The university town of Coimbra has influenced the intellectual life of Portugal for centuries and is seeped in tradition. College students still make up one-fifth of the population. The scenic old town features a wealth of historic buildings. The old university library has the most beautiful Baroque hall in the country and houses over 30,000 volumes, including 2,000 priceless manuscripts. The Kathedrale Sé Velha resembles a fortress, and the Augustinian Monastery of Santa Cruz houses the final resting place of the Portuguese king Afonso Henriques. Here, you can examine the the Manueline architecture, which was an ornate style introduced during the reign of King Manuel (1495 to 1521) and which represents a curious mixture of Gothic ornament and nautical motifs from the early Colonial Period.
Ruins of a Roman city
Portugal's largest and most significant ruin complex is the Roman city of Conimbriga, located 16 kilometers from Coimbra. It was originally protected by a wall measuring two kilometers in length. Many of the villas, hot baths and fountains have survived, including even mosaics, reliefs and marble busts. The city was already 600 years old when it was sacked by German tribes during the Migration Period. The archaeological sites can be visited from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The Museum is closed on Mondays.
Enchanted forest and a fairy-tale palace
During the Colonial Period, Portuguese seamen brought back a wide variety of plants with them from their voyages. Many of these were planted in the fertile mountains of Buçaco, so that a fairy-tale forest with 300 exotic and 400 indigenous types of trees grew up here over the centuries. The forest enjoyed special protection from the nearby Carmelite monks, who threatened to excommunicate anyone who cut down even just one of its trees. Toward the end of the 19th century, King Carlos built a neo-Gothic summer palace here that has since been converted into a luxury Hotel. There are several trails leading through this magical forest and some of them will take you up to the highest mountain in the area and its scenic overlook, the Miradouro da Cruz Alta.
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