square OUT of the University walls. You enter the University courtyard / Páco das Escolas (Patio of the Schools) through the Iron Gate Porta Ferrera. Unbelievable magnificent square.

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Citywalk in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

The whole site of the University of Coimbra is reported in a subordinate Tip to this itinerary.

We leave the Páco das Escolas from the its entrance through the Porta de Ferrea and walk east, crossing the Largo de Porta Ferrea eastward. we walk along Rua Larga and arrive to Largo Dom Dinis - a large roundabout with a statue in the middle: the Monument to D. Dinis (King of Portugal from 1279 to 1325). It is located in Largo D. Dinis on the alignment of the "Iron Gate", which is separated by a wide avenue:

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On our right is the University building of the Dept. of Mathematics. Several steps forward and you see the Escadas Monumentais (Monumental Stairs), Coimbra walls and city's red roofs:

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From Largo Dom Dinis (Diniz) we turn right in 45 degrees, south-east to Calçada Martim de Freitas and walk along Coimbra city walls on your right:

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You pass, on your right, the Instituto Botanico and, immediately further,  under a 16th century aqueduct, is the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, Portugal's largest, created in 1772. There is a combination of flowerbeds (a remarkable collection of some 1200 plants, including many rare and exotic species), meandering paths, and elegant fountains.

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Arcos do Jardim - Botanical Garden Viaduct:

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A corner memorizing Luis Carrisso Martim de Freitas:

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The 19th-century mansion nearby is the House-Museum of Bissaya Barreto, who was a local surgeon. The house was converted into a museum with Portuguese sculpture and painting, Chinese porcelain, old tiles, period furniture, and more.

I recommend exiting the Botanical Garden from its main entrance in Calçada Martim de Freitas. In case you exit the garden in the western exit, walk around the garden and arrive to Calçada Martim de Freitas. Walk eastward along Calçada Martim de Freitas until you arrive to an extensive square - Largo João Paulo II:

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We continue, from the north-east corner of the square to Rua de Tomar. On your left, you pass Rua Almeida Garrett and we enter Park santa Cruz or Jardim de Sereia. In the eighteenth century, the Incarnation D. Gaspar promoted the garden's arrangement, making it a recreational space, having been built around the playground (the Pella) and, simultaneously, a garden of rest and meditation in Baroque style. The formal entrance to the garden is made from the Republic Square (the opposite direction of our entry). From the back exit - we turn LEFT (WEST) into the garden. Descending the stairs, we find the Fountain of Nogueira with a statue representing a merman opening his mouth to a dolphin, where the water runs to the source, which explains the popular designation of the garden "Mermaid":

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Citywalk in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

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Citywalk in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

We exit the garden from the Republic Square (Praca da Republica). It presents three statues representing Faith, Hope and Charity, culminating in a cascade. The entrance, consists of a large arches as a quite huge gate. These arches are finely carved and artistically are quite fascinating, and within this park you can admire notable architectural works similar spread all around. There is a Tourist Information office in the Republic Square. We continue from the north-west corner of the square - along Avenida Sá da Bandeira and the Jardim de Avenida Sá da Bandeira admiring the manicured gardening cells, statues spread along the avenue and fountains. On your right - the Golden Shopping Centre.

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The most remarkable statue is the one in memorial to the WW I:

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You continue walking westward along Rua Olímpio Nicolau Rui Fernandes and the University of Coimbra hill is on your left. Mercado (the municipal Market) Dom Pedro V is also on your left, a bit further to the west. If you look on your right - you see a low wall with wonderful cermaic tiles (Azulejos) of various sites in Coimbra (just before, east to, Escola Secundária Jaime Cortesão):

(Azulejos) of Mosteiro de Santa Clara - a -Velha:

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Azulejo of Igreja de Sao Tiago:

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Azulejo of Arco de Almedina:

