THE TOWN AND REGION OF COIMBRA
Coimbra is located in the middle of the country, in a region called “Beiras”. “Beiras” is the traditional name of a region running south of Douro River and north of Tagus River. This region is made up of two contrasting areas. The extensive beaches and fishing villages lie along the Atlantic coastline, while in the interior the mountains dominate the landscape.
In the heart of this hinterland rises the Serra da Estrela (Estrela Mountain Range), the highest in continental Portugal. This is where the Mondego River rises, later running down to the city of Coimbra. Here, the river that over the centuries has had so many odes composed to it by generations of university students flows out into the Atlantic Ocean by the lengthy Figueira da Foz beach.
Coimbra has an area of 316,8Km2 and around 140 000 inhabitants. Coimbra has a rich history. Its university is one of the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1290 by King Dinis. Six of Portugal’s Kings were born here. In the Middle Ages, from 1139 until 1256, Coimbra was the capital of Portugal. The original name in the Roman period was Aeminium, and it later developed under the influence of the greater nearby town of Conimbriga (today Coninbriga is a large archaeological site of great interest).
Known as the "city of students" Here the daily life is marked by the students. The academic traditions are very important in the town and student’s life, with the highlight being the Festa da Queima das Fitas in May, an event that marks the end of the academic year. During special celebrations like this, students use black academic gowns, giving a special ambience to the streets. The city of Coimbra is divided into two distinct areas, the "baixa" (lower town) by the river, where most of the city’s commercial activity is concentrated, and the "alta" (upper town), the older part, which is entered through the Arco de Almedina, a gateway that brings back memories of the Arab occupation, since "Medina" means city in Arabic. The upper town consists of steep narrow streets, where the "republics" (typical communal student residences) are to be found, as well as some of the city’s most important buildings.Coimbra unique appearance may be admired as a harmonious whole from the other side of the river. It deserves a lengthy stay, for as is said in a fado sung by the students, it has even "greater charm at the moment of farewell".
Coimbra on Google map