With a 2001 population of 148,000, Coimbra is the main city of central Portugal, having once served as the capital of the country (from 1139 to 1260). Coimbra is also home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. Eclipsed in size by the much larger Porto and Lisbon, Coimbra is still considered to be the main seat of learning in Portugal.

The University of Coimbra is the main tourist attraction in the city. The school is built on a hill around a large main square, and benefit it is the entrance to a Baroque Chapel. The most noticeable attraction is the Library, which features a collection of over 300,000 books displayed through 3 main rooms on exquisite shelves made of fine woods. The beautiful painted ceilings are also a wonderful feature of the Library. Another great highlight of the University is the 18th century Botanic Garden, which is spread out on 32 acres, and is the fifth oldest in the world as well as being known as one of the most beautiful in all of Europe.

Coimbra was one the Roman town of Aeminium, and many important archaeological remains still exist, including a very well-preserved Roman aqueduct and cryptoporticus. The nearby Conimbriga has some exceptional Roman ruins including the very well preserved city walls.

There are also some fine museums in Coimbra, including the city museum in the Edificio Chiada and the Museo Nacional Machado de Castro, which is named for the famous sculptor Joachim Machado de Castro, and is housed in the former Palace of Bishops. This museum is regarded as one of the most important in the country.

Coimbra comes alive in the beginning of May for the "Burning of the Ribbons" student festival, as well as the "Tin Can Parade" student festival in November.

Source by Ian Thorson