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Further west, on your left is Jardim da Manga. Manga Garden is also known as the Cloister Manga. This public area is located at the rear of the Monastery of Santa Cruz, in downtown. It is one of the first fully Renaissance architectural works made ​​in Portugal and its structure is evocative of the Fountain of Life. It dates back to ancient source of Manga, the Monastery of Santa Cruz, belonging to the monks of the Order of St. Augustine, built in 1528. The garden is dominated by a building, that contains dome and a source, connected to four small chapels and small lakes. The whole site Is classified as a National Monument since 1934. The central building is In Renaissance style and characterized by a central dome-shaped body, resting on eight columns and surrounded by four small chapels. Noteworthy are the water games inspired by Moorish architecture:

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A few steps further, on the left (south) side of the Rua Olímpio Nicolau Rui Fernandes street - you can visit a charming exhibition, in the Sala de Cidade (Municipal Museum)  on the history, past and present of Coimbra with many "oldies" - photos from the past of Coimbra (the lion's share from 50-60 years ago):

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In my visit in the Sala de Cidade at July 2014 I enjoyed the photos (temporary exhibition) of Varela Pe'curto. A bit further, still on the southern side of Rua Olímpio Nicolau Rui Fernandes  stands Santa Cruz Monastery (Moistero Santa Cruz), Rua Martins de Carvalho 3 - the next, and last (for today) attraction. It is a National Monument in Coimbra and Portugal. Because the first two kings of Portugal are buried in the church it was granted the status of National Pantheon. Founded in 1131 outside the protecting walls of Coimbra, the Santa Cruz Monastery was the most important monastic house during the early days of the Portuguese monarchy. The monastery and church were erected between 1132 and 1223. Its school, with its vast library, was highly respected in medieval times and was a meeting point for the intellectual and power elites. Its scriptorium was used for the consolidation of royal power by King Afonso Henriques, thus it was not considered strange that he decided to be buried there. Nothing remains of the early Romanesque monastery. It is known that it had only one nave and a high tower in the façade, as typical of the Augustinian-Romanesque constructions, but none of those elements subsisted. In the first half of the 16th century, the Monastery was completely renovated by King Manuel's order. The main portal, built between 1522 and 1525 under Chanterene, is the most emblematic piece of the whole monastic ensemble, harmonising the artistic elements of the Manueline with other features from Renaissance inspiration. Through the whole 16th century, worked at Santa Cruz de Coimbra the most respected architects, sculptors and painters, such as Diogo de Castilho, Machim and Jean of Rouen, Cristóvão de Figueiredo and Vasco Fernandes besides the already mentioned Chanterene, Boytac and Diogo Pires the Younger. It is also called the National Pantheon because the first two kings of Portugal are buried there. These kings are Afonso Henriques and his successor, Sancho I (the conqueror and inhabitant – first and second kings of Portugal). Their tombs were created by Nicolau Chanterene, and these were done in 1530. The tombs are on both sides of the main altar - so you cannot visit this part of the church while a religious service is taking place. You can enter the main part for free but for 2.50 euro you can see the sacristy and much more.

The square opposite the main entrance of the monastery is Praca 8 de Maio:

The Monumental entrance. The portal was constructed in 1522 by Diogo de Castilla, with sculptures from Nicolau de Chanterene. There are three sculptures in the central part by Joao de Ruao, and these are the Prophet, King David, and Our Lady. The Baroque triumphal arch came later from the hand of the priest Jose do Couto.

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Inside the Monastery - walls are decorated with “Azulejos” or hand painted stone tiles. They are from the 17th century:

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Baroque pipe organ of the 18th century inside the Monastery of Santa Cruz. The organ is the work of Manuel Brito Gomez Herrera and was finished in 1724:

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After you have visited this all, by leaving the church of Santa Cruz, turn to your left and have a nice cold beer or something else in the café Santa Cruz on the side.

Another Coimbra tradition is Fado, a more serious cousin of the Lisbon variety. The sombre Coimbra Fado theoretically requires you to clear your throat in approval after a rendition, and not applaud. It is performed only by men, often cloak-wrapped graduates of the university. Fado is native to Portugal and is best described as traditional Portuguese urban folk music. It is based on classical poems and grew out of the oral tradition hundreds of years ago in Lisbon. Two main branches have developed. Both usually consist of two acoustic guitarists and a vocalist. The Lisbon branch has a female vocalist, while the Coimbra branch features a male vocalist. Queima das Fitas, the May festival, is the best time to take in local Fado. But there are several spots that function as performance venues year-round. The best are usually free: the no-cover Café Santa Cruz, in Baixa, housed since 1923 under the vaulted ceilings that used to be part of the adjacent 16th-century church and monastery.

