Coimbra, the cultural center of Portugal

Coimbra, the cultural center of Portugal

You might say Lisbon is the ultimate cultural destination in the country – after all, it is an outstanding economic hub and the capital city – but actually the academic destiny of this Iberian country began in the 13th century in Coimbra, the cultural center of Portugal.

Here are some useful facts about Coimbra, worth knowing if you are planning to travel there or to study in town.

In 1290, the University of Coimbra was founded. This makes it one of the oldest higher education institutions in the world. No wonder Coimbra was chosen to hold this special place in the middle ages. It used to be the capital city of Portugal – in fact, it retained this title until the 13th century – and is still the center and capital of the Central region of the country.

Coimbra is located not 200 km away from Lisbon and less than an hour’s drive from the Atlantic seaside. So you see, Coimbra is quite an idyllic university “destination”. It’s a young city, where lots of cultural events take place. There is one festival that holds a special place in the calendar. It happens twice a year (once when the school year begins, the second time when it ends) and it consists of a huge student parade. Young students wearing black frocks and capes go about the city singing and dancing.

Music is also at home in Coimbra and there is even a special variety of fado that originates here. It’s only sung by men wearing student frocks.

Coimbra is also a great tourist attraction, especially due to its spectacular medieval architecture. Apart from the University, you can visit the 12th century Igreja de Santa Cruz, the emblematic Cathedral and the Almedina Arch,one of  the most notable relics from the Moorish rule.

If you’re just passing through coming from Lisbon, you can book Lisbon Airport taxi transfers online, prior to your trip, to save time and money.