What you need to know

Map of Coimbra- Portugal

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Coimbra is a city and a municipality in Portugal. The population at the 2011 census was 143,397, in an area of 319.40 square kilometres (123.3 sq mi). The third-largest urban centre in Portugal (after Lisbon and Porto), it is the largest city of the district of Coimbra, the Centro region and the Baixo Mondego subregion. About 460,000 people live in the Região de Coimbra, comprising 19 municipalities and extending into an area 4,336 square kilometres (1,674 sq mi).

Among the many archaeological structures dating back to the Roman era, when Coimbra was the settlement of Aeminium, are its well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus. Similarly, buildings from the period when Coimbra was the capital of Portugal (from 1131 to 1255) still remain. During the Late Middle Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre. This was in large part helped by the establishment the University of Coimbra in 1290, the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world. Apart from attracting many European and international students, the university is visited by many tourists for its monuments and history. Its historical buildings were classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013: “Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.”

Population

The population at the 2011 census was 143,397, in an area of 319.40 square kilometres (123.3 sq mi).

Language

The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. Portuguese is today one of the world’s major languages, ranked 6th according to number of native speakers …

Currency

The escudo was the currency of Portugal prior to the introduction of the euro on 1 January 1999 and its removal from circulation on 28 February 2002.

There are seven different denominations of the euro banknotes — €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 — each having a distinctive colour and size. The designs for each of them have a common theme of European architecture in various artistic eras.

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Geography

One of the nation’s important crossroads, Coimbra was historically at a junction between Braga and Lisbon, and its river access (the Mondego flows through the municipality) provided a route between the interior communities and the coastal towns (including the seaside city of Figueira da Foz, 40 km (25 mi) west of Coimbra). The historic city of Coimbra is located in centrally within the municipality, connected to Lisbon (197 km (122 mi)) and Porto (116 km (72 mi)) by the IC2, IP3 and A1 motorways.

The municipality is circled by several of its neighbouring municipalities in the Baixo Mondego region, which include Penacova (in the northeast), Vila Nova de Poiares (to the east), Miranda do Corvo (to the southeast), Condeixa-a-Nova (to the south and southwest), Montemor-o-Velho (to the west), Cantanhede (to the northwest) and Mealhada (in the north and northeast). Just outside the municipality, there are also several picturesque mountain towns such as Lousã and Penacova, while spa towns and villages, such as Luso, Buçaco and Curia are commonplace.

Although it ceased in the 13th century to serve as the capital of Portugal, Coimbra retains considerable importance as the centre of the former Beira province, now designated the Centro region. It is considered alongside Braga one of the two most important regional centres in Portugal outside the Lisbon and Portos metropoles, the centre for the whole middle region of the country. With a dense urban grid, the municipality is known primarily for the city of Coimbra, itself famous for its monuments, churches, libraries, museums, parks, nightlife, healthcare and shopping facilities. Above all, its cultural life, oriented around the University of Coimbra, has historically attracted the nation’s notable writers, artists, academics and aristocracy, securing its reputation as the Lusa-Atenas (Lusitanian Athens).

Climate

Coimbra has a mild Mediterranean climate (Csb) according to the Köppen climate classification. In winter, temperatures range between 15 °C (59 °F) at day and 5 °C (41 °F) at night in the coldest month and some times could drop below 0 °C (32 °F), while summer temperatures range between 29 °C (84 °F) at day and 16 °C (61 °F) at night and can reach 40 °C (104 °F) or more. The highest and lowest temperatures recorded in Coimbra are −7.8 °C (18.0 °F) and 42.5 °C (108.5 °F) in 1941 and 1943. The average of days in a year with minimum temperature less than 0 °C (32 °F) is 10.5 and with maximum temperature above 30 °C (86 °F) is 32.2. Source: Portuguese Institute of Meteorology.

