The central region of Portugal is that part of the country between Porto to the north and Lisbon to the south. The geography here is varied. Mountains in the east and a very agreeable coastline at the western edge, known as the ‘Silver Coast’. The mountains include the Serra da Estrela mountain range, which has the highest peak in mainland Portugal. The mountains are also home to many historic villages and frontier castles. Most of these date to the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and came in to existence given their position at the border between Portugal and Spain. There are then no shortage of pousadas – historic properties that have been turned into inns for tourism. Larger settlements can be found in less mountainous west – the city of Coimbra is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities and a few kilometres from the largest Roman settlement excavated in Portugal – Conímbriga.
The striking west façade of Sé Velha de