Coimbra is roughly halfway between Lisbon and Porto, Portugal's two principal cities and the most popular destinations for most visitors to the country (along with the Algarve in the south). For those who are hopping around the country, Coimbra makes a perfect break between these cities. It warrants at least an entire day, so leave Porto early enough to arrive by late morning, see the sites, enjoy lunch, and head to your next destination in the late evening. Or if you have the time, spend the night in Coimbra so you can leisurely enjoy all it has to offer. If you don't plan on visiting Lisbon, Coimbra is also an easy day trip from Porto.
The train and the bus are both convenient, fast, and inexpensive options for getting to Coimbra. If you've rented a vehicle, there are also several small towns around Coimbra worth visiting that can only be reached by car.
How to Get from Porto to Coimbra
- Train: 1 hour, 10 minutes, from $5
- Bus: 1 hour, 25 minutes, from $13
- Car: 1 hour, 15 minutes, 78 miles (125 kilometers)
Taking the train to Coimbra is the quickest way to arrive from Porto, and potentially the cheapest if you buy your tickets in advance. Early promotion prices on the Portugal National Railway website can be as low as $5 for a one-way ticket, but you'll have to purchase them several days in advance. Even if you're booking your train ride last minute, tickets should only cost between $15 to $20. Travelers who are 25 years or younger can also get discounts of up to 25%.
Trains to Coimbra leave Porto from the Campanhã Station. Once you arrive in Coimbra, there are two train stations, Coimbra or Coimbra-B. Trains from Porto first stop at Coimbra-B, which is located about a mile outside of the city center. From there, you can transfer to another train to the main Coimbra station or just grab a taxi to the city center. Taxis are inexpensive and the trip should only be five minutes, also saving you from walking up the steep hill to the city center.
Bus trips to Coimbra are nearly just as fast as the train and cost about the same. You can see the schedule and purchase tickets from Rede Expressos, and buses have a fixed price of 11.90 euros, or about $13, regardless of when you buy the tickets. The Porto station is at Campo 24 de Agosto in the center of town, just two blocks away from the main Santa Catarina shopping street. The bus station in Coimbra is only a 10-minute walk outside of the city center, but taxis are also available and inexpensive.
If you've rented a car, the journey between Porto is short and scenic. It only takes about an hour and 15 minutes and gives you the freedom to stop at other towns in the area that are worth the visit. Keep in mind that most rental cars in Portugal have manual transmissions. If you can only drive automatic, prepare to pay more.
On your way down, take a short detour to stop in the coastal city of Aveiro, famous for its Venetian-style canals and colorful Art Nouveau buildings. If you're a nature lover, the Buçaco National Forest is on the way to Coimbra and looks like a scene from a fairytale. The town of Fátima is farther south as you drive toward Lisbon, famous for the 20th century Marian apparition and visited each year by several million people.
What to See in Coimbra
Coimbra's city center is small enough that you can explore it all in a day, including the centuries-old university, the Monastery of Santa Cruz, and the exquisite Moorish architecture that remains. The University of Coimbra is not only the oldest university in Portugal, but one of the oldest in the world. Since the city is primarily a college town, Coimbra really comes alive when school is in session. Stay for a weekend if you can and experience nightlife in a Portuguese bar with the local students. In the evenings, the plazas are filled with young people drinking beers, playing the guitar, and singing with friends. Coimbra is one of the best cities to truly immerse yourself in Portuguese culture and socialize with locals, and it's a stop you won't regret making.