PAÇO DAS ESCOLAS
Coimbra is the main city for Portuguese students, thanks to its renowned university.This small city in the central region of Portugal is clearly divided into two different parts, the upper city and the lower city.As you can imagine, we are going to suggest you go up to the highest part of the city, where you will find the famous University of Coimbra, the oldest in Portugal. We are going to enter, specifically, in the courtyard of the Paço das Escolasor Schools´ Palace.
This building dates back to the 10th century, when the Chancellor of the Caliphate of Córdoba, Al-Mansur "the Victorious" (better known as Almanzor) ordered the construction of a citadel from which to direct his "raids" against the Christians of the northwest of the peninsula.After the conquest of Coimbra by Afonso Henriques (first king of Portugal), he established the capital of the country in this city and turned the citadel into the first Royal Palace of Portugal.It is here where the vast majority of future kings belonging to the first Portuguese dynasty, the Burgundy or Alfonsine dynasty, would be born.
During the 14th century, this building lost its function as the Royal Palace, since the capital moved to Lisbon.In the 16th century, during the reign of Joao III, the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in the world, will be permanently moved to this building.However, only when Portugal becomes part of the Spanish Empire will King Philip II give this palace its current name, the Paço das Escolas.In addition to it, here we will find the famous Johannine Library (from the 18th century), the ancient law school and one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the city.UNESCO declared the whole complex a World Heritage Site in 2013.After the statue of King Joao III, next to the Johannine Library, an impressive view of the entire city of Coimbra, crossed by the Mondego River, opens up before us. From here, we can undoubtedly have one of the best aerial photographs of the city.
Largo Porta FérreaHow to get there: Since Coimbra is a small city, we recommend both moving on foot and taking advantage of the cheap rates of Portuguese taxis.
PASTÉIS DE SANTA CLARA
Without a doubt, if the Portuguese gastronomy stands out, in addition to the cod dishes, it is for its artisan sweets. It would be a shame to leave Coimbra without trying the famous “Pastéis de Santa Clara”. These sweet pastries, made with flour, egg, almonds, butter and sugar have been one of the symbols of the city for centuries. Its origin is associated with the Convent of Santa Clara-a-Velha, founded at the end of the 13th century.The convent of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Old St. Clare) was one of the most famous monasteries in Coimbra, as well as the place where the nuns themselves made these delicious cakes by hand.
This convent of Poor Clare nuns received the protection of Queen Santa Isabel, wife of King Dionysius I, which made it one of the most important in the city. As a curiosity, it is worth noting that the first burial of the famous Inês de Castro was located here before being permanently transferred to the Alcobaça Monastery. Sadly, the constant flooding of the Mondego River seriously affected the monastery, as it was located very close to the river. For this reason, it was abandoned in the 17th century.
The monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova (New St. Claire) was built in its place. It was also projected on the left bank of the Mondego River, but further away, with the intention of avoiding floods. In this new monastery, the nuns continued to make their traditional sweets. They became popular especially from the 19th century, when the many students in the city began to buy them. In the 20th century, due to migratory movements, these pastries crossed the Atlantic and became very popular in Brazil as well. Nowadays, however, it is not necessary to go to the convent to be able to taste them.
This delicacy of thin and crunchy dough with a sweet almond filling can be found in any of the pastry shops or confectioneries in the city.
Coimbra, thanks to its students, is a young city full of life every month of the year.These students give life to the city and its many stores. So, we are going to visit a very special street where you will find a large number of shops, very close to the main tourist area of ??Baixa de Coimbra.Rua Ferreira Borges, parallel to the Praça do Comércio, is dotted with countless shops of all kinds. However, we are going to pay especial attention to jewellery stores, where we can find one of the most typical products of the city, the filigree.The filigrees are jewels made with precious metal filaments (usually gold or silver), which have been produced for millennia.
In fact, its origins go back more than 4,000 years in the Middle East.Of course, the filigree of that remote era was not like the one we know today. Its patterns and use were different. The filigrees reached Europe through cultures such as Roman or Arab and were popularized throughout the continent.Over the centuries, while many countries stopped making filigree jewellery, Portugal became more specialized. This happened from the 16th century thanks to the discoverers and navigators, who returned to Portugal loaded with gold and silver. The jewels used to be made with these precious metals brought from the colonies.
It became so popular that, in the 17th century, Portuguese filigrees had their own shapes and imagery. The main themes were the Catholic religion, nature and love.Among all the symbols, the most famous is, perhaps, the Heart of Viana.The main symbolism of the Heart of Viana is dedication and adoration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Queen Maria I commissioned a heart in gold filigree to thank the blessing of having had a male child.
