Coimbra Car Hire

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Coimbra is a central Portugal riverfront city that is also the nation’s ancient capital city. This is an atmospheric mediaeval Old Town which rises from the Rio Mondego River ̶ stroll around at your leisure here and you’ll discover an historic, prestigious university built on palace grounds, charming cafes and restaurants abuzz with locals and visitors, as well as cobbled streets reverberating with the sounds of guitarra (Portuguese guitar) and fado singers. Coimbra is also significant in terms of its size ̶ with a population of just under 150,000, it’s the 4th-largest urban centre in Portugal. Its large student population (35,000 including students of satellite institutions) and The Fado de Coimbra (a highly stylized genre of traditional Portuguese fado music which originated in Coimbra) will engage and enchant on sunny Portuguese evenings. With lots of stunning countryside to discover in the surrounding area, Enjoy is guaranteed to find you the best car hire deals for your Coimbra vacation, stress-free and at very reasonable prices. For instance, a Fiat 500 or similar mini-size car starts at just €3.48 (£3.17) a day in the off-peak season, an economy-size car such as the Toyota Yaris starts from €5.21 (£4.75) a day, while a spacious, standard-size Mercedes Vito (which seats nine people comfortably) starts from just €17.63 (£16.08) a day off peak. Pre-book your hire car online with Enjoy Travel and enjoy reliable, independent travel around Coimbra and Portugal, with affordability and total peace of mind as standard.

Guide to Coimbra

A bustling university town steeped in culture, there’s always a lovely ambience in Coimbra, but if you want to venture a little further afield, the scenic countryside surrounding the city is sublime too. If you haven’t explored central Portugal before, Coimbra is a hidden gem that encapsulates the magic of the region.

Student city

Coimbra is known as ‘the city of students’ and its famed university is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest in Portugal, dating from the 13th Century. Indeed, like the old city’s Rua da Sofia (among others) it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bells still toll each day signalling the end of classes, and the view from the tower is a spectacular 360° panorama. As is common in many European cities, there are extant Roman ruins like the cryptoporticus and the aqueduct, both of which are in excellent condition. Called Aeminium in Roman times, Coimbra was also occupied by Visigoths, Sueves, and Muslim and Christian crusaders. The Manueline façade of the Monastery of Santa Cruz fronts the final resting place of the first Portuguese monarch and Coimbra native, Afonso Henriques.

History and culture

Situated on the Mondego River, the town of Coimbra has been inhabited since Roman times. Built on fertile lands, it was the previous capital city from 1131 – 1255 AD. After its decline as the political centre of Portugal it became increasingly culturally important, particularly with the founding of the university in 1290 AD. Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, ordered the construction of the Old Cathedral and repaired Roman works like roads, bridges and pavements. During the Renaissance and Age of Exploration Coimbra continued to be prominent nationally and was even the site of battles with French forces in the 19th century. Visitors must see the Monastery of Santa Cruz, and on the other bank, the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, recovered and rescued from the waters of the river that encroached on it over centuries. The Sé Velha (Old Cathedral) is a must-see too ̶ on its steps the monumental serenade of Coimbra Fado is sung by students in black capes. ‘Coimbra has more charm in the hour of parting’ is the famous melancholy refrain, but you’ll be charmed long before you leave. One of the highlights of Coimbra is the Queima das Fitas ritual (Burning of the Ribbons) every May, a big student party to celebrate end of term. Although there are so many magnificent old buildings, there’s also modern architecture in Coimbra, much of which is best appreciated from a boat tour on the Rio Mondego.


Coimbra may be known for its rich historical legacy, but there’s plenty of nature to surround yourself with in the area. Choupal National Forest is a nearby mangrove of poplars planted in the 18th century to stem the Mondego River. Today it’s a popular area for jogging, cycling, horse-riding and walking, which has many multi-use trails. Meanwhile, Sereia Gardens is one of the most tranquil places within Coimbra itself, perfect for reading and relaxing. There’s a library within and of course, the university, which also has a botanic garden.

Things to do in Coimbra

If you’re looking for charming old towns that aren’t too busy with tourists, Coimbra is a great option. Depending on when you visit, there are so many historic sites to visit that you might struggle to find some space in your itinerary! Furthermore, if you’re travelling with kids in tow, there are plenty of activities to keep them entertained.

