Rising scenically from the Rio Mondego, Coimbra is an animated city steeped in history. It was Portugal’s medieval capital for more than a century and it's home to the country’s oldest and most prestigious university. Its steeply-stacked historic centre dates to Moorish times and is wonderfully atmospheric with its dark cobbled lanes and monumental cathedral. On summer evenings, the city’s old stone walls reverberate with the haunting metallic notes of the guitarra (Portuguese guitar) and the full, deep voices of fado singers.
The city is at its best during university term time when the students bring a youthful energy to the streets, thronging bars and partying late into the weekend. Their presence also adds a political edge – witness the graffiti scrawled outside the repúblicas (communal student dwellings) addressing the political issues of the day.