Although Coimbra is usually a quick stop of just a few hours between Lisbon and Porto, it can be used as a base to explore the center of Portugal. If you’re driving, it’s recommended that you visit the magical forest of Buçaco and its palace and the schist villages of the region, but you may also use public transportation to spend a day at the following destinations:
You’re relying on public transportation, you need almost an entire day to visit the famous Roman site outside Coimbra, which is one of Europe’s best-preserved. There are only three buses a day between Coimbra and Conimbriga, and with several stops along the way, the journey takes about 45 minutes. That means that Conimbriga is almost always a day trip, and the one that no visitor to Coimbra should miss. The site has a museum showing what this rich and sophisticated Roman city was like, while the archaeological site shows the perfectly-preserved mosaics and parts of the houses.
See the Conimbriga visitors’ guide.
Figueira da Foz
There are no beaches in Coimbra’s surroundings, but the closest one (about 45 minutes by car or 1 hour and 15 minutes by train) is one of Portugal’s biggest. It’s an urban beach, with high-rise apartment blocks of a sizeable mostly-20th-century city behind it. Outside the beach, there’s a casino and a palace with one of the world’s greatest collections of Delft tiles, salvaged from a shipwreck in the 17th century. If you’re staying in Coimbra in the summer, Figueira da Foz can be a relaxing day trip.
Buçaco (or Bussaco in its old spelling) is a magical forest with one of Portugal’s most beautiful palaces. Many of the exotic plants and trees around the park were brought by Portuguese explorers from Africa, Asia and Brazil, while the palace started as a royal hunting lodge in 1888 and became one of Portugal’s grandest hotels in the 20th century. Even if you’re not staying overnight, you may admire the palace’s extravagant architecture, which is a romantic version of the Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) style. You’re also free to walk around the park, which is a “garden of Eden” with waterfalls, grottoes, and fountains.
Unfortunately there’s no public transportation from Coimbra to Buçaco, but it’s less than 45 minutes by car.
Regular trains, taking about one hour, connect Coimbra to Aveiro, a colorful city with Venitian gondolas-like boats crossing a central canal. The main reason to visit Aveiro, however, is the beaches nearby, so an overnight stay is more recommended than a day trip. But with a well-planned itinerary (leaving Coimbra early in the morning and returning at night), you may be able to take a few photos of the canal and hop on a bus from the city center to the beach of Costa Nova, and enjoy the best that this city has to offer in just a few hours.