This symbol became popular in Portugal, not only as a tribute to the Sacred Heart of Jesus but also as a symbol of love between human beings.Whether in necklaces, bracelets or earrings, these filigrees are the perfect souvenir to take to our loved ones. A very typical purchase of the city of Coimbra.
Rua Ferreira Borges and Rua Visconde da Luz.
A MAGIC UNIFORM
If there is something characteristic of Coimbra, it is its students. They give life to the city throughout the year. Furthermore, students from Portugal are especially known for their traditional black uniforms with long capes.What if you knew you that these students inspired the writer J.K. Rowling to design the famous uniforms for Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts?J.K. Rowling lived for many years in Portugal, as she was married to a Portuguese. At that time, the English writer was steeped in Portuguese culture and traditions, which she would later develop in her famous novels.
A photograph that we cannot miss in Coimbra is posing with one of these students dressed in their characteristic uniforms.For this, we must go up to the "Cidade Alta", where the University is located.There we will meet the students, eager to take a picture with us in exchange for a small coin to help them in their studies or to have a beer on the weekend.Portuguese students have maintained numerous traditions for centuries, not only through their uniforms or through their ancient University. Currently, students continue to perform very old traditional acts, born here in the city of Coimbra.
Some date back to the 16th century, such as the "Academic Praxe" or simply "Praxe".In this tradition, veteran college students welcome new students or "calouros" through a series of hazing. This practice has always been surrounded by controversy, since, while some people see a tradition, others see abuse. The debate is so old that even King João V banned this tradition in the 18th century.Another remarkable ancient tradition is the ceremony of the "queima das fitas" (ribbons burning), which has been hold in May for centuries. There, the students burn the coloured ribbons (each colour represents a university degree) to celebrate the end of their studies.Taking a picture with these students is taking a piece of the history of Coimbra with you.
Coimbra is a very old city dating back to Roman times. For this reason, throughout our visit, we will find monuments from all eras.Now we suggest that you go to see a lesser-known monument, although no less important.This monument represents one of the most important cultural traditions, not only in Coimbra, but also in all of Portugal: the Fado, declared an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO. The place where we are going is right in the heart of the Baixa de Coimbra, next to the Porta de Almedina.
The bronze monument represents, on a pedestal, a zither crowned by the bust of a woman with her hands on her chest (a typical gesture of Fado singers).The work was created by the sculptor Celestino Alves and was inaugurated on July 18, 2013.Fado is the most popular representation of the Portuguese song. It dates back to the early 19th century and evolved from the old seafaring song, which expressed the loneliness and melancholy of life at sea.There are different styles of Fado, but two of them stand out above the rest: the Lisbon Fado and the Coimbra Fado.Lisbon Fado is the most archetypal and widespread.Developed in Fado houses, Lisbon Fado is traditionally sung by a single person accompanied by a Portuguese guitar or zither. It deals with melancholic, nostalgic topics speaking about doom, misery or heartbreak.
The greatest reference of this type of Fado is, probably, Amalia Rodrigues.Coimbra Fado is different. It is associated with university students and is not sung in Fado houses but in the streets. Instruments such as the guitar, the lute or the zither have more prominence and the themes are not so melancholic.
Songs are usually dedicated to the city or to student love. Although today it has changed, it was traditionally sung only by male students dressed in their uniforms.
Largo da Almedina
UP TO THE ALTA
As we have already mentioned, Coimbra is divided into two parts, "a Baixa" and "a Alta", the lower and the upper city. Unfortunately for students, who have to go to the University every day, it has been, since the 16th century, in the highest part.Today, thanks to taxis, buses, trams and some elevators, both students and tourists have easier access to get to the "Cidade Alta". However, here we propose a challenge.How about we step into the shoes of a 16th century student and walk up to the top of the University?From Largo de Portagem we will go to Rua da Alegria, which runs parallel to the Mondego River until we reach the famous “Escadas do Quinchorro” or Quinchorro Stairway, also known as “quebracostas” (back breakers).
Its more than one hundred steps will gradually bring us closer to the highest part of the city. We recommend taking the climb of the stairs as a race. Meanwhile, do not miss the opportunity to turn around and admire the fantastic views over the Mondego River and its left bank.Once we finish the stairs, we will arrive at the so-called Couraça de Lisboa, a steep street that we will follow until finally reaching Alta Coimbra and, therefore, the University. Once you arrive at the University, we recommend, in addition to a cold drink as a reward for the effort made, that you visit the two cathedrals of Coimbra, the so-called Sé Velha and Sé Nova.
The Sé Velha is the cathedral built in the 12th century when Afonso Henriques (first king of Portugal) chose Coimbra as the capital of the kingdom. It is one of the most important Romanesque style temples in the country.The Sé Nova was built in the 16th century, in the Baroque style, as a Jesuit College. However, in the 18th century, the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and the Marquis of Pombal had the episcopal see of Coimbra moved here, as it was more spacious.
