Whether you spend one night in this charming riverside city or several, my insider tips should help you decide where to stay in Coimbra. I’ve selected my favourite hotels in Coimbra and apartments that I consider to be stylish, well-located and good value in three distinctly different parts of the city.
As I’ve mentioned before, Coimbra makes a great base for exploring central Portugal and deserves a couple of days just to explore the city itself – see this article for things to do in Coimbra.
Discover the best places to stay in Coimbra depending on your interests and how you intend to get around.
Alta de Coimbra / Upper Coimbra
Alta means high so if you choose accommodation in this part of Coimbra, you’ll be at or near the top of the hill. There’s plenty to see and do here, such as the Botanical Gardens, the St. Sebastion aqueduct, Coimbra University and the Machado de Castro National Museum. There are also several restaurants and bars in this area.
The slope towards downtown is steep if you go through the maze of narrow ancient streets but much more gentle if you take the wide, leafy Avenida Sá da Bandeira. It’s about a 20-minute walk and there are plenty of buses and taxis if you can’t face an uphill climb. Parking can be tricky in Alta so bear that in mind if you have a car.
Best Coimbra accommodation in Alta
Opposite the university, the 4-star Sapienta Boutique Hotel takes books and learning as its theme and shares the seat of learning’s enviable views with a fantastic rooftop terrace. It also has an onsite restaurant and outdoor seating area. You can choose between rooms and spacious apartments. Take a look at the photos.
I watched Casa de São Bento being renovated (it’s on the street I used to work in) and am happy to see what a great job they’ve done, both inside and out. On a quiet street within a few hundred metres of the sites mentioned above, this modern design guest house has a shared lounge and outdoor terrace. Parking can be problematic during the day but it gets easier after around 5 pm. Choose a room.
You’ll find another recently restored old house on the next road, again in an excellent location. AH33 offers studio apartments that accommodate up to 4 people but are perhaps better suited to 2. Don’t take one of the attic apartments – the ceilings are low and there’s no lift. Although these are self-catering apartments, the owners make sure your day gets off to a good start with a fresh breakfast delivered to your apartment each morning. See the choice of rooms.
Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra is an opulent and luxurious guest house with exposed brick and stonework, ideal for a romatic break if you nab a room with a jacuzzi. I haven’t yet stayed there but have had rave reviews from several people I know. Take a look at these awesome photos.
What to expect from Coimbra’s Baixa district
Baixa means low, or downtown, and in Coimbra’s case it’s both. This is the central hub of the old town, between the base of the hill and the Mondego River. The main shopping streets are here as are the city museum, Arco de Almedina, the gateway to the oldest part of the city, and the museum of the medieval city walls. Rua da Sofia is also part of Coimbra’s UNESCO World Heritage site, with colleges and convents belonging to the university.
You’ve also got the two riverside parks, plenty of outdoor cafés and a wide choice of restaurants in this part of Coimbra. See this article for tips on where to eat and drink in Coimbra.
Buses run from Largo da Portagem to the rest of the city and the small Coimbra-A station connects you to the intercity station of Coimbra-B on the edge of the city.
Where to stay in Coimbra’s Baixa neighbourhood
Hotel Mondego is a family run hotel that was one of the first hotels in Coimbra. After a thorough re-development you can choose from a range of clean, bright rooms and take in the views of the city from the rooftop terrace. Staff are really friendly. Choose your room.
If you prefer the additional facilities of indoor and outdoor pools and a spa, try the 4-star Vila Gale. It overlooks the Mondego River and there’s a nice use of soft-tone colours throughout the hotel, although it’s a 10-minute walk into the main historical centre. See the photos.
Less luxurious but closer to the centre is Hotel Oslo, which has a rooftop terrace, free parking and pleasant modern decor so don’t be put off by the exterior. Try to get a room with a balcony.
Right in the heart of Coimbra’s downtown is Pharmacia Guest House. The entrance still boasts the glorious old pharmacy and some of the spacious rooms come with a balcony or river view. Very helpful staff will make your stay unforgettable. Choose your room.
Apartments in Coimbra’s Baixa neighbourhood
Just through Arco de Almedina, the gateway to the medieval walled city, you’ll find the delightful Casas do Arco, a traditional house split into 3 tastefully renovated apartments. The generous welcome pack and friendly reception will get your stay off to a great start. Read these reviews.
Another set of recently renovated apartments awaits in Rua da Sofia, one of the most important streets of the city built in 1535 in the heart of downtown Coimbra. Clean, stylish and comfortable, Sofia Residences offer great value for money and good customer service. Quite a few steps to the third floor-no elevator-so take this into account when booking. Choose a date to suit you.
What’s in Santa Clara?
Santa Clara is the part of the city on the other side of the river and is home to the Santa Clara-a-Velha monastery, Convento São Francisco conference and cultural centre, Portugal dos Pequenitos (miniature Portuguese buildings), Quinta das Lágrimas gardens and golf course, a range of watersports, an outdoor swimming pool, a beer museum and a science exploratorium.
You’ll find plenty of cafés and restaurants, a great ice cream parlour and my favourite café bar, Galeria Bar, in this part of Coimbra.
Best Coimbra hotels and accommodation in Santa Clara
My first choice for accommodation in Santa Clara is Coimbra’s only 5-star hotel, the luxurious, historical Quinta das Lágrimas. Part of it is inside the former palace although there is a more modern wing. If you’re interested in making use of the onsite spa, look for their spa package deals when booking.
The hotel and grounds are inextricably linked to the tragic love story of Pedro and Inês and one of the hotel’s two restaurants is named after this famous couple. It is a little far to walk into the city centre so you might want to drive or use taxis. Book a room to suit you.
Riversuites is a reasonably priced modern hotel offering clean, comfortable rooms and suites just across the bridge from the city centre. There’s no parking onsite but you can currently park for free at the Convento de São Francisco just a couple of hundred metres up the road. They have an outdoor seating area at the back of the hotel and soundproofing is good. Check availability here.
For a more modern alternative, the bright 2-roomed guesthouse of ArchiSuites is ideal, and very close to the main bridge into the Baixa. Check in is easy and the owners are very helpful. Choose the suite for you.
Guest House Santa Clara is just across the road, close to the ancient monastery. There’s free private parking and rooms are spacious and comfy with lovely panoramic views. Take a look at the photos.
Other hotels in Coimbra
If you don’t fancy any of the accommodation I’ve selected, try searching for alternatives on Booking.com.
Note: I’ve written similar guides for Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, Douro Valley and Sintra.Click to see all my Portugal accommodation guides
Looking for a Portugal guide book?
Click on the links below to see my top picks via Amazon
My first choice would be a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal, partly because I’ve contributed to them in the past and partly because I like the pictures, maps and layout.
The Frommer’s Portugal is written by two well-respected journalists who live in the Lisbon area, one Portuguese and the other British. Having met them both, I would certainly trust their recommendations.
I also like Rough Guides’ approach to travel guides and their Portugal travel guide is no exception.
As for Portuguese phrasebooks, the best of the bunch is probably the Portuguese Phrasebook, which has sections on eating and drinking as well as all the functional language you’d expect and help with pronunciation.
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There is another great boutique hotel near the university that we stayed in last year and absolutely loved – Solar Antigo. The rooms are wonderful, so is the breakfast which is delivered to your room in a golden basket, and Katia, the manager is wonderful and will answer all of your questions and more.
I’ve only been to the Azores, never mainland Portugal. Sounds like this would make a great road trip!
I’ve never heard of Coimbra, but then, I’ve not yet been to Portugal. Thx so much for this great post, Julie, and Happy Holidays!
Wey visited Coimbra on an shore excursion while we cruised on the Douro. I love the vitality of this university city. When we return, your guide will be invaluable.
We’re thinking about a road trip in Portugal sometime next Spring and Coimbra and Porto are both at the top of our list. I’ve pinned your post so it will be very handy to refer to when we head your way. Sounds like the Baixa area’s the place we want (with forays into the other areas too) and looks like we’ll need several days to visit all the places we want to see. Thanks for the suggestions Julie and maybe we can arrange for a meet-up when we go north! Anita
Hi Anita, fantastic! Do let me know when you’ve got dates so we can sort something out.
As a knitter, I was delighted to find a wonderful yarn store in Coimbra — Bolas de Tons, near the University. She carried several Portuguese wools, as well as some other beautiful European yarns. I arrived just at closing but she graciously stayed open for me to do some shopping. I highly recommend this shop to other knitting visitors to Coimbra.
Good to know, Marta. I had a go at crochet a few years ago but haven’t had the time for ages, sadly.