Coimbra, sitting on the banks of the River Mondego, was once the capital of the emerging country of Portugal. Today, where the palace of the kings and queens once stood, is a major university. Created in 1537, the university is one of the oldest in Portugal and all of Europe. The city has always been a center of learning, poetry and art.
Evidence of the Roman occupation of these lands is found throughout the city. The Monastery of Santa Cruz now houses art that once belonged to the Romans who had first colonized this area. The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, died at this monastery. Roman art is also a key part of the artifacts in the city’s Old Cathedral. Today, university students often sing Fado, a particularly Portuguese musical genre, from the steps of this cathedral.
The architectural prize at the University goes to the Baroque style library, which was called “the most beautiful and richly decorated library” by a 19th Century diplomat. Its gold-painted shelves hold more than 250,000 books.