I am proud to say I studied in Coimbra, I am, therefore, one that understands the “student spirit”, I remember the feeling. Whenever I go back to the city, I try to grasp that sense of belonging, and though I have lived far from Coimbra for long years, the feeling is there, it lives inside you forever…
On the right bank of the River Mondego, Coimbra, once capital of the emerging Portuguese kingdom, is known as the “city of students”. It has been for ages. Even today, if you ask most secondary school students what they want to study in university, most will tell you they just want to study in Coimbra, “what” they study is really not as important….it is the “where” that really counts! The life of the city revolves around the university, student life and its traditions…
The University of Coimbra-Alta and Sofia retains its authenticity and student-life traditions. Coimbra sits on a hill overlooking the Mondego River. The University of Coimbra, more than seven centuries old, has grown side by side with the city. Coimbra is the university, the university is Coimbra.
The University of Coimbra- Alta and Sofia, was inscribed in 2013 in the World Heritage list of Unesco.
“Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.” in www.unesco.org
This honour is based on the fact that in architectural terms, the buildings of the University are representative of the historical, artistic and ideological periods in which they were built. Conservation and rehabilitation interventions have truly taken into account those historical and architectural grounds. Recent restorations have tried to correct any misuse of materials or misrepresentation of style that were not true to the past.
The 12th century Cathedral of Santa Cruz, the Joanine Library with its exquisite baroque style, the 18th century Botanical Garden, the museum Machado Castro among many other buildings are places worth visiting, past worth reliving.
Seeing as this is a cooking blog, it is most certainly expected that I write about food…well, let me tell you that there are some culinary traditions in the centre of Portugal, namely in Coimbra, that will pamper your taste buds!
Not far from Coimbra you will find a string of restaurants in the nearby town of Mealhada that will treat you to the most mouth-watering “leitão”…if you head east, towards Lousã or Vila Nova de Poiares, you can try the most tasteful lamb, roasted in red wine and garlic, that goes by the name of “Chanfana”.
Should you prefer to head towards the sea, seafood and fish dishes will most certainly surprise you for their freshness and authentic taste. The city has good restaurants that offer all these gastronomic riches.
Being also a religious centre, Coimbra is also famous for traditional sweets produced in the old monasteries and nunneries. In fact, Portugal’s most acclaimed sweet recipes have origin in these establishments, in which sugar and eggs are the prime ingredients. Heaven on Earth…believe me.