Ten kilometers south of Coimbra, the best roman ruins in Portugal deserve your visit. The city seems to exist from the 9th century BC, with the Romans arriving 800 years later.
Only less than one third of the area has been already excavated, but some buildings show good mosaics.
Sa da Bandeira avenue
This avenue connecting the commercial "baixa" with the academic "alta" has no significant detail (well... Avenue Cinema is a classical...), but, maybe because of its importance in moving around, has been embellished with some modern tiles.
Nice, but... pastiche.
Don't read anymore, please, but I can't resist to tell a true story lived in Avenida cinema:
In the "bad old days" of dictatorship, before passing the movie all cinemas presented a journal (in Portuguese "jornal", also meaning newspaper) with government's propaganda. One day... a big surprise - no "jornal".
A student in the auditorium shouted immediately:
- Hey guys, the "jornal" is over.
Another one answered immediately from the balcony:
- That happens... clean with your hand!
See? I told you not to read!
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Left of Santa Cruz church, City Hall has a very controversial history.
Formerly installed in a part of Santa Cruz convent, it was not functional, and suffered several transformations, always discussed until the recent version, dating from the 19th century, with a few changes.
- Historical Travel
Pátio da Inquisição
Pátio da Inquisição or Patio/Yard of the Inquisition is the group of buildings of historical and architectural interest, where the Holy Office of the Inquisition functioned from 1.566 until it finished in 1.821.
How to get there? From Praça 8 de Maio, leave tha Cámara Municipal (City Hall) on your rigth, cross Rúa Olimpo Nicolau Rui Fernandes and turn right along this street, then, turn left taking Rúa Pedro Rocha, and there it is.
Torre de Anto or Torre do Prior do Ameal
Anto Tower was formerly called Ameal Tower, and it was part of the city walls in the medieval times. This tower was transformed into a three-storey house at the beginning of the 16th century.
Address: Rúa Sub Ripas.
How to get there: Follow the explanation I gave in the previous tip and cross under the Torre da Contenda (Quarrel Tower), and there it is.
Torre da Contenda
The Torre da Contenda (Quarrel Tower) was sold to João Vaz in 1.514 who built a palace (Paço de Sobre Ripas)partly over the old tower.
Address: Rúa Sub Ripas.
How to get there: From Rúa Ferreira Borges, croos under Torre de Almedina (on your right) and turn left to Patio do Castilho and keep walking up for a few meters until you reach Rúa Sub Ripas, then, turn left.
Colégio da Nossa Senhora da Graça
It was founded by King D. João III in 1.543 and it belonged to the Hermits of St. Agostinho.
Address: Rúa da Sofia.
From Praça 8 de Maio, walk along the mentioned street, and you will find it on the right side.
Colégio e Igreja de N. Senhora do Carmo
This College was founded in 1.542 by the Bishop D. Frei Baltazar Limpo, and the Bishop of Portalegre, Friar Amador Arrais had the church built in 1.597.
Address: Rúua da Sofia, 114
From Praça 8 de Maio, just walk along the street (rúa); the church is on the right.
Walking along Rúa Olimpio Nicolau Rui Ferandes, I found these beautiful mosaics representing some icons of Coimbra.
- 1st: Universidade (s. XVI a XVIII)
- 2nd: Igreja de Santa Cruz (s. XII)
- 3rd: Sé Velha (s. XII)
- 4th: Sé Nova (s. XVI)
- 5th: Igreja de S. Tiago (s. XII)
How to get there? From Praça 8 de Maio, leave the Cámara Municipal (City Hall) on your right and round the corner, this street shows up. Then, walk for about 200 m., and on the left side of the street, opposite the Mercado D. Pedro V.
Now most people miss the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) for a reason....Too bad we didn't know that beforehand.
The garden is part of the University of Coimbra, and it is poorly maintained. It was founded in the late 1700s as part of the Natural History Museum. At a size of 13 hectares, it is small enough to explore in a short amount of time. I read somewhere that it is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe, but I highly doubt that. I've seen many a beautiful garden in my life, and this was far from my expectations. Flowers at the garden were rather lacklustre.
The garden is divided into a terrace level decorated 18th century European style and an arboretum. I will admit I was impressed with the arboretum as they had a significant collection of worldly tree species. They even had species from Washington State (my home!) - now that was a surprise.
As soon as you walk up to that 18th century center fountain, you will notice it is covered in green scum. Who knows if they've ever cleaned the poor fountain! Look at the color of the water, now that's putrid isn't it? I didn't pay 2 euros to stare at pond scum all day...
Calçada Martim de Freitas
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Portugal for the Little Ones
Conceived by Bissaya-Barreto and planned by Cassiano Branco, inaugurated in 1940 and concluded by the end of the decade of 50, this thematic park intended for children represents the cultural values of colonial Portugal.
Some quiet paths in the city
Parque de Santa Cruz is off of Praca de Republica near the university and offers a number of peaceful spots to get away from the crowds. Of course, when I was in Coimbra there wasn't even a hint of a crowd anywhere to be found so this wasn't really a problem. You'll find a moss covered wall and fountain with some impressive azulejos as well as some paths that meander above the entrance up the hill behind the square.
Get lost, you'll find something great
We walked down from the university to the lower town (referred to as Baixa), and along the way encounter lots of quiet corners and interesting streets. Throw your map away and just start exploring Coimbra and you're sure to find some interesting sights. Usually when I visit a city, I use my map for the first day just to get my bearings and to learn the major streets. Then, I toss it and just start to wander and that's usually how I find some of the most interesting sights. If you really get lost, you can always hail a cab or ask a local to point you in the right direction.
Student houses - there is a...
Student houses - there is a very strong student community in Coimbra.
An interesting anomalie is that of the student houses which were orignally let by private owners to groups of students who stayed for years and years.
What eventually happened is that students in these houses have become protected by the government, they pay very little rent and receive subsidies for food - there is very strong sense of community and when walking past you can't help but get that great 'commune' sensation.
Founded in the 16th century, it was originally part of the Holy Cross Monastery. This original composition of elements was created by Renaissance artist Jean de Rouen.