Imagine a university founded in the 13th century, built in a former royal palace, and with one of the most ornate libraries in the world. Imagine a Romanesque Cathedral, fortified against a long gone enemy… Imagine students in flowing black capes singing a unique ballad only practiced in this city. Imagine a Roman underground, untouched for 2,000 years and ready to explore. Add to that a vibrant downtown, imagining views, and a sweeping river. Oxford? Cambridge? Salamanca? No, we are talking about Coimbra - Portugal’s former 2nd capital, and a destination all in its own.
Coimbra, sitting on the banks of the River Mondego, was once the capital of the emerging nation of Portugal. Today, where the palace of the kings and queens once stood, is a major university. Created in 1288, 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 is found throughout the city. The Monastery of Santa Cruz now houses the tomb of first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. Today, university students still sing Fado, a particularly Portuguese musical genre, from the steps of the ancient 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.