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Food

Coimbra University Cafeteria / restaurant:

You can enjoy the cheapest meals in Coimbra — with an interesting crowd of diners, very likely, the locals or tourists who speak English well - by eating at the university cafeteria. Here in Coimbra, the cafeteria welcomes tourists. During summer times, most seats are vacant, and you’re very likely to find yourself munching with very few students or other tourists.

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Culture

University of Coimbra - Universidade Velha - Paco das Escolas:

Opening Hours: April 14th to October 15th  8.30 - 19.00 | Tourist Circuit: 9.00 - 19.30, October 16th, 2014 to March 15th, 2015 9.00 - 17.30 | Tourist Circuit: 9.30 to 13.00; 14.00 - 17.30. Entrance prices: General ticket - €9.00 (includes Hall of Capelos, Private Examination Room, Hall of Arms, Joanine Library, Academic Prison), Student ticket < 26 years - €5.50, Senior ticket > 65 years - €7.00, Child ticket - free for under 13 , accompanied by family Tickets tour - €15, free for children under 13 accompanied by family, Tower ticket - €3, children over 13 years old, prohibited to children under 13, General ticket with tower - 12,50 € children over 13 years old, prohibited to children under 13, Audio guide - €3. Closing Dates: December 24th, December 25th, December 31st, January 1st. Biblioteca Joanina only: Opening hours: 1 November to 18 March: Weekdays – 9.00 to 17.30, Weekends – 10.00 to 16.00, 19 March to 31 October: Everyday – 8.30 to 19.00, Closed 24, 25, 31 December and 1 January. Entrance:
€7.00 – general, €5.50 – students and 65+.

Introduction

Porta Férrea and Via Latina                     

The Páco das Escolas

University Tower
Sala dos Capelos (and Private Examination Room and Arms Room)

Academic Prison

Saint Michael's Chapel

Joanine Library

Introduction: “Porto works, Braga Prays, Coimbra studies, and Lisbon gets the money” goes the saying, and as far as Coimbra is concerned, this is totally true. The main city in the central region of Portugal, Coimbra has about 100,000 inhabitants, including the nearly 23,000 students that makes it the second largest of the 15 public universities in Portugal, as well as the oldest and the best, according to national rankings. Coimbra's university, founded in 1290, is Portugal's oldest and most distinguished. Third of the city's 35,000 population are students. They lend vibracy and vitality to the city. Coimbra is built on a hill. Wandering up into the city you'll find pretty squares and steep, winding alleyways adorned by tumbling displays of flowers. But you'll find that the shops and cafés are often brimming with modern design and quirky originality. Established in the 13th century, the University of Coimbra is one of Portugal's oldest universities, influencing later institutions in the country and beyond. Founded in 1290 — making it one of the world’s oldest continually operating universities — and still one of Portugal’s most prestigious schools. Through the centuries the university developed a set of customs and traditions collectively known as “praxe,” which among other things governs the use of the official university uniform that consists in part of a black cape, giving students a strikingly vampiric appearance. In May each year, the university celebrates the Queima das Fitas (see below also the section about Coimbra Fado), the “burning of the ribbons”, when graduating students burn the ribbons they have been wearing, the colour of which signifies their faculty – yellow for medicine, and so on. The celebrations last a week, and their grand finale is a long drunken parade. The students are not the only ones in black: it is the traditional dress of many of the rural women who come into town as well. The Main University Area accommodates merely a small part of the whole which constitutes the University of Coimbra today. It occupies various areas in the city, with its eight faculties, half a score research centres, an Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, structures for the encouragement of entrepreneurship and of connection to the management field, a university stadium, the Science Museum, the Gil Vicente Academic Theatre, the Botanical Garden, structures of support for students (dormitories, university restaurants, bars, study areas, centres for social contact) and the biggest academy in the country. At the end of the twentieth century, a movement of a great physical expansion of the University began, and which is at this point, attaining its peak. The amount of construction involved in this movement is furthermore the biggest in the history of this institution. Sadly, I didn't go in term time, which I think would be even better as the whole town would be more buzzing. Go in the first week in May, and you can see their festival to celebrate the last week of term.

