Famous for being home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Coimbra is a destination that’s growing in popularity — both with tourists and potential expats alike. Although small, the Portuguese city is packed with history and culture, particularly around Coimbra University. It’s also one of fado epicentres of Portugal and here you’ll hear the genre sung exclusively by men.
Besides all of the history and culture that it has to offer, there are a few other reasons that Coimbra is becoming so popular as a city. One is its location: Coimbra is around two hours from Lisbon and an hour and fifteen minutes from Porto. This makes it easy to get to either city, whether it’s for a weekend break, daytrip, or a trip to the airport.
While the weather won’t be quite as good as Lisbon, the Alentejo, or Algarve, Coimbra is further south than other small cities like Braga and Guimarães and so gets slightly better weather. It isn’t directly on the coast, but you can drive to the nearest beaches (for example Figueira da Foz) in around 45 minutes.
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- Location: Central Portugal
- Type: Small city
- Population: Around 150,000 (143,396 in 2011 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coimbra)
- Nearest beach: 45 minutes’ drive
- Nearest airport: 138 km (Porto Airport)
Pros & cons of living here
Everywhere has its pros and its cons, including Coimbra.
- Lower property costs than Lisbon and Porto
- Packed with history and culture
- Easy transport links to both Porto and Lisbon
- According to Portuguese language tutor, Leonardo Coelho, Coimbra has the most neutral accent and therefore it’ll be much easier to understand people https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pitj0XxYO7I [in Portuguese]
- Very easy to walk around (although watch out for the hills)
- Not on the coast: the nearest beach is almost an hour away by car
- The city can get very hot during the summer months, particularly if you’re somewhere without aircon
- Coimbra is very student and tourism-focused, which is fun if you’re a part of it but less so if you’re not a part of it
- It’s not the hilliest city in Portugal, but even still, Coimbra may not be ideal for those with mobility issues
Things to do
Coimbra is a Portuguese city that’s absolutely brimming with history and culture. Some of the most popular attractions and things to do include:
- Visit the University of Coimbra
- Visit the Monastery of Santa Cruz
- Visit the Botanic Gardens
View more ideas in this list of things to do in Coimbra
Supermarkets & shopping
For fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and fish, look no further than Coimbra’s main market, the Mercado Municipal D. Pedro V. Of course, you’ll find plenty of supermarkets in and around Coimbra as well, including Pingo Doce, Continente, Lidl, and Aldi. However, you should note that many of these are located just outside of the city centre and you should factor this in when choosing somewhere to live.
You’ll find all of the most common Portuguese shops at Forum, including Worten (appliances and electronics), clothes stores like C&A, Berksha, and H&M, and home furnishing shops like O Gato Preto and ZARA Home. It’s not the only mall: there are others like Coimbrashopping and Alma as well.
Public transport & getting around
Coimbra is on the trainline between Lisbon and Porto, and so there are normally 20+ services from either Lisbon or Porto each day. Train tickets can be booked on CP.pt.
Note: Coimbra has two train stations: Coimbra and Coimbra-B. Trains from Lisbon and Porto often only stop at Coimbra-B and from there you’ll need to take the train from Coimbra-B to Coimbra-A (in the city centre). This train is essentially a shuttle service and it’s incredibly regular: there are normally services every 10-15 minutes and the journey itself only takes 4 minutes.
As well as trains, there are also regular bus services to and from Coimbra.
You definitely don’t need a car to get around Coimbra, but it’s nice to have one to get away for daytrips. Unfortunately, finding parking in Coimbra city centre can often be a challenge.
Although there is a small regional airport in Coimbra (Aeródromo Municipal Bissaya Barreto – LPCO Coimbra), the nearest airport for most people will be Porto Airport (138 km away) or Lisbon Airport (198 km away).