In place of the hilltop palace of the first Portuguese monarchs, you’ll now find the oldest university in Portugal and Europe.
Before the first royals, the Roman’s colonised the area, and their art is found in the Monastery of Santa Cruz, where St. Anthony lived and the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques died. Roman art is also found in the Old Cathedral, where students sing Coimbra-style fado on the steps. In Santa Clara-a-Velha, which dates back to Roman times as well, the beautiful Inês de Castro lived with the children she had with Prince Pedro. It was here she was murdered on the orders of King Afonso IV, giving rise to the most tragic and immortal love story written in Portuguese.
The Renaissance and the final transfer of the university to Coimbra in 1537 breathed new artistic freedom into the city. This is now seen in the beautiful Manueline doorway of the University Chapel and the magnificent ancient door in the walls of the Old Cathedral.
The Baroque style also left its mark on the sumptuous University Library, “the most beautiful and richly decorated library that I ever saw” according to a 19th Century diplomat. On its gilded shelves are 250,000 books.
From the top of its 178 steps, the old university clock tower still chimes out the hours too. Visit Coimbra for an unforgettable holiday.