Porta Férrea ("iron gate", 1634) leading into the fine courtyard. Enclosed on three sides by buildings, it has a terrace on the south side from which there is a magnificent view. With the intent to honour the entrance into the court of the University, the Porta Férrea is the first important work undertaken by the School after acquiring the building thus idealised as a triumphal arch with a double façade (in the tradition of the military fort door), apologetic of the institution, evoked in the sculpturesque programme, allusive of the four faculties (Theology, Law, Medicine and Canon-Laws) and of the two important monarchs (King Dinis, who founded the University, and King John III, who had it transferred to Coimbra) in its history:

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On the north side is the actual Old University building, the Colégio, with the Chancellery and the Law Faculty, and, up flights of steps, the "Via Latina" colonnade where once only Latin was allowed to be spoken. On the east side of the courtyard is the observatory (Observatório) and on the west the University Church, built in 1517-52 as the palace chapel, with a 33m/110ft high tower (1733) and an adjacent small museum of sacred art. The Via Latina constitutes in its essence, a mass of grandeur, leaning on the northern internal elevation of the school palace, as a skilful solution to facilitate the access between the vice-rector's court, the Sala dos Capelos and the Main Areas. Behind the Via Latina are richly decorated examination rooms and the elaborate hall where degrees are conferred. From the second-floor gallery a narrow open walkway extends outside along the edge of the roof, affording one of the best views in town:

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

The Páco das Escolas (Patio of the Schools). The centerpiece of the campus area is the Paço das Escolas, a former Portuguese royal palace, re-purposed centuries ago as university space. Much of it is open to the public: classrooms lined with ancient wooden desks, law students smoking on arcaded balconies, climbing up stairwells whose landings gave successively more impressive views of the city below. Centuries-old Azulejos (Portuguese blue-and-white-glazed tiles) decorated many walls, while just-posted fliers advertising poetry slams and dance lessons covered others. It is located within the Universidade Velha, the Old University. Here are some of the oldest and stateliest buildings of the university. The figure of João III, who installed the university in Coimbra, still reigns from the centre of the patio. Behind him, there is a magnificent view of the river. Every year the Paço das Escolas is visited by about 200 thousand tourists from various backgrounds.

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A statue of King João III, who based the University permanently in Coimbra:

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

View of Paco das Escolas from the viewpoint to the Mondego river (west):

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

view to the north-west from Paco das Escolas:

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and the western wll of Joanina LIbrary:

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view to west from Paco das Escolas - the Mondego river:

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University Tower: Built between 1728 and 1733, replacing another famous tower which John of Rouen had built in 1561, it was designed by the roman architect Antonio Canevari, creating the matriarch of the European university towers. In addition to the clocks, it accommodates the bells which regulate the ritual functioning of the University. The University Tower may only be admired from the exterior. The University is, however, in the process of preparing this monument for future visits to its interior, which will allow visitors to climb to its highest point and enjoy an unrivaled view of the city of Coimbra. But, still today, you can climb up the clock tower (called The Goat !), where amazing views are guaranteed of the whole city. THe tower's bell is known among students as "Goat". This monument Mafrense Baroque style, has 34 meters high and 180 steps to reach the top, with shaped terrace:

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Sala dos Capelos (and Private Examination Room and Arms Room): The Sala Grande dos Actos is the most important room of the University of Coimbra. It is also known as Sala dos Capelos. When visiting the Sala dos Capelos, you may also visit the Private Examination Room and the Arms Room. The Private Examination Room was an integrating part of the royal wing of the palace. It was a royal chamber, that is, the place where the monarch stayed overnight. This was also the first room where the first “meeting” was held between the vice-rector D. Garcia de Almeida and the University professors on the 13th October 1537, which is the date of the final transfer of this institution to Coimbra. The Arms Room was part of the royal wing of the old palace. It accommodates a full array of arms (halberds) of the Academic Royal Guard, which are still used today by the Halberdiers (guards) in the formal academic ceremonies (solemn “Honoris Causa” doctorates, the rector's investiture, formal beginning of the classes):