Education

Coimbra has been called A cidade dos estudantes (The city of the students) or Lusa-Atenas (Lusitan-Athens), mainly because it is the site of the oldest and one of the largest universities in Portugal – the University of Coimbra, a public university whose origins can be traced back to the 13th century. Nowadays, it has students from 70 different nationalities; almost 10% of its students are foreigners, making it Portugal’s most international university.

Coimbra is also the place where the oldest and biggest university students’ union of Portugal was founded – the Associação Académica de Coimbra (Academic Association of Coimbra), established in 1887.

Besides that, there are also some other schools and institutes of higher education in the city: the Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra, a public polytechnic institute; the Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Coimbra, a public nursing school; and some private higher education institutions such as the Instituto Superior Miguel Torga; the Instituto Superior Bissaya Barreto; the Escola Universitária Vasco da Gama and finally, the Escola Universitária das Artes de Coimbra, an art school.

A large number of higher education students from all of Portugal chose Coimbra’s higher learning institutions to study, due to the wide availability of degrees offered in different fields, the student-friendly environment of the city, and the prestige of many of its learning institutions allied to the ancient tradition of Coimbra as the historical capital of higher studies in Portugal.

The city has also a large number of public and private basic and secondary schools, among these some of the best-ranked in the country, like Escola Secundária Infanta D. Maria (public), Escola Secundária José Falcão (public), “Escola EB2/3 Martim de Freitas” (public) and Colégio Rainha Santa Isabel (private), as well as several kindergartens and nurseries. There is also the Coimbra Hotel and Tourism School.

Culture

Coimbra celebrates its municipal holiday on 4 July, in honour of Queen Elizabeth of Portugal (spouse of the King Denis); a religious and civic celebration that celebrated the life of the former Queen, that includes a fireworks display following the night-time march of the penitents.

Coimbra houses the following cultural institutions:

  • Machado de Castro Museum, the second most important one in Portugal, housed in the former Episcopal Palace
  • University of Coimbra General Library, Portugal’s second biggest library, after the National Library in Lisbon
  • the 18th-century Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra

Transportation

The two banks of Mondego river at Coimbra, are linked by three main bridges: the Ponte do Açude; the Ponte de Santa Clara (Santa Clara bridge), which is the oldest, and the Ponte Rainha Santa also known as Ponte Europa, finished in 2004. The Ponte Pedonal de Pedro e Inês is the most recently constructed bridge and is the only footbridge in the city.

The city is internally connected by an extensive bus network, the SMTUC (Serviços Municipalizados de Transportes Urbanos de Coimbra, Coimbra Municipality Urban Transport Services) and the Coimbra trolleybus system (the only such system in Portugal). In the past, the city also had a tram network (some are now parked inside a transportation museum). Taxicabs are also available, and are recognizable as cream or black and green (black car with green rooftop) taxis. The city is a hub for interregional bus services for all the country and abroad. A light-rail metro system, Metro Mondego, was proposed however the project was abandoned at the height of Portuguese financial crisis.

Coimbra has several rail stations. The principal station Coimbra-B is on the main line between Porto and Lisbon. From this, a small spur runs to Coimbra-A, the main station in the city centre. A small regional rail line (Linha da Lousã) also ran from Coimbra Parque at the south edge of the city centre. From Coimbra-Parque was possible to travel to Miranda do Corvo, Lousã and Serpins, among others. This line was closed for upgrading as part of the Metro Mondego project and was never re-opened when the Metro Mondego project was abandoned, however there is local agitation for this line to be reopened. Also it is possible to travel by train between Coimbra and Figueira da Foz (Ramal de Alfarelos), and Coimbra, Guarda and Vilar Formoso (Linha da Beira Alta. Coimbra is served by motorway A1 which connects Lisbon to Porto.

A regional aerodrome is located in Cernache (Aeródromo Municipal Bissaya Barreto) (CBP) [PCO], 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles) SW of the city downtown. With a 920 metres (3,018 feet) runway and Flight Information Service until the sunset, this regional airport has all the fundamental facilities for private flights.

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