University of Coimbra (Universidade de Coimbra)
Though it was first founded in Lisbon, the hilltop University of Coimbra has occupied its current location since 1537. One of the world’s oldest universities, it was also the only university in Portugal until the 20th century. Its lofty academic reputation is one draw, but so is the university’s setting. Built on the site of a former palace, the 16th-century, UNESCO-listed campus sports a sprawling courtyard; a baroque library; a science museum; a botanical garden; and striking, centuries-old architecture at every turn.
The University of Coimbra features on numerous tour itineraries, including private campus tours, skip-the-line visits, and on full-day Coimbra city tours. Book a tour that suits you visiting preferences best, and you’ll discover its top highlights.
Recent reviews from experiences in Coimbra
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visitors must book a tour or tickets to explore the university; it is recommended to speak quietly in many university buildings to respect the students at work.
- You can climb the 180 stairs of the university’s recently restored bell tower to enjoy panoramic views overlooking the city.
- Be sure to visit the Biblioteca Joanina during a campus tour: regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, it features lavish ornamentation and 53,000 books.
- Begin your tour at the Paço das Escolas: located in a former palace, this historic heart of the university features some of the university’s loveliest buildings.
- Owing to its heritage architecture, stairs, hills, and uneven surfaces, much of the university is not accessible to visitors.
How to Get There
The University of Coimbra is located in the heart of Coimbra, just a 10-minute taxi trip from the main train station. Coimbra is connected by train to both Lisbon and Porto. From Lisbon, the city is roughly two hours by car via the A1; from Porto, it is one-and-a-quarter hours, also via the A1.
When to Get There
The University of Coimbra is open to visitors throughout the year. From March–October, the ticket office is open from morning–evening, and from November–February it’s open from morning to late afternoon. Note that campus museums and sights can have their own visiting hours. The university is closed each year on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and its “Burning Ribbons,” or graduation day, held in mid-May.
Other Coimbra Highlights With origins in Roman times, the riverside city of Coimbra is celebrated for its history, its beauty, and its tranquil pace of living. After visiting the eponymous university, continue your excursions. Other highlights include the Old Cathedral of Coimbra (Sé Velha de Coimbra), the Machado de Castro National Museum (one of Portugal’s top art museums), the Fado ao Centro (a center dedicated to the traditional music), and more.
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