Founded in Lisbon in 1290, then moved to Coimbra in 1537, the University of Coimbra serves as the oldest university in continuous operation in Portugal, and it’s a stunningly impressive ‘college town’ full of history, culture, museums and Portugal’s traditional folk music, Fado.
Situated along the Mondego River, Coimbra oozes with old-world charm. Whether it’s a romantic walk along the river through Parque Manuel Braga, or the silent majesty of the university’s much-celebrated Biblioteca Joanina (a shockingly gorgeous Baroque library housed quietly on university grounds), the experience of Coimbra can only be described as travelling ‘back into time’. Coimbra’s Botanical Garden is also a highlight, functioning as a place of peacefulness and reprieve from the city’s activity.
The region around Coimbra also allows for unique and interesting day trips. Luso is home to one of the most famous springs in the country, and allows travellers to enjoy relaxation at the town’s thermal spas. Also, Luso’s fresh spring waters have found their way into most supermarkets in Portugal, as it is the most popular spring water found here. Lousã is also well-known as an agricultural district with mushroom foraging and excellent hiking routes. Starting from Lousã, a series of walking trails unfolds throughout the Serra da Lousã, which contains a number of schist (or slate) villages hidden among the mountains, steeped in tradition and begging for revitalisation.
What DaHungryCouple is discovering as we travel around Portugal on our ‘research trips’ is a country in transition, but also very much aware of the traditional way of doing things. It often feels as though we have left the 21st Century behind to visit the quiet, simple way of living that has prevailed for the majority of humankind’s history. It’s refreshing, and an excellent reminder that time, though it continues to march on, does not necessarily march at the same pace in all places. Many places around Portugal help reinforce this thought, and it’s a thought that bears reflecting!