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Sala do Exame Privado:

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Ceiling of Arms Room:

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Arms Room - Sala das Armas:

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Sala dos Capelos 2nd floor - view to Paco das Escolas:

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Coimbra roofs from the second floor of the Sala dos Capelos:

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Paco dos Escolas, statue of King Joao III and River Mondego -  from the Sala dos Capelos 2nd. floor:

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View from the Sala dos Capelos in University of Coimbra - Coimbra Se' Velha and Coimbra walls:

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Academic Prison: As a result of the privileged condition of the University, from 1593 it would be established in two ancient rooms, underneath the Sala dos Capelos. It remained here until 1773, being then transferred to the substructures of the Joanine Library which, in its turn, had incorporated, during its construction, the ruined remains of what had once been the ancient prison of the Royal Palace, documenting the only space of mediaeval jail still existent in Portugal.

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Saint Michael Chapel - Capela de S. Miguel: It was built in the beginning of the 16th century, replacing another chapel, probably from the 12th century. Its architectural structure is Manueline with a visibly decorative style, especially in the huge windows of the main nave and in the transept arch. You enter the Capela entrance and find inside a snack bar with light meals. There is internal courtyard full with Azulejos (cermaic tiles) in its first and second floors:

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Entrance door to Saint Michael Chapel - Capela de S. Miguel:

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

The internal courtyard with Azulejos:

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Second floor of the internal courtyard:

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Wedding in the Saint Michael Chapel:

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Biblioteca Joanina: Among thousands of libraries all over the world, the British newspaper "The Telegraph" highlights two Portuguese libraries in a list of the world's most spectacular libraries: the Library of Mafra and University Library of Coimbra. Indeed, among eight dozen libraries through more than 20 countries, published in the book "The Library: A World History " by James Campbell, the British newspaper selects 16 libraries and places the Baroque Library of University of Coimbra in the first position. Its construction started in 1717, and was completed in 1728. The Baroque library is marvelous – apart from the cathedral-like room itself - its triumphal arches, walls of ancient tomes and shelves, pillars and antique tables, the poor light and atmosphere - all leave you breathless... Since the 20th century, this is a museum of some of Portugal's most revered works of literature. The scene was of row upon row of bookshelves, two stories high, all with gilded covers and stored behind heavy oak shelves. It look more like something from a Harry Potter movie. Entering the library is a surreal experience. It is a bit dark and small bats are flying here and there. A colony of bats is nurtured within it to keep the insect population out from the old books. Over the entrance door, the library exhibits the national coat of arms. Inside it, there are three great rooms divided by decorated arches entirely executed by Portuguese artists. The central nave of the library makes its structure resembles a chapel, where the portrait of King Joao (John) V, takes the place of the altar.The Casa da Livraria, the name with which the Joanine Library was known, received its first books after 1750 and the construction of the building is dated between 1717 and 1728. The building has three storeys and it accommodates around 200.000 books. The noble storey houses 40.000 books. It is said that the builder, King Joao V, was no lover of books, but built the library to outdo his brother-in-law, Kaiser Karl VI, who at the time was building his own library, the Hofbibliotek, in Vienna. These may be the grandest rooms in all Portugal. Lacquered light and dark green cases of rare books rise in tiers from the inlaid marble floor and are topped with elaborate carvings, crests and crowns dripping with gold leaf. This library, perhaps more than any other feature, symbolizes Coimbra's status as an important city, despite its small size. Coimbra was Portugal's first royal capital and the birthplace of six kings. St. Anthony of Padua was ordained here and the city was home to St. Elizabeth of Portugal as well. Portugal's greatest poet, Luis Camoes, and French sculptor Jean de Rouen worked here. Until this century, Coimbra had Portugal's only university.

NO PHOTOS ALLOWED INSIDE.

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Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Culture in , Portugal, visiting things to do in Portugal, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Last remark on University of Coimbra: Walking through the University of Coimbra campus, you will encounter typical "student graffiti." I find the petty crime rather entertaining. These graffiti works are far from pleasant looking. These student graffitis are always with themes of revolution (against the institution and society), of racism, of lies, of yearnings for reform.

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