Coimbra is a fascinating city that combines a tangible sense of history with all of the vibrancy and street life we typically associate with a university town. The former is evident in the picturesque medieval quarters, where winding cobblestone streets are flanked by bars, boutiques, and eateries. As for the latter, students are easy to spot as they are traditionally garbed in black capes and carry briefcases adorned with colored ribbons denoting the faculty they attend. After final exams in May, they burn their ribbons with great exuberance in a ceremony called Queima das Fitas.

The city also has a more cosmopolitan, contemporary side. The new riverfront Parque Dr. Manuel Braga is lined with lively clubs and restaurants, while slick new shopping malls contrast with idiosyncratic family-owned shops. Providing the sound track for it all is Coimbra’s lyrical brand of fado, which you can hear at traditional celebrations, dedicated fado houses, and other venues city-wide.

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