Birdcage, Arcada, Coimbra

A glowing white globe floating above the doorway and the lively bass of the music drew Mike and I towards Arcada on Saturday for its opening party. Sweet smoke from the chestnut stand, hired for the evening, diffused and wafted down the cobbled street, giving it a misty appearance made even more atmospheric by pools of orange light from the street lamps.

We’d arrived early and nabbed a place on the bench in the street from which to observe darkly dressed couples making their way towards the growing crowd of people gathered to celebrate. Curious locals out walking their dogs also stopped by for a drink and a chat. With plenty of  cheek kissing and handshakes, the guests mingled and inspected the premises and of course, the food.

Arcada is largely a place for traditional Portuguese petiscos (nibbles) and drinks, although they offer a prato do dia (dish of the day) at lunchtimes and can cater for group dinners in the evenings. As expected, the samples for the opening evening comprised of various patés, cheeses and cold meats plus some moelas (hot chicken giblets in a tasty sauce – nicer than they sound, believe me) and, of course, freshly roasted chestnuts.

Although we stuck to the sangria, I noticed from the blackboard signs that cocktails like Caipirinhas are only 3 euros. As you might expect with prices like that, Arcada is not the classiest joint in Coimbra but it is welcoming and full of interesting touches. Adriano Leandro, the owner, has been creative in the face of Portugal’s economic crisis and found imaginative ways of decorating his venue without spending a fortune.

Archway and seating, Arcada, Coimbra
Archway and seating, Arcada, Coimbra

Arcada means arch and inside the restaurant, the original brick and stonework of its arches are on show, creating an unpretentious feature. Seating is basic, namely stools or wooden benches with thin padding. The novelty factor of cheese graters as lampshades and old windows as picture frames might help take your mind of a numb behind.

The cobbled streets leading off Coimbra’s famous Rua de Quebra Costas (Backbreaking Street) used to be pretty dead, offering little reason to stray from the main route to the university.

Things are changing. Rua Fernandes Tomás is gradually becoming known for more than just old people and drunks, with the likes of Fangas Mercearia Bar and Sala Arte e Apart, a café and arts space, opening up. The same street was filled with colourful crochet umbrellas in the summer months. With Arcada and another bar at the other end of the road, and a shop / café planned for the in-between part, new life is being pumped back into the area, making it worth a detour.

Crochet umbrellas decorating the old streets of Coimbra
Crochet umbrellas decorating the old streets of Coimbra

Even if you aren’t planning to stop for something to eat, venturing to the Arcada end of Rua Fernandes Tomás will enable you to see one of my favourite buildings in Coimbra, or at least the golden arches in its garden. You’ll also be rewarded with fine views over the Mondego river and Coimbra’s most attractive bridges.

Arches near the Junta da Freguesia, Rua Fernandes Tomás, Coimbra
Arches near the Junta da Freguesia, Rua Fernandes Tomás, Coimbra

Address: Arcada, Rua Fernandes Tomás 89-91, Coimbra. Phone: +351 912 810 320

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10 Comments

  1. Julie, esse Arcadas nao vale o seu artigo (excelente) . Fomos duas vezes. A primeira levantou-nos duvidas .No final o propietario pediu desculpa e explicou que nesse dia perdera o cozinheiro. Ontem à noite, tentámos comer uns petiscos depois do excelente espectáculo do Noiserv no TAGV que nos fizera esquecer a cidade tenebrosa que Coimbra é. Á porta do Arcadas estavam duas senhoras . Perguntei se podíamos entrar (éramos quatro) dado que elas obstruíam a porta . Apenas uma mesa estava ocupada , no interior. Uma das senhoras respondeu-me desabridamente e eu concluí que era uma cliente, e entrei, depois de lhe pedir desculpa. A segunda veio atras de mim, com um sorrisoque nao consegui interpretar . Percebi que era uma das empregadas de mesa. Junto ao balcão estavam três rapazes. Perguntei se podíamos comer . Jantar ou petiscos, wathever. Entreolharam-se como se eu estivesse a pedir uma receita de antibióticos e antidepressivos. Interpelavam um figurão sentado, sem nenhuma identificação , mas que devia ser o cozinheiro e que durante um tempo insuportável se debateu numa duvida hamletiana, olhando-me como se me fosse fazer um favor para a vida.
    Ainda tentei visualizar o dono, mas só estavam aquelas quatroo almas mercenárias, as onze e pouco, num restaurante com dois clientes, sexta à noite, na rua das Fangas, cansados de nao fazer nada.
    Felizmente o Fangas estava aberto e serviu-nos excelentemente.
    Arcadas, nunca mais.
    Luis Januario
    Lui

    1. Author

      Luís, Thank you so much for sharing your experiences of Arcada – I’m sorry they haven’t been good ones! I’ve had some doubts myself since writing about the opening night so you’ve helped me make a decision.

      Of course I have no control over the experience anyone might have but I would hope that it would be better than yours. I don’t want to give people any reason not to trust my recommendations.

  2. wow that last photo of Coimbra´s green park, with all Autumn colors :…Beautiful!!!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Jaime. I need to change the description though. I realised that I took that shot from the botanical gardens. The view from next to the arches is still beautiful, just not the same as the photo!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Sami. The crochet umbrellas were part of a social inclusion project aimed at getting Coimbra’s elderly and isolated residents involved in a fun, colourful scheme. There was crochet on trees, benches and all sorts of unusual places for a while. I saw something similar in Vila Nova de Gaia, too.

  3. Thanks for this, Julie. Will go when we return to Fado ao Centro with visiting relatives at the end of this month.

    1. Author

      I hope you like it. Just don’t expect anything fancy 😉

    1. Author

      Thanks! I haven’t been to Fado ao Centro (not a huge fan of Fado, to be honest and there are limits to what I’m prepared to do in the name of research!) but Tricia Pimental has, and seems to like it enough to want to go back. For my thoughts on Fado, you might want to take a look at this post: https://juliedawnfox.com/2012/02/02/f-is-for-fado/

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