Coimbra, Portugal

Olá, travelers! Today Rafa Vieira writes to us from Coimbra, Portugal, and tells us why this European city is simply the best.

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Coimbra is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the University of Coimbra

patio so they can enjoy a view over the city and the river.

When I crave a Tentúgal pastry, I always go the small town of Tentúgal, in the outskirts of my city.

To escape the bustle and traffic I head for the beautiful spa town of Luso. It is really close to the city, and its wonderful forests and enchanting buildings are great for a walk.

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If I want to relax and enjoy the trendiness of my city I go to Feito Conceito, a funky shop.

For complete quiet, I can hide away at Jardim do Penedo da Saudade, a hidden garden with a view of the city that’s packed with statues and poems of poets and writers.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken in the city southbank with the river Mondego and the city at your back.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Zé Manel dos Ossos Tavern downtown it has to be Chanfana (an exquisite she-goat dish).

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Mau Feitio is my one-stop shop for great fashion, clothes, and shoes.

Locals know to skip the huge malls and check out downtown’s small characteristic shops instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to the dozens of taverns downtown.

For a huge splurge I go to my favourite Italian restaurant downtown next to the river, Italia, or to the Kirsch fondue restaurant.

Photo ops in my city include Jardim da Sereia (Mermaid Garden) and the best vantage points are its alleys decorated with trees, its fountains and lakes, and the city Contemporanean Art Center.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Madonna, as it never loses its grace, fascination, and beauty with the passage of years.

The most random thing about my city is that it has one of the most amazing libraries in the world.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves shopping for shoes downtown and for vegetables in its City Market of Dom Pedro V, checking the latest cloth and book promotions in the steepy Quebra-Costas Street, a movie or play in Gil Vicente Academic Theatre or in Cerca de São Bernardo Theatre, an exihibition in the CAV – Visual Art Centre and then a beer with friends in one of many bars in the lively República Square.

My city’s best museum is Machado de Castro National Museum with its Roman ruins.

My favorite jogging/walking route is Mata Nacional do Choupal (Choupal National Forest).

For a night of dancing, go to the Vinyl Disco. Or, for live music, check out àCapella (a old temple transformed in a music venue).

After Hours is the spot for late-night eats — it’s a Mexican and Portuguese delicatessen.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read

You can tell a lot about my city by walking its busy downtown streets during the week days.

You can tell if someone is from my city by the nonexistent accent in their Portuguese language.

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In the spring you should head to the walled town of Montemor-O-Velho, 12.5 miles west, and take a tea inside its huge castle (above). In late July you should check the Citemor theatre festival held there.

In the summer you should head to the immense and luminous beaches of Figueira da Foz, 31 miles west of the city and enjoy the regular surf and longboard competitions.

In the fall you should head to the Botanical Garden (below) and enjoy the colours changing in the leaves.

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In the winter you should take your ski gear and head east for the mountains of Estrela.

A hidden gem in my city is Mata Nacional de Vale de Canas (Vale de Canas National Forest).

For a great breakfast joint try the Venus Pastry and enjoy the Coimbra traditional Queijadas and Barrigas de Freira.

Don’t miss the Queima das Fitas student festival and academic celebration each May.

Just outside my city, you can visit Buçaco.

The best way to see my city is from the river, while taking a tour on the Basófias boat.

If my city were a pet it would be a cat because it is mysterious as sensually attractive.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Carlos Paredes Verdes Anos.Carlos Paredes Verdes Anos.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss Portugal dos Pequenitos.

Queima das Fitas could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it was the Portuguese capital during 12th century, and is still a fundamental cluster of culture and art within the country. It is also the ground for one of the oldest universities in Europe, created in the 13th century, the University of Coimbra.

Photos:  Portuguese _eyes via Flickr