Coimbra is a city of art and history, site of an ancient and prestigious university and with many beauties to show to visitors. First of all the location, nestled on a hill and bathed by the river Mondego.
There are two Coimbra, the upper town linked to its glorious past and tradition, and the lower town, looking to the future: two souls living together without frictions.
The city tour inevitably departs from the city’s jewel, the University , in the old town, that can be reached by narrow streets climbing up the hill: the University also has two sides too, a modern part dating back to the ’50s and the ancient one dating back to the XVI century.
The Universidade Velha is all gathered around the pair das Escolas square, which can be entered through the Iron Gate of 1634, realised in Mannerist style. The square is bordered on one side by columns and on the other by the Tower from Cabra (Goat), dating back to 700 and so called by the students because it said to “bleat like a goat”.
The University’s masterpiece is the Joanina Library, a baroque jewel consisting of three rooms, richly decorated with gilded woods, marbles and painted wooden ceilings with trompe l’oeil , with over thirty seven thousand volumes and manuscripts preserved in the beautiful Baroque shelves reaching up to the ceiling.
The tour continues along the old town made up of small squares, narrow streets ending in tiny gardens and patios, small cafes and restaurants frequented by students. Coimbra’ secret lies in its ability to mix historical reminiscences and young aspirations, as if along its streets there was long invisible line connecting past and present.
Whichever road you take in the old town, you always end up at Sé Velha , the old cathedral, dating back to 1140: built at the time of the Portuguese Reconquista, it has the appearance of a fortress because it had to convey an image of strength and power, but still there are Renaissance decorations that make it less severe. Another gem of this historic city with a young soul.