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Coimbra Travel Guide

The city of Coimbra

Known as the "city of students", Coimbra developed into an important cultural centre, mainly because of the University of Coimbra founded in 1290. The university is one of the oldest in Europe and due to its monumental buildings and history attracts tourists from around the world.

Actually the daily life is marked by the students, they animate the city through their academic traditions, with the highlight being the Festa da Queima das Fitas in May, an event that marks the end of the academic year. This celebration involves the final year. Habitually the city can only really be appreciated by walking through its streets. It deserves a lengthy stay, for as is said in a fado sung by the students.

Coimbra is divided into two distinct areas:

The Alta (upper town): Is the older part, which is entered through the Arco de Almedina, a gateway that brings back memories of the Arab occupation, since "Medina" means city in Arabic.

The upper town consists of steep narrow streets, where the "republics" (typical communal student residences) are to be found, as well as some of the city´s most important buildings Sé Velha (Old Cathedral), Sé Nova (New Cathedral), the University and the Casa de Sub-Ripas, a mansion with an impressive Manueline doorway.

The Baixa (lower town): By the river, where most of the city is commercial activity is concentrated.

Beyond the university, Coimbra has much else to offer the visitor not least an array of medieval churches. Accessing the old part of the city through the Arco de Almedina, we find two cathedrals known as Se Velha (old) and Se Nova (new) referring to their respective ages, and though the ‘new’ one dates back to the 17th century its senior was founded in 1170. Regarding the old cathedral, a guided tour of the interior and cloisters is generally available from a willing student in return for a tip, however the décor tends to be quite simple and restrained in comparison to other churches.


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