One Day in Coimbra Itinerary: A Day Trip from Porto

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by Emily Marty

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If you’ll be visiting Porto for a decent amount of time, then you may be considering making a day trip to Coimbra during your stay. Spending one day in Coimbra is a fantastic way to get to know the charming university city, and, thanks to its compact size, you can come up with an exciting Coimbra itinerary even if you’re not planning on staying overnight. 

So, we’ve compiled the article below to help you put together the perfect Coimbra day trip. We’ll also provide some tips on how to get the most out of your holiday if you’re looking to stay in Coimbra for longer. 

How Many Days in Coimbra?

Wondering how many days to spend in Coimbra? This charming city, while having plenty to offer visitors, is definitely on the more compact side of things. What’s more, most of its main tourist sites are within walking distance of one another, so you can get a lot done in a fairly short span of time during your stay. 

Because of this, you can pretty comfortably get away with seeing most of what there is to see in Coimbra in one day, at least in terms of landmarks and major attractions. With that being said, if you have the opportunity to extend your Coimbra itinerary, then this can definitely be worth doing. 

If, for example, you have an extra day in Coimbra, you can use your time to really explore the city and get a feel for its more authentic side. Or, you might want to visit its surrounds; there are a number of excellent day trips that you can comfortably make from Coimbra that will give you the chance to get off the beaten path. 

View of Coimbra
View of Coimbra

Getting To & Around Coimbra

Being one of Portugal’s larger cities, Coimbra is reasonably easy to travel to via public transit and car whether you’re coming from Lisbon or Porto or somewhere else further afield. 

Probably the most convenient way to get to Coimbra from Porto is by train; there are two separate rail networks, the Alfa Pendular and Intercidades, that both operate directly between Porto and Coimbra.

You can book tickets for both of these services fairly easily online, though ticket machines are also available at the local rail stations on both ends of your journey.

Note that this is a fairly popular rail link among tourists and locals alike, and the trains can and do get fully booked! So, purchasing your fare in advance is advisable, especially if you’ll be travelling during a busier time of year. You can book tickets here.

Somewhat annoyingly, neither of the express trains from Porto to Coimbra (or vice versa) actually depart from their respective city’s central station. When travelling by rail, you’ll generally need to head to Porto Campanhã, which is a little way south from the city’s main station, São Bento. 

Campanhã is easily accessed via local rail links from São Bento, and the journey time is fairly short. And, you’ll arrive into Coimbra at a station with the somewhat unimaginative name of Coimbra B; from there, you can hop onto one of the trains heading into Coimbra’s central station, which takes just a few minutes to reach. 

Though it’s slightly further away, due to its location in Central Portugal, it’s also possible to get from Lisbon to Coimbra in about 2 hours which makes it possible to take a day trip from Lisbon, as well.

Public transit within Coimbra itself isn’t always all that reliable, so you may want to navigate the city on foot as much as is feasible. Failing that, taxis, rideshare services, and bike rentals are all available and affordable options. 

If you prefer to visit on a guided tour then there are a number of Coimbra day trips from Porto such as this full-day tour or this full-day tour.

You can also organise a private tour from Porto or join a guided transfer from Lisbon to Porto that stops in Coimbra.

Iconic Buildings of Porto
Iconic Buildings of Porto

1 Day in Coimbra Itinerary 

You can visit the attractions in Coimbra on this one-day itinerary independently or if you prefer, consider joining a walking tour of the city to learn more from a tour guide.

Portugal dos Pequenitos 

The rather idiosyncratic and unique Portugal dos Pequenitos certainly makes for a memorable experience for visitors to Coimbra.

This miniature park is made up of, well, miniature versions of traditional Portuguese structures, including landmarks and houses. There’s also a section dedicated to places colonised by the Portuguese, so the park, on the whole, is reasonably varied in its displays. 

While Portugal dos Pequenitos may not appeal to everyone, it’s a great place to get a snapshot of a number of different kinds of traditional Portuguese architecture without needing to travel very far to do so. 

Aqueduct of São Sebastião 

The imposing aqueduct of São Sebastião is one of the most distinctive, eye-catching landmarks in all of Coimbra.

Stretching on for more than a kilometre, the aqueduct was built in the 16th century to supply the city with water. It is, naturally, fairly obsolete now, but is still a real marvel of engineering and definitely worth stopping by, even if you’re only seeing Coimbra in a day. 

Sao Sebastiao Aqueduct
Sao Sebastiao Aqueduct

Mosteiro de Santa Cruz 

Santa Cruz, also known as the Monastery of the Holy Cross, is one of Portugal’s National Monuments.

It’s the resting place of the first two kings of Portugal, making it easily one of the most historic and significant landmarks in the country (it was founded in 1131!) and worth visiting for anyone interested in Portuguese culture for this reason alone. 

Visiting the cathedral is free, and you can gain admission to the Santa Cruz complex for a nominal fee. There’s a museum area which is fascinating, and the building’s incredible architecture is pretty inspiring, to say the least. 

Universidade de Coimbra/Biblioteca Joanina

The University of Coimbra is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most historic academic institutions. It’s one of the oldest universities in continuous operation and was originally built as a royal palace – which explains the splendour and grandeur of its stunning architecture! 

But history fans will, in particular, want to make sure to check out the University’s Joanine Library, or Biblioteca Joanina, during their visit.

Many regard this incredible space as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world; featuring highly ornate, baroque design, the Biblioteca was built in the early 1700s and continues to captivate visitors to this day. 

Note that buying tickets online in advance is recommended, as the sales office can be quite hard to locate. Photographing the library’s main baroque hall is also banned, and some people do find that they get rushed through the building by staff quite quickly once they’ve entered (you’re not allowed to stay for as long as you like). 

Part of the visit to the library also includes access to the building’s Academic Prison, which is found in the basement. Previously, students and academics at Coimbra University were granted considerable privileges within Portugal; the university was actually allowed to establish its own prison, wherein students who had committed various crimes were incarcerated.

Being imprisoned here meant students could attend classes during the day and had far more rights than prisoners in the general population would have. 

Also worth a visit is the university’s famous clock tower, which visitors are allowed to climb for a nominal fee. It’s a bit of a workout, but the incredible views from the top make it worth it! You can also join a walking tour of the university with a guide.

University of Coimbra
University of Coimbra

National Museum Machado de Castro

Taking its name from the famed Portuguese sculptor, Joaquim Machado de Castro, Coimbra’s National Museum, which is found in the remains of the city’s old Bishop’s Palace, contains a collection made primarily up of religious art and artefacts sourced from the surrounding area.

This is easily one of Portugal’s greatest art museums and is an absolute must-see if you’re a fan of history or culture more generally. 

Sé Velha 

Coimbra’s Sé Velha is one of Portugal’s most stunning cathedrals. It dates all the way back to the 12th century and is considered to be an excellent example of Romanesque architecture.

At the time of its construction, Coimbra was the Portuguese capital, so the building’s incredible interior shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

The absolutely resplendent main chapel and north chapels are especially impressive, and the cathedral’s austere, grand façades make a real impression, too.

In addition to exploring the inside of the building, entry tickets also allow you admission to the cloisters and tombs, both of which enhance the experience even further. 

The Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova 

Found on a hill overlooking Coimbra, the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova as we see it today was built in the 17th century, after its original location was repeatedly flooded by the Mondego river. 

With its architecture and design overseen by one of the monks, this monastery is beloved by visitors thanks to the profound atmosphere of peace and tranquility that pervades the grounds.

The guided tour is especially interesting – you’ll have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the history of the complex, as well as visit some of the nooks and crannies that are generally off limits to anyone not living or working here. 

Given that the monastery is on a hill outside of Coimbra, you may want to consider taking a taxi or public transport to the entrance, unless you don’t mind a bit of a walk.

You can expect it to take about 25 minutes to reach the monastery on foot from the Sé Velha, and it’s uphill for a lot of the way, which is worth keeping in mind if you have any mobility issues or accessibility requirements. 

Monastery of Santa Clara a Nova
Monastery of Santa Clara a Nova

Mondego Green Park 

Found on the banks of the River Mondego, Mondego Green Park is located just outside Coimbra’s Old Town. This is a lovely place to relax and take in some fresh air; you can go for a stroll or enjoy a picnic if the weather is good enough. 

Fado Show 

Fado is a traditional genre of folk music native to Portugal, and the city of Coimbra is one of its greatest strongholds across the country.

Coimbra fado has been developed largely by students of the city’s prestigious university, and it’s fairly distinct from the fado played in other parts of the country as a result. 

You’ll find that there are plenty of fado venues across Coimbra, so why not catch a show while you’re in town? Most fado clubs offer both dinner and a performance when you book in with them, meaning that you can enjoy some of the local cuisine while you immerse yourself in the culture. You can pre-book some options online.

Of course, if you’d prefer to eat elsewhere, then some venues also allow you to book a table without dining in.

This isn’t always the case with the more traditional fado clubs, though, so it’s generally a good idea to contact them to check in advance if you aren’t planning on enjoying a meal alongside the show. 

Have 2 Days in Coimbra? 

If you’re eager to do more than a Coimbra day trip, then you may want to consider staying overnight in this charming university city. It’s generally more affordable than Lisbon and Porto, and spending a greater amount of time here will let you really get a feel for the place and immerse yourself in the atmosphere. 

You could use this extra day to explore the city streets and visit the attractions on this itinerary at a more leisurely pace, for instance. The Serra da Lousã area is also home to some lovely hiking trails and is a great place to check out if you’re a fan of the great outdoors. 

Or, you could use Coimbra as a hub for exploring the surrounding countryside or neighbouring villages in Central. Conimbriga is a fantastic choice; just a short drive from Coimbra, this ruined Roman settlement is one of the largest and best-preserved of its kind in Portugal.

View spas, mosaics, and a number of other artefacts in remarkable condition as you uncover the incredible history of the Roman Empire at your own pace. 

You may also want to head south to the city of Tomar, which is home to a former convent of the Knights Templar (Convent of Christ), as well as the old medieval castle, which houses the convent itself. Tomar is a charming place straddling the Nabão River, and its cobbled streets and alleyways make for a lovely place to go for a wander. 

Roman ruins of Conimbriga
Roman ruins of Conimbriga

Where to Stay in Coimbra

Hotel Oslo – This 3-star hotel is an excellent option if you’re after a mid-rage stay in lovely Coimbra. Located in the centre of the city, they have a range of lovely rooms to choose from along with plenty of great amenities available to guests. Click here to check availability

Sapientia Boutique Hotel – Those looking for luxury when staying the night in Coimbra will love this hip hotel in the centre of the historic city. They have a number of beautiful rooms to choose from, a lovely on-site bar and terrace, and an excellent central location. Click here to check availability

Casas do Arco – If you’re after a self-catering apartment in Coimbra, then these furnished holiday flats are a great choice. They are comfortably decorated and equipped with all you may need and also are centrally located for exploring the best things to do in Coimbra. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Coimbra hotels!

While small, charming Coimbra has a great deal to offer visitors. Whether you’re eager to explore the historic architecture of the university or want to catch a fado show, you’re sure to have a fantastic time during your stay!

Are you planning to visit Coimbra? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Emily Marty

Emily is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she is currently based in the UK. She enjoys exploring Northern & Western Europe and Southeast Asia and has a bit of a thing for islands in particular.

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