The charming city of Coimbra in Central Portugal has plenty to keep you occupied for at least a day or two so you’re going to need some refreshment while you’re there. To help you find a suitable place to eat or drink, here are some of my favourite Coimbra restaurants, bars and cafés.
Best restaurants in Coimbra
Just behind the Santa Cruz church in the heart of the Baixa (downtown Coimbra) you’ll find Se7e restaurant. The menu features firm Portuguese favourites served with flair and local produce. Add to that an extensive wine list and knowledgeable staff and you’ll find this is an ideal venue for discovering Portuguese flavours. My favourite starter is the poached egg and peas.
It gets busy so book a table. If you choose to eat early, you will be dining among other foreigners but Sete is deservedly popular with locals too.
R. Martins de Carvalho 8. Tel: 239 060 065
Passeite. Taberna do Azeite
This cosy restaurant is run by a Dutch/Portuguese couple who are passionate about olive oil. They use olive oil from their own plantation and other quality producers in all their dishes, including desserts. Their imaginative menu has options for vegans and vegetarians as well as meat and fish lovers.
They can also arrange tasting sessions (if you’re willing to pay for the minimum group size of 6 people) and have a small shop next door selling quality olive oils.
Rua da Sota 44. Tel: 910 718 182. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner plus Saturday and Sunday lunch.
Dux Taberna Urbana
Dux Taberna Urbana is becoming my favourite restaurant in Coimbra thanks to the range of delicious and well prepared petiscos, the Portuguese version of tapas. It’s very popular, especially at lunch time because of the ‘menu do dia’, so book a table or get there early.
Rua Dr. Manuel Rodrigues 59. Tel: 239 093 723. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Restaurante Piscinas do Mondego
You’ll probably need a car or taxi to get to this restaurant, which is on the other side of the river. The complex offers a swimming pool, hence the name, and a smart restaurant with good food and wine.
Dori and I particularly like the cataplana, a fish and seafood dish that’s cooked and served in a copper dome. You usually need 2 people to be able to order a cataplana but Piscinas will do individual servings.
Rotunda das Lages, Sta. Clara, (behind the Exploratório) Parque Verde do Mondego. Tel: 239 441 591
Loggia is actually housed within the Machado de Castro National Museum and has great views over the city. Lunchtimes are usually a buffet with two hot dishes whereas evening meals are a la carte or sometimes a set menu. See this review of Loggia restaurant for more information.
When the museum is closed, access is around the side and up the steps.
Largo Dr. José Rodrigues. Tel: +351 239 853 076. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm and until 10:30 for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.
Zé Manuel dos Ossos
This Coimbra restaurant is quite an experience. The tiny dining area is lined with scraps of paper with notes of appreciation from guests. Rustic and hectic, there’s usually a queue for a table (no reservations possible) so get there early or be prepared to wait in line.
Ossos means bones so expect meaty dishes although bacalhau (cod) also features on the menu. The javali (wild boar) is tasty and very filling.
Beco do Forno 12 Coimbra. Tel: 239 823 790. Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday.
Mike and I refer to A Taberna as the birthday restaurant as we’ve often been here to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. The food is consistently good, especially the vitela (veal) and the hunk of crusty home made bread with requeijão (ricotta) cheese we usually have as a starter.
One of the best features of this restaurant is that the waiters bring a selection of six side dishes to the table for you to choose from, including three types of vegetable. You can have a second helping too.
Don’t be put off by the neon sign outside. The dining area is fairly small and cosy and is simply decorated. If you sit at the back, you’ll be able to see the kitchen and watch dishes going in and out of the wood-fired oven. It’s probably not the best place to sit in summer but in winter, you’ll be nice and toasty.
Wine lovers will also appreciate the fairly extensive list. The waiters have been here for years and can confidently recommend suitable pairings for you.
Rua Combatentes da Grande Guerra, 86. Open for lunch Tues-Sat and dinner Mon-Sat.
Tascas, cafés and bars in Coimbra
Quebra o Galho
This cute tasca serves good wines and quality Portuguese petiscos at the base of Quebra Costas. There’s a strong chance of spontaneous fado performances.
Rua Quebra Costas 12. Open daily from 2 pm to 11.45 pm.
Fangas Mercearia Bar
If you need a break from traditional Portuguese fare, the cute and funky Fangas Mercearia may be just what you’re looking for, especially if you’re a vegetarian.
Fangas Mercearia Bar in Coimbra used to be a grocery store and still sells posh tinned fish and selected local produce. Mix and match from tapas-sized portions to create a snack, a light meal or whatever you need. They’ve got open sandwiches with more than just ham and cheese; stuffed mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes; traditional Portuguese sausages with a twist and lots more besides. The sweet potato fries and chocolate cake are particularly memorable.
Service can be a little slow and there aren’t many tables so you should book ahead for peak times and try to be patient.
Rua Fernandes Tomás, 45-49. Open Tuesday to Sunday 12-4 and 7-12. Tel: 934 093 636
Conveniently located at the base of the monumental steps leading to Coimbra University, this busy bakery sells delicious cakes and bread as well as cheap but tasty meals in the café. There are usually a few daily specials to choose from and a menu of firm favourites.
Rua Castro Matoso 49. Open daily from 6 am to 10 pm.
Café Santa Cruz
The vaulted ceilings, dark leather and wood chairs and waiters in waistcoats lend Café Santa Cruz a medieval air. This is not surprising as it used to form part of the neighbouring Santa Cruz church and monastery and was built in the 16th century. They often have fado shows here and literary gatherings.
Choose from the outdoor terrace with views of the bustling shopping street, the elaborately carved entrance to Santa Cruz church and Praça 8 de Maio or the calm, cool interior.
Praça 8 de Maio, Coimbra. Open 8 am to midnight every day.
O Moinho Velho bakery and café
There’s another branch of Moinho Velho (Old Windmill) in the Baixa (R. João de Ruão 27) but the one in Solum, near the football stadium is the original and has more atmosphere. After church on Sunday mornings, there’s often a queue of well-dressed and freshly coiffed locals waiting for tables although it’s always busy.
As well as delicious cakes they have a wide selection of interesting breads in the bakery section, handmade chocolates and good quality savouries.
If you want something to take out, just be aware that each counter has a separate queue and your purchases, including anything you have from the café, will be added to your tab. When you’re done, queue again to pay at the till by the door.
For more help with that, check out: How to order like a local at restaurants and cafés in Portugal
Rua Jorge Anjinho, 7. Open daily from 8 am to 8 pm.
Galeria Santa Clara Bar
Cross over the Santa Clara bridge from downtown Coimbra and turn left just before Portugal dos Pequenitos to find one of my favourite places to go for a drink.
As the name suggests, Galeria functions as an arts space as well as a bar. It’s inside an old house so there are plenty of cute rooms, all decorated differently with original artwork on the walls. There’s even a workshop and craft shop downstairs plus a space for live bands and performances.
The outdoor terrace is a great place to admire the view of Coimbra from with various seating areas and options so have a wander before you pick your spot.
Rua António Augusto Gonçalves, 67. Open from 2 pm every day, check their Facebook page for more details and current events: Galeria Santa Clara Bar
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