Buildings in Coimbra

The Lisbon Alternative Rick Steves Loves Without The Crowds

By Jenna Busch


If you want a city in Portugal with some of the same features as Lisbon without all the other vacationers, travel pro Rick Steves has a great suggestion: Coimbra.
Steves describes Coimbra as "a mini-Lisbon, with everything good about urban Portugal without the intensity of a big metropolis. I couldn't design a more delightful city."
In Coimbra, you can encounter charming streets full of shops and cafes, a university with an 18th-century library, Roman ruins, and a nearly 1,000-year-old cathedral.
King João's Library in The University of Coimbra is a Baroque 18th-century spot that holds thousands and thousands of books, along with a colony of bats.
Steves also writes, "One of the best activities in Coimbra is wandering the inviting, Arab-flavored old town — a maze of narrow streets, timeworn shops, and tiny tascas."
One of his favorite spots is the Mercado Municipal, which feels like old Europe. He suggests getting bacalhau, or dried and salted cod, and listening to folk music performances.