Sé Velha

Top choice in Coimbra

Coimbra's 12th-century cathedral is one of Portugal's finest examples of Romanesque architecture. The main portal and facade are particularly striking, especially on warm summer evenings when the golden stone seems to glow in the soft light. Its construction was financed by Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques, and completed in 1184 at a time when the nation was still threatened by the Moors, hence its crenellated exterior and narrow, slit-like lower windows. Interior highlights include an ornate late-Gothic retable and a lovely 13th-century cloister.

Inside, the high, barrel-vaulted nave retains its main Romanesque features; side altars and well-preserved Gothic tombs of bishops are backed by bright Andalusian tiles. Over the main altar, the flamboyant gilt retable depicts the Assumption of Mary. Contrast this with the grey tones of the Renaissance Capela do Santíssimo Sacramento alongside.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Coimbra attractions

1. Torre da Universidade

0.08 MILES

Another of the university's signature landmarks, this 18th-century tower – and its clock and bells – regulates academic life. Built between 1728 and 1733,…

2. Paço das Escolas

0.08 MILES

Housed in a former royal palace, this is the historic heart of the university, where traditional academic ceremonies are still held. The main ceremonial…

3. Palácio de Sub Ripas

0.09 MILES

The early-16th-century Palácio de Sub Ripas, now home to the university's Instituto de Arqueologia, is a striking example of 16th-century architecture. It…

4. Arco de Almedina


This heavy-duty Moorish gateway, just off the main shopping drag, leads through to Coimbra's upper town. Follow through the arch and head up the steep…

7. Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro


This great museum is a highlight of central Portugal. Housed in a 12th-century bishop's palace, it stands over the city's ancient Roman forum, remains of…

8. Capela de São Miguel


Part of the main university complex, this ornate 16th-century chapel has a brightly painted ceiling, lavish tilework, Manueline features and a gilded 18th…