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All About Portugal | January 25, 2021

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University of Coimbra – more than just a school!

University of Coimbra
Clara Campos

University of Coimbra is more than a symbol of the city, is one of the Portuguese academic tradition strongholds. And, trust me, it is well worthy of a visit.

University of Coimbra is honoring Academic excelence since 1290!

University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities not just in Europe but in the all world. It is also considered one of the best European universities, ranking in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2013. Its early years were not conventional. In fact, University of Coimbra was founded in Lisbon by king Dinis, in 1290. Later, in 1308 it moved to Coimbra. However, the University went back and forth between the two cities until 1537, when it settled for good in the city by Mondego River.

During the 18th century, during the reigns of King John V and Joseph I, the University faced huge transformations, both in its teaching as in its facilities. New buildings were constructed following the Baroque or neo-classic styles. Nowadays, those buildings represent an unique Heritage, attracting more and more tourists each year.

Biblioteca Joanina (Coimbra university library)

Coimbra university library Photo by wordman1

Coimbra university library, named Biblioteca Joanina (Joanine Library), was born from the will of King John V, in 1717. Without a doubt is the ex-libris of the University complex. It is the most renowned library in Portugal for its incredible architecture and decoration. The library houses an amazing collection of 250,000 books dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries. The collection offers several priceless pieces in the areas of civil and canon law, philosophy and theology.

Capela de S. Miguel (St Michael’s Chapel)

The beautiful Chapel of University of Coimbra offers a unique combination of the Manueline and neo-classical styles. Its main attraction is the Baroque organ from 1733, embellished by carving and chinoiserie. The carpet-style tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries of the nave and chancel walls are also remarkable.

Prisão Medieval e Académica (Medieval & Academic Prison)

Some might ask why is there a prison in the University? The answer is quite simple: As the University of Coimbra had a private court law, it was only natural that it also had its own prison. The prison took prisoners from 1782 until 1832.

Sala das Armas (Weapons Room)

Located in the former royal palace, Sala das Armas offers visitors a special collection of weapons, namely halberds, of the Royal Academic Guard. The University Guards still use these weapons on ceremonial occasions.

Sala dos Capelos (Grand Hall)

Once the throne room of the royal palace, Sala dos Capelos is the stage for the most significant ceremonies of the University, such as honoris causa doctorates, the investiture of the Rector and the official opening of classes. In this room I would like to enhance the paintings of the Portuguese kings as well as the richly decorated panelled ceiling from 1655.

Sala do Exame Privado (Private Exam Room)

This is the room where it was held the private exam, which preceded the doctorate, up to the 2nd half of the 19th century. The paintings of the rectors from the 16th to the 18th centuries on the walls and the emblems of the different faculties on the ceiling and above the doors stand out on this room.

Torre da Universidade (University Tower)

University of Coimbra Tower
Photo by leorolim

The Tower is the symbol of the University of Coimbra as throughout the years, its clock set the pace of the live in the University. Daily routine of students and teachers was determined by the sound of its bells.

Furthermore, from the Tower visitors may enjoy a breathtaking view over Coimbra.

Useful Information:

Between 1 November & 25 March:

Mon. – Fri.

Ticket office: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Tourist circuit: 9.30 a.m. – 1 p.m. / 2 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.


Ticket office: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Tourist circuit: 10.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.

Between 26 March & 31 October:

Ticket office: 8.30 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Tourist circuit: 9 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.

Places included in the visit:

– Joanine Library

– Medieval & Academic prison

– Weapons Room*

– Sala dos Capelos*

– Private Examination Room*

– St Michael’s University Chapel

* Visit depending on use of the rooms


Ticket to Paço das Escolas: EUR 7,00

includes a visit to the Sala dos Capelos, Private Examination Room, Weapons Room, Joanine Library (first floor and medium level) , St Michael’s Chapel and Academic Prison

Ticket to Paço das Escolas + Tower: EUR 10,00

includes a visit to the Sala dos Capelos, Private Examination Room, Weapons Room, Joanine Library (first floor and medium level) , St Michael’s Chapel, Academic Prison and Tower

Students and people over 65 – 5,50€ / pax

Children up to 12 – free (to the Paço das Escolas visit)

Note: Cards must be shown to claim reduction

The University of Coimbra is one of the reasons we Portuguese say that Coimbra is a lesson of love and tradition. It is also a one of the many charming places of this city full of life.

For further information on the University of Coimbra go to official website of Coimbra Tourism

Main photo credits

Photo by plsg77

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