Having sampled the delights and wonders of Lisbon, it was now time to expand our horizons and head north to the smaller towns in northern Portugal. We rented a car and traveled on the tolled highway system. Our car was a Renault Clio, small by North American standards but not unusual in Europe, and some might say a necessity these days. Once out of the city the driving was fairly easy, the car had a transponder that allowed us to cruise through toll booths at about 60 kph. It was equipped with GPS and cruise control and so we were able to relax and enjoy the rural scenery during our two-hour drive to Coimbra.


One of the must-see things in Coimbra is the University. Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a historic and proud city. Although somewhat smaller than the university in Lisbon, it is generally regarded as the most prestigious university in Portugal. We were fortunate to visit Coimbra when the students were in their first week and registering for classes and activities. Around the university district, you could see them in their distinctive black suits and gowns, obviously proud of their new status. The gowns are worn on campus and in town during ceremonial weeks. It has often been said that this city is similar to Oxford, England in that regard.

The university is divided into eight different faculties (Letters, Law, Medicine, Sciences & Technology, Pharmacy, Economics, Psychology & Education Sciences, and Sports Sciences & Physical Education), comprising about 25,000 students. The Faculty of Sciences and Technology (FCTUC) is the largest by number of professors and students, awards the highest number of academic degrees, and manages more classrooms and research units than any other in the University.

Behind the Iron Gates is a statue of King João III, who based the University permanently in Coimbra.

For a look inside the Iron Gates at one of the main squares of the University click this link. (Remember to maximize the image for the best viewing.)

These two photographs were taken in the interior of the The University’s São Miguel Chapel.

A massive pipe organ.

In the city itself, the sidewalk cafe and tapas bistro scenes are everywhere and the activity lasts well into the night.

More from Coimbra in the next installment.

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