Escadas do Quinchorro, from Rua da Alegria.
LUCIA DOS SANTOS
Probably one of the most famous characters in contemporary Portuguese history is Lucia Dos Santos, the protagonist of the miracles of Fatima.According to legend, on May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared where the Sanctuary of Fatima stands today, in front of three shepherd children: Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Later, the virgin would make five more appearances over the next five months and transmit to Lucia the so-called three secrets of Fatima.The construction of the largest Marian shrine in Portugal began after the apparitions. It is actually made up of three churches: The Chapel of the Apparitions, The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima and the Church of the Holy Trinity.
What not everyone knows is that from 1946 until her death in 2005 (at the age of 97) Lucia lived as a nun in the Carmelo de Santa Teresa convent in Coimbra. Lucia entered the convent after spending a few years outside of Portugal, in Tuy (Pontevedra, Spain) to finally take the vows of Discalced Carmelite on May 31, 1949. She would spend the rest of her life in this convent and wrote here her two volumes: Memoriesand Calls from the Message of Fatima.
The first of the two volumes describes the life of Sister Lucia, as well as the characters, lives and deaths of her cousins, who also witnessed the apparitions of the Virgin in Fatima: Francisco and Jacinta Marto. It tells the visions of the three little shepherds, which included Hell, War, the Holy Father, the Three Secrets, the Angel of Peace and the Marian apparitions themselves. After her death in 2005, her body was transferred to the Sanctuary of Fatima, where she has rested ever since with his cousins ??Jacinta and Francisco.
Rua Santa Teresa, 16.
LET’S GO CHURCHING
We propose a short but interesting walk to discover three of the oldest churches in Coimbra, which reflect the history of the city itself.We will start our walk in one of the most emblematic squares of the city, the Praça do Comércio.At one end of the square, the closest to Largo da Portagem, we will find the first of the churches, São Bartolomeu. This church, with baroque but simple features, dates from the end of the 10th century.At first, it was built in the Romanesque style, although it was remodelled in both the 12th and 18th centuries, when it was clad in the current Baroque style.Just at the opposite end of the square stands another of the churches, São Thiago.
Only a few years apart, but it is the oldest church in the city.Built in the Romanesque style in the mid-10th century, it was remodelled in the 12th century, the same as São Bartolomeu church. However, in this case the original Romanesque style has been maintained.Next to this church, a small stairway leads to Rua Visconde da Luz. At the end of this street, in Praça 8 de Maio, we will find the third church on our walk, the church-monastery of Santa Cruz.Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, this church is not as old as the previous two (more than a thousand years old), but it is certainly much more impressive.
Originally built in the Romanesque style, it was remodelled under the reign of King Dom Manuel in the 16th century, with both Gothic and Manueline features.The main attraction inside, besides the profuse decoration, are the tombs of the first two kings of Portugal. How about finishing the walk with a coffee at the Santa Cruz Cafeteria, which is more than 500 years old?
Praça do Comercio e Praça 8 de Maio
O CAFÉ-RESTAURANTE SANTA CRUZ
After spending the morning strolling through Coimbra, there is no better place than “O Café-Restaurante Santa Cruz” to have a break with a coffee and watch life go by. This is not just any place, folks.Located in Praça 8 de Maio, next to the Church of Santa Cruz, it is probably the most emblematic cafeteria in the city. The building that houses it is almost 500 years old and is considered a National Monument.This cafeteria was born as a church in 1530, commissioned by King Dom Manuel, and, years later, it became the convent of São João das Donas. After being desecrated in 1834, the building had several functions and became a hardware store, a police station, a plumbing warehouse, a fire station and even a funeral home.
At the beginning of the 20th century, specifically in 1921, it was declared a National Monument and, in 1923, it was restored and reopened as a cafe-restaurant by businessmen Adriano Ferreira da Cunha, Adriano Viegas da Cunha Lucas and Mário Pais.The current façade dates back to the renovation carried out in 1923 in the Neo Manueline style.The interior of the building is vaulted and is made out of three sections. The transept arch marks the old presbytery, which was vaulted in the shape of a star. The iconography used in the decoration is very varied: lotus flower, lamb, sun, moon, acanthus leaves and typically Christian motifs.This cafeteria, considered a national monument, is a true wonder where you can enjoy Carpe Diem and taste one of the most popular drinks in the country, coffee.
Perhaps due to its relationship with Brazil, it is undoubted that, along with Italy, Portugal is the best country in Europe to enjoy good coffee.
Praça 8 de Maio
Wellcome to Europamundo Vacations, your in the international site of:
Bienvenido a Europamundo Vacaciones, está usted en el sitio internacional de: