The historic city of Coimbra is located in the central part of Portugal, 120 km south of Porto, 195 km north of Lisbon. One of Portugal's biggest crossroads, Coimbra is served by the A1, the main highway of Portugal. It is set by the Mondego River, about 40 km east of Figueira da Foz, a neighbour coastal city with several beaches, summer and seaport facilities on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
The city of Coimbra has a population of about 150,000 inhabitants and a total of 435,000 inhabitants in its Greater Metropolitan Area (see Grande Área Metropolitana de Coimbra). Previously capital of the former Beira province, and today the Centro region capital, it is considered the third most important city of Portugal, after Lisbon and Porto, and plays a role as the chief city of the central part of the country. The city and its surrounding metropolitan area is among the biggest in Portugal. With a dense urban grid the city of Coimbra is famous for its monuments, churches, libraries, numerous parks, gardens, nightlife, shopping facilities and above all for its university, one of the oldest universities in Europe.
History and Landmarks
Its most ancient remains are dated from the time of the Roman domination. The Romans founded the town of Aeminium in this place, which would become the current city of Coimbra. The Iberian soldier of fortune known as El Cid captured the city from the Moors in 1064. In the following century, Coimbra developed into an important cultural centre, firstly due to the school founded in the Santa Cruz Monastery (1131) where Saint Anthony of Lisbon studied, and later because of the University of Coimbra founded in 1290. The university is one of the oldest in Europe and attracts students from around the world, which gives the city a special and rare atmosphere. Nowadays it has students from 70 different nationalities; almost 10% of its students are foreigners, being Portugal's most international university.
The wealth of the city, which was the capital of Portugal from 1139 to about 1260, rests mostly on its University of Coimbra with about 23,000 students - the city has a total of 35,000 higher education students considering the other higher education institutions based there - but also in shopping, technology and health sciences industry, administrative offices, financial services, law firms and specialized medical care (the city has many private clinics, medical offices and two large independent state hospital centres: Hospitais da Universidade de Coimbra and C.H.C. - Centro Hospitalar de Coimbra). Critical Software has its global headquarters in the city, and there are also a major cement factory in Souselas (CIMPOR Souselas), a pan-European service center of Olympus and several ceramics, food manufacturing and wine industries. Handicraft industry is well represented by traditional tapestry and pottery manufacture, and the surroundings of the city have besides forestry, dynamic horticulture production, vineyards and livestock raising.
The city is internally connected by an extensive bus network, the SMTUC (Serviços Municipalizados de Transportes Urbanos de Coimbra, Coimbra Municipality Urban Transport Services). In the past, the city also had trolleys and a tram network (some are now parked inside a transportation museum). Taxicabs are also available, and are recognizable as cream taxis.
The city is also a railroad hub and has interregional bus services for all the country and abroad. An aerodrome for recreation and regional flights is located in Cernache.
- Afonso Henriques, Portuguese first king, father of the Portuguese nationality. He
was buried in Santa Cruz Monastery at Coimbra.
- Sancho I, Portuguese second king, son of Afonso Henriques. He was buried in
Santa Cruz Monastery at Coimbra.
- Anthony of Lisbon, Catholic saint.
- Queen Isabel, Queen of Portugal, king Dinis wife. She was buried in Santa
Clara Convent (Convento de Santa Clara-a-Nova) at Coimbra.
- Pedro Nunes, Famous mathematician in the 16th Century.
- Miguel Torga, Portuguese writer of prose and poet.
- Carlos Paredes, Portuguese musician.
- Carlos Mota Pinto, Portuguese political figure, interim prime minister of
Portugal between 1978 and 1979.
- Sérgio Conceição, Portuguese footballer.