Made of stone

Coimbra (like many historic centres in Portugal) is full of ancient and sacred sites. These include the University of Coimbra, which has its own Botanic Garden, Royal Palace, library and chapel (not to mention the intricate chapel interior) and Praça Oito de Maio ̶ a beautiful public square in front of Santa Cruz church. Meanwhile, Praça do Comercio is a shopping plaza of interesting boutiques and craft shops, but it’s real appeal is for people-watching ̶ grab a drink and traditional Portuguese sweet snack and watch life unfold. The Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha dates from the 14th century, but had to be abandoned due to flooding in the 17th century. Recently renovated after 12 years, it also has a visitor centre. The Igreja e Mosteiro da Santa Cruz is designated a National Pantheon because two Portuguese kings are buried here.

Child-friendly Coimbra

Many of Coimbra’s streets are too narrow for cars, making this a very walkable and safe city for families. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants, sunny squares and green spaces which make it ideal for children. Furthermore, built in the 1940s the Portugal dos Pequeninos Theme Park contains a miniature village with replicas of the country’s most important buildings, as well as typical Portuguese houses and buildings from former Portuguese colonies. The kids will enjoy playing inside these miniature buildings while learning about the history of Portugal in a fun place that’s designed just for them. Coimbra University has its very own Science Museum, featuring a series of interactive exhibits, workshops and virtual conversations with famous scientists which give children (and their parents) the opportunity to discover science. The café here is a hidden gem, too. Lastly, the Exploratory - Coimbra Live Science Center has more science-based knowledge and fun and is also a great spot for a picnic!


Coimbra isn’t renowned for its nightlife, but there is plenty for the after-hours explorer. Sip a cocktail in the Garden Bar or Galeria Bar Santa Clara, while Bar Quebra, The Rock Planet and Piano Negro are just some of the musical venues available – afterwards, why not continue the party into the wee hours at Reitor or the legendary Tutti club?

Eating out in Coimbra

Coimbra has restaurants of all types, and luckily there are fewer touristy places and more authentic eateries. We’ve got you covered with some of Coimbra’s best dining so you can spend more time sampling sumptuous Portuguese fare.


Located in a residential district of the city, Spaghetti Notte offers something different in Coimbra, namely Italian-inspired dishes that also reference the chef’s Brazilian origins. Impressive technical skill and flavours complete this simple restaurant’s good cooking credentials. Price per person is around €35 — €50. Alternatively, Arcadas is definitely nearer the high-end dining option, with prices ranging from €60 — €125. The chef here creates contemporary cuisine with its roots in traditional and international cooking, showcased via some interesting set menus. Arcadas has two connected dining rooms in the former stables of the palace ̶ both are decorated in a classic-contemporary style, with the more impressive dining room overlooking the lush garden.

Best restaurants in Coimbra

Café Santa Cruz is an institution in Coimbra as a meeting point for generations of locals. Adjacent to Coimbra’s town hall in the Cidade Baixa, its main selling point is undoubtedly its astounding architecture, nestled in the former hall of the Monastery of Santa Cruz (founded 1530). The stunning Portuguese renaissance architecture (known as Manuelino style) features seafaring motifs such as ropes, seashells and anchors, despite Coimbra’s landlocked position. Café Santa Cruz opened in 1923, at the height of the coffee house renaissance ̶ it’s without a doubt one the most charismatic spots to enjoy an espresso in the whole of Europe. Alternatively, in the heart of Coimbra’s old town and next to the Almedina Door is Fangas. It’s the go-to destination for petiscos (Portuguese tapas) and a great place in which to try wines from all over Portugal, with special mention going to their famous sangria. The restaurant is embedded in the old medieval walls of the city and named after the location in which farmers traded grain seeds until the late 18th century. A typical dish is mussels cooked in a spicy marinade followed by a selection of baked field mushrooms with coriander and cream cheese.

Special mention

Portugal is renowned for its tascas (bar/tavern) and Zé Manel dos Ossos (known locally as Zé Manel) serves tasca food that’s as authentic as you can get. Specialties include the goat and wild boar dishes, particularly the feijoada (black bean and beef/pork stew, slow-cooked in a heavy clay pot), which is best enjoyed with a fruity, full-bodied wine from the hills surrounding Coimbra. Not only is their food and drink famous throughout Portugal, but this tasca has a unique feature ̶ the walls are covered with poems written by satisfied customers. Most of the verses appear in Portuguese, but since Zé Manel started garnering international acclaim, English is becoming more common, too.

Transport in Coimbra


The international airports closest to Coimbra are Porto (Oporto: OPO) and Lisbon (LIS) at less than 90 minutes’ (132 km,) and two hours’ (197 km) away by car respectively. At both airports, Enjoy has any vehicle you might need to fully explore this stunning area.


Buses are good around Coimbra, with fixed price tickets (single = €1.30 for example) and more. Useful routes include the 27, 28 and 29 from Coimbra-B train station to Praça da República via the main bus station. The 103 goes from Coimbra-A Station up to the University. Electric buses on the Linha Azul (blue line) run a circular route through the historic centre.

Driving Tips

Drive on the right-hand side of the road in Coimbra. The speed limits are 120 km/h on the motorway, 100 km/h (60 mph) on expressways, 90 km/h (50mph) on other roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas. Furthermore:

Drivers must carry an international driving licence, passport, insurance documents, MOT certificate if the car is more than three years old, and car hire documents. Speed traps are the norm, so don’t be tempted to speed. Using your phone while driving is illegal, and drink-driving is strictly prohibited.

With the above in mind, here are a couple of recommended scenic drives:

Sintra's wild, lush beauty, its ancient castle, its status as the first centre of European Romantic architecture and its collection of historic palaces have made the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site and significant cultural landscape, and it’s why Lord Byron supposedly called Sintra ‘a glorious Eden’. There are too many places of interest to list here, suffice to say that because huge numbers of tourists visit Sintra annually there are some extortionate prices and tourist-trap eateries in the centre of town: spread out to find out where the locals eat!

Considered to be Portugal’s most religious (and third-largest) city, Braga is so full of religious monuments such as churches that it’s impossible to see even half of them in a day. Start with the Baroque Sanctuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, the city’s leading tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site, constructed over 600 years. The Archbishop’s Palace is another notable destination. as is the Tower of Santiago, part of the ancient city wall. Braga is under two hours from Coimbra by car.

Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Gerês, is in the mountainous northwest region. Often shortened simply to Gerês, it was founded in 1971 to preserve the area while allowing certain developments. A Roman road runs through it, and there are wonderful hiking trails, some of which lead to ruined monasteries and old Celtic settlements. Tourist numbers are limited here, but there are still some fine camping areas. Along the road you’ll see a number of religious shrines, and you can also see numerous waterfalls and villages submerged by subsequent damming (these are partially visible when the water is low!).

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FAQs about car hire in Coimbra

Most frequently asked questions about hiring a car in Coimbra

An economy-size car such as the Toyota Yaris starts from €5.21 (£4.75) a day.
You can hire a mini-size a Fiat 500 or similar from just €3.48 (£3.17) a day in off-peak season when you pre-book online with
The minimum age to hire a car in Portugal is 21 and drivers under 25 may be liable for a €15 surcharge.
You won’t usually have excess charges levied because excess-free agreements are the norm.
It’s usually fine to add other drivers to the car hire agreement. However, they’ll have to have a valid license and, as you’d expect, an additional fee is applicable.
As you probably won’t want to drive much in town, consider a vehicle that’s comfortable but rugged ̶ for instance, a Renault Kajdar SUV seats five comfortably and can cope with rural road trips.
Contact your rental provider. Also, if you have a serious accident in Coimbra call 112 immediately for emergency services. You can call this number from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to the appropriate emergency services in your location.
For being a picturesque riverfront city in central Portugal, Coimbra is quite inexpensive. You’ll spend around €82 per day.
The city is more easily explore with a car. You’ll be able to move around Coimbra at your own leisure.
Located south of Porto and crossed by the Mondego river, this prestigious university city full of good atmosphere at all hours, is perfect to spend a few days visiting its oldest buildings and churches, strolling through the steep alleys of the historic centre, relaxing in its gardens and enjoying delicious typical dishes of the country such as cod with cream or octopus al lagareiro.
Between May and July is the best time to visit Coimbra.
Price of fuel in Coimbra is between EUR 1.45 and EUR 1.25 per litre.

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