I’m notorious for going to a city once and falling in love with it straight away and deciding that I definitely want to live there. In the past few years you’ve got Copenhagen, Madrid, Modena, Stockholm, Bath, Munich, Edinburgh. And of course Lisbon, which I then made a reality. You can now add Coimbra to the list. I fell in love with Coimbra.
Coimbra is a very old city. It is the former capital of Portugal, and also boasts both the Portuguese speaking world’s oldest university, and Portugal’s oldest football team. The streets are cobbled, thin and steep. Although August tends to be a down month, thanks to the lack of students and the fact that so many locals head south for the summer, the old town was still bustling with life. It’s the perfect place to sit out on the street with a beer, and people watch.
Set up above the town is the the university’s botanical gardens. There’s one part with as much bamboo as you’ve ever seen in your life, and just wandering around, under the huge plants that shade you from the 35 degree heat, is an extremely satisfying way to spend an afternoon. Elsewhere you can just sit with a book and a beer, and I’ve rarely felt as relaxed in my life.
I was actually in Coimbra for work, and didn’t plan on writing about it on here. In fact, I hadn’t really planned it much in advance, and other than ask some friends for a couple of tips, I did near to no research beforehand. It meant that I arrived with very few ideas of where to eat and drink, which is almost unheard of for me. I did however stumble across some places that I now wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
Passeite Taberna do Azeite, the olive oil tavern, lives up to its name. It specialises in olive oil, with various oils to match each dish. I started simply with bread, but served with, of course, an amazingly tasty oil. My main of pork and potatoes was then perfectly complemented by the olive oil. Not too much, and not too little. And then finishing off with ceviche of pineapple with, you’ve guessed it, olive oil, was the perfect end to the meal. If you do ever visit Coimbra, make sure you pay here a visit.
And also make sure you stop in at Tasca da Ermelinda. Run by an old couple, who I would guess are both into their 80s, it is a no frills tasca if ever there was one. You’ve got the choice of a cheese sandwich, a ham sandwich, or chorizo. The chorizo is flamed the traditional way in front of you, and the old man tops it up with Aguardente as it cooks. While also pouring himself one. And then adding a little more to his coffee. You come for the experience, and to meet the owners.
And that was Coimbra. Like I said, I was there to work really, but ended up falling in love with it. I’ll be going back and you should stop in too. It’s perfect if you’re traveling between Porto and Lisbon.