Coimbra is a small town and best accessed by car. If traveling to Portugal from somewhere further, consider flying into Lisbon or Porto and renting a car to visit Coimbra. The trip from Lisbon to Coimbra is just over 2 hours. When renting a car, there are some key things that you should think about.
We used Hertz (and then Guerin / Enterprise / National for another portion of the trip). Often the cheapest companies (i.e. Sixt) will try to nickel and dime you and say there is damage when you return the car so they can charge you a fee.
If you or someone you are traveling with can drive stick shift, it will be much cheaper to get a manual rental as most cars are manual in Europe
Usually you pay for full days on car rentals so you may want to try to strategically plan so you don’t pay a full extra day for just a few hours (i.e. use the car for 26 hours, but pay for 3 days). Some companies will give you an hourly pass for the end (Guerin did this for us so that we could return the car a few hours after the “day” mark.
This isn’t something you need to think about when renting cars, but when filling up the tank, this is not something you want to get wrong. A lot of cars are diesel so make sure you know what your rental uses
There are a lot of automatic tolls on the roads, so you’ll want to make sure you get a toll pass from your rental car agency. You’ll get charged for the tolls after the fact, but avoid tickets this way
Coimbra is a small town and easy to walk around. However, do note that it is very much on a hill so you’ll be getting your steps in.
If you stay near the University, then you are well situation in the town. The location is at the top of the hill, but if you’re in the general vicinity, you can get around relatively easily.
Climb the 125 stairs to get to the top of University Hill. At the top there is a plaza and you can walk around the University grounds. The bell tower can also be climbed for a higher vantage point and view over the city.
Take a walk or run along the river and observe the town from the bottom level.
Legitimate hole in the wall restaurant. The restaurant only has about 5-6 tables and the kitchen is right where you eat. It’s hard to find as it’s in a small little alley off a larger pedestrian street. We arrived and had to wait for a table for about 45 minutes, but it was well worth the wait. The food was phenomenal and very cheap and the service was great with friendly staff all around.
Coimbra is a great stop for a road trip from Lisbon to Porto, but you do not need to spend more than part of a day or one night here. We were between Obidos (smaller) and Coimbra, but went with Coimbra since it was a bit further from Lisbon and larger. It was a nice place to wander around, get some good food, and stay a night and had a more cultural and much less touristy feel than some of the other places we visited.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks