Coimbra and Aveiro

From the Douro Valley, we drove southwest to the Silver Coast region to visit Coimbra with stops in Aveiro and its beach area, Costa Nova, on the way. We were originally going to try to see Aveiro as a day trip from Porto, and then drive right from Douro Valley to Obidos, but the revised plan allowed us to slow things down a little and have more time for each place with less driving in between.

Aveiro

Sometimes referred to as the Venice of Portugal for its canals and tourist boats plying them, Aveiro is a town that can easily be explored in a few hours. There is a large free parking area along the edge of one of the canals, and it was an easy walk into the central area. We used a Walkbox audio tour to introduce us to this town.

Throughout Portugal, sidewalks and plazas are paved with decorative tile designs called calçada. Everywhere we go, we discover new designs. In Coimbra, many seemed to have a nautical theme.

Costa Nova

Across a lagoon from Aveiro is Costa Nova, a beach resort area. Most of the accommodations were shuttered and many restaurants were closed, but the area was still being enjoyed by families wandering the boardwalks and playing on beaches on the November weekend that we were there.

Coimbra

From Costa Nova, it was on to Coimbra where we stopped for a few nights.

Built along the Mondego River, Coimbra was once the capital of Portugal (though it’s been a while–that was in 1131-1255). Its old center is a well-preserved medieval town topped by Portugal’s oldest university and one of the largest in the country. We used an izi.travel audio tour to guide us through the narrow, winding streets and up the hills to the many university buildings at the top of the town. We just happened upon a viewing area that turned out to be connected to the National Museum Machado de Castro, which also has a restaurant attached. It was a great place to stop for a coffee on the patio with a stellar view of the city below and across the river.

If you are on a time budget, allow at least one full day to wander this medieval city, more if you want to go into any of its museums or other exhibits.

As we wandered around Coimbra in the evenings, searching for dinner or just out for a walk, we enjoyed viewing the festive lights. When we were in Porto, the lights were all up but they didn’t get lit until we’d left, so seeing them in Coimbra was a treat.

On our last day in Coimbra, we found a cozy Portuguese restaurant for lunch that we highly recommend, A Chaminé. It’s very close to the Jardim da Manga (Manga Cloister), which also has a restaurant behind it that seemed quite popular and busy when we were there. A Chaminé, though, was great for a less touristy experience. It has a long, wavy bar with diner-style stools to sit at, with a few small tables squeezed against the walls. The fresh sheet is handwritten and posted on the window so you can view it (and attempt translation) before you go in. The daily sheet is just prato do dia, or a fixed-price menu for €8.50, which included a starter soup or salad (the soup was delicious), the main plate (we both had a fish dish–mine was a whole fish with rice, potatoes, and vegetables), bread, wine (200ml each) and coffee.


TripBits

  • Audio tour: We toured Coimbra with the izi.travel audio tour called Coimbra Essentials.
  • Accommodation: We normally book AirBnBs or hotels with kitchens so we can cook, but didn’t find anything suitable in Coimbra (price, location or competition with hotels). Instead, we stayed at Hotel Oslo, which was in a great location and provided a good breakfast. The breakfast room (with a great view) and rooftop patio are open in the evenings for drinks and light snacks.

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