The university's baroque library is Coimbra's headline sight. Named after King João V, who sponsored its construction between 1717 and 1728, it features a remarkable central hall decorated with elaborate ceiling frescoes and huge rosewood, ebony and jacaranda tables. Towering gilt chinoiserie shelves hold some 40,000 books, mainly on law, philosophy and theology. Curiously, the library also houses a colony of bats to protect the books – they eat potentially harmful insects.
Note admission to the library is strictly regulated, with entry in groups at set times. At your allotted time – given when you buy your ticket – you enter through a side door and wait to be admitted to the main hall. While waiting you can peek down into the cells of the Prisão Acadêmica.