Perched on a hill, overlooking downtown Coimbra, the University of Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an absolute must-see for any visitor to Portugal!
Follow the guide!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Curious about Coimbra’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital (in English). You can choose the tip you want to leave the guide—it’s entirely up to you!
Looking for accommodation in Coimbra? Take a glance at this handpicked selection of excellent-value hotels: accommodations in Coimbra.
A Brief History of the University of Coimbra
Origins of the University of Coimbra
Established by King Denis I (known as Dinis in Portuguese) on March 1, 1290, the University of Coimbra is Portugal’s oldest university and one of the oldest in Europe, alongside prestigious institutions such as Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, and Salamanca.
Initially located in Lisbon, the university went through a series of relocations between Lisbon and Coimbra (in 1308, 1338, 1354, and 1377) before finally settling in Coimbra in 1537.
When it first opened its doors, the University of Coimbra focused solely on law and medicine. However, today the curriculum covers a wide range of disciplines!
The 18th Century: A Turning Point for the University
During the 18th century, under the reign of King John V (Dom João V), the University experienced a period of remarkable growth. Notably, the splendid Joanina Library was constructed during this time, now housing an impressive collection of over 200,000 ancient books.
Throughout the centuries, the University has played a pivotal role in Portuguese intellectual life, boasting famous alumni in diverse fields, from literature to politics.
The University of Coimbra
Today In 2013, the University of Coimbra was proudly recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Today, the University of Coimbra continues to attract countless researchers and students who passionately carry on its rich heritage year after year.
Featured prominently in any reputable travel guide, the University of Coimbra is an absolute must-visit for travelers exploring Portugal!
Visiting the University of Coimbra
With breathtaking architecture and a rich heritage of academic traditions, the University of
Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has indelibly shaped Portugal’s intellectual landscape. Today, it offers a captivating glimpse into the country’s history.
Here are some must-see highlights that should not be missed during your visit:
The Joanina Library
Constructed in the 18th century, this library is a true marvel of Baroque architecture. Adorned with golden embellishments on its wooden shelves, delicate paintings gracing its walls, and a treasure trove of ancient volumes, the Joanina Library is a haven for book enthusiasts and literature aficionados.
Interestingly, the library is home to a colony of bats, serving as natural guardians against pesky insects!
The Chapel of São Miguel
Situated within the University grounds, this awe-inspiring chapel is a remarkable example of the country’s religious architecture. Its blue and white azulejos, golden altar, and magnificent Baroque organ will leave you breathless!
Even today, the chapel hosts concerts and religious services, adding to its vibrant atmosphere.
The University Tower
Dating back to the 18th century, this tower stands as one of Coimbra’s most iconic landmarks. Scaling its 180 steps to reach the top is well worth the effort, as the panoramic view of the city and the Mondego River is simply spectacular! So, put on your sneakers and get ready for an amazing vista!
Paço das Escolas
The main building, known as Paço das Escolas, is a sprawling architectural complex that once served as a royal residence in the 16th century. It offers the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the campus atmosphere.
The University Botanical Garden
Established in the 18th century for the study of medicinal plants, the University of Coimbra’s Botanical Garden spans 13 hectares. It provides a tranquil sanctuary far removed from the hustle and bustle. The garden is home to a myriad of plants from all corners of the world, and it boasts several exotic greenhouses.
Getting to the University of Coimbra
Perched atop a hill, the University of Coimbra offers a breathtaking vantage point overlooking the city and the Mondego River below.
Reaching the university from the city center is convenient and straightforward:
On foot: Coimbra is a compact city, making it entirely feasible to walk to the university from the city center. However, be prepared for an uphill trek. It takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes on foot. Just follow the signs directing you to “Universidade” or “Paço das Escolas,” the main university complex.
By bus: If you prefer to avoid the uphill climb, you have the option to take a bus. Bus line 103 runs from the city center to the University. The nearest stops are “Universidade” or “Paço das Escolas.”
By taxi or Uber: Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi or Uber ride. The fare to the University from the city center typically ranges between 5 and 10 euros.
💡 Insider Tip 💡
The University of Coimbra is largely pedestrianized. Once you arrive, be prepared to explore the campus on foot!
University of Coimbra Opening Hours
The visiting hours of the University of Coimbra vary depending on the season:
- Fall-Winter (early October to early April): 9:30 am to 12:30 pm / 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm
- Spring-Summer (early April to late September): 9:00 am to 7:30 pm
Please note that the University is closed on December 25th and January 1st.
University of Coimbra Admission Prices
The entrance fee for visiting the University of Coimbra is 13.50 euros, which includes access to the library (11 euros for visitors aged 65 and above, 6.75 euros for youths aged 7 to 18, and free admission for children under 7 years old).
If you’re an English speaker, Captain Ulysses highly recommends this guided tour: Guided Tour of the University of Coimbra.