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 the best Coimbra hotels 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.
Find out 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 accommodation in Alta Coimbra
The newest addition to Coimbra’s 4-star hotel offering is more than welcome. Opposite the university, Sapienta Boutique Hotel takes books and learning as its theme and shares the seat of learning’s enviable views. It also has an onsite restaurant and outdoor seating area. Check availability and prices.
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. See photos and prices.
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. Choose an apartment to suit your needs.
What to expect from Coimbra’s Baixa district
Baixa means low, or downtown, and in Coimbra’s case it’s both. This is the area 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 old 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
Just through Arco de Almedina 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. Choose an apartment
Another set of recently renovated apartments awaits in Rua da Sofia in the heart of downtown Coimbra. Clean, stylish and comfortable, Sofia Residences offer great value for money and good customer service. Check availability and see photos
If you’d prefer the additional facilities that a hotel has to offer, including indoor and outdoor pools and a spa, the most luxurious hotel in downtown Coimbra is the 4-star Vila Gale, although it’s a 10-minute walk into the main historical centre. Check prices and availability.
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 places to stay in Santa Clara, Coimbra
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. Click to check prices at this luxury historical hotel.
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.Click to check prices at Quinta das Lágrimas luxury hotel
For a more modern alternative, the bright 2-roomed guesthouse of ArchiSuites is ideal, and very close to the main bridge into the Baixa.
Other Coimbra hotelsClick 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 to 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 Guide 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 Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary, 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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