Coimbra is located in Central Portugal in the Centro Region. It's the third largest city in the country with about 460,000 people living in the entire region. It is also where you'll find the University of Coimbra, which is one of the oldest universities in Europe and the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese speaking world. During the High Middle Ages, Coimbra served as the nation's capital and there are archaeological structures that date back to the Roman era.
The climate in Coimbra is mild Mediterranean and the winters have highs around 15 degrees Celsius and lows around 5 degrees Celsius. During the coldest months, the temperatures may fall below freezing. Summer temperatures have highs around 29 degrees Celsius and lows around 16 degrees Celsius. The hottest days may reach 40 degrees Celsius.
There are many interesting sights around Coimbra. Make sure you check out the University of Coimbra. Get there before 7 pm when the famous old library closes. Other sights around town include the Botanical Garden, Machado de Castro National Museum, the Old Cathedral, the New Cathedral of Coimbra, Igreja de Santa Cruz, the Medieval Downtown, Jardim da Sereia, Penedo da Saudade, and the Sister Lusia of Jesus Memorial, among others.
Coimbra is relatively small. Most places of interest are in either the Baixa or Santa Clara areas or close enough that they can be reached on foot. There are also major shopping malls in Alta, by Solum and near the municipal stadium. There are some cheap fast food restaurants in the shopping malls.
Activities around town include taking a walk up to the top of University Hill for the view of the city. Student life also plays an important role in the atmosphere around town. There are many student festivals throughout the year. Some favorites are Festa das Latas and Queima das Fitas. Festa das Latas is a homecoming parade that takes place at the beginning of the academic year in November. It dates back to the 19th century and the highlight is the Latada parade. After the parade, new students are "baptized" in the Mondego River as a sign of joining the Coimbra academic fraternity. Queima das Fitas takes place at the end of the second semester, which usually happens at the beginning of May. It is one of the biggest student parties in all of Europe and lasts for just over a week.
Shopping is also a popular activity around town. You can go to the medieval center where you'll find plenty of independent bookshops, boutiques, toyshops, galleries, and more.
Food and Dining
There are plenty in interesting restaurants in Coimbra and many of them are located in the old city. Prices near tourist attractions can be slightly elevated so it is often a good idea to find a place that is slightly off the beaten track. There are three larger shopping centers where you can find food options if you're on a particularly tight budget. They have a variety of fast food options and are close to public transit, although somewhat inconvenient when you're sightseeing. International restaurants range from Italian to Asian. There are also plenty of restaurants that serve delicious, traditional Portuguese food. They range in price from affordable to very expensive and each has its own atmosphere. Make sure you try a traditional Portuguese meal while you're in town.
Wine is also good in Coimbra. In particular, make sure you try some Bairrada wine. Also try licor beirao, which is the national sweet liquor drink that is made in the area.
As a tourist, you'll find that most of the city's sights and attractions, as well as most of the restaurants and hotels, are within a reasonable walking distance. There is a large system of buses that is operated by SMTUC as well as the Coimbra trolleybus system. The city also serves as a hub for the interregional bus services that go around the country and abroad. There are several rail stations with the main station being Coimbra-B on the main line between Porto and Lisbon. Coimbra-A is a small spur that runs from the main station into the city center. Coimbra also has a regional airfield in Cernache about 8 kilometers southwest of the downtown area. It serves private flights.
There are three major bridges that cross the Mondego River in Coimbra; the Ponte do Acude, the Ponte de Santa Clara, and the Ponte Rainha Santa. The Ponte Pedonal de Pedro e Ines is the only footbridge in the city.