A Day Trip To Coimbra [Portugal]

Coimbra hidden gem portugal day trip lisbon fado town

Sometimes the best things come by accident and by surprise, you agree? This describes Tess and I’s adventure to Coimbra. When researching Portugal before our 2019 trip, we regularly heard mention of the Portugal’s oldest university town, however nothing jumped out at us screaming “don’t miss this”. We decided instead to visit Aveiro and Costa Nova, costal towns in central Portugal below Porto and above Lisbon. Arriving in Aveiro from Porto we were greeted with overcast skies and a few raindrops. After the delight of Porto, we were completely underwhelmed. We stopped in a small coffee shop in Aveiro to gather our thoughts and considered our options. “What about a day trip to Coimbra?” suggested Tess, lifting us from our momentary gloom. Checking the train timetables we realized the next train was 15 minutes time.

Coimbra on maps

A short 50 minute train trip later and we had arrived. The climate was completely different, and the riverside old town sitting on the hill instantly captured our imagination. With no set plans and minimal research into Coimbra, we had the enjoyment of wandering without expectation. The old streets were narrow, winding up the hill to the university. Coimbra’s university is the oldest in Portugal, and has beautiful old buildings. Our visit occurred on the weekend meaning the town was quite sleepy, but have heard during the week it’s a bustling hub of university students.

With our hunger growing, we perched at a delightful laneway restaurant in Coimbra, however we can’t remember the name for the life of us. Fresh salad, sardines and bruschetta satisfied our appetite, giving us energy to wander the streets some more. On some of the main streets wandering up towards the university there were a number of cafes and bars. We thoroughly enjoyed perching on the steps and enjoying a coffee and Patel De Nata (of course). Those following us will know that trying a Pastel De Nata in every town we visited was a must! (read about our favourite Pastel De Nata in Lisbon).

After some quick research in Tess’s treasured lonely planet book (a great addition to trips if you want a physical travel guide), we realized that a Fado show was a must do when in Coimbra. Fado is traditional Portuguese music from the 1800s that originated in Coimbra (and Lisbon) and is still performed to this day. We managed to secure tickets to a local Fado show for later in the day. The show was excellent, however we do not have any pictures of videos as it is prohibited to video during the performances.

Our day trip concluded after wandering through a few more of the old town streets, before catching the train back up to Aveiro. Days, weeks, months and even years later we reminisce on how glad we were that the weather had been poor in Aveiro leading to us having this spontaneous Coimbra day trip. If you take anything from this blog, it’s that sometimes on holidays spontaneity leads to some of your favourite memories.

Our Recommendations for Coimbra:

  1. Wander the old town streets: the old town streets were narrow, cobbled, and everything you expect from a European city. The archways and old university buildings were a particular highlight.
  2. Catch a Fado show: we loved this experience, and would highlight recommend. We didn’t book before we went, so I suspect you’ll likely be able to get into a show on the day.
  3. Check out the university: Coimbra’s university is the oldest in Portugal and has a charm about it. It’s worth a wander through. As it’s perched on top of the hill, the views are excellent.
  4. Cross the bridge to the other side of the river for the best photo opportunities of Coimbra’s old town.
  5. Get a coffee and people watch: one of our favourite past times.
  6. Try out some of the local restaurants and shops. The food was great, and some of the small shops, like the handmade chocolate shop, were also excellent.
Coimbra old town


Read more about our travels in Portugal? SEE HERE!

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Comments (2):

  1. Diane

    March 25, 2022 at 4:41 pm

    What a lovely blog!
    Coimbra sounds absolutely idyllic!
    Will be visiting this town for sure !!
    Thanks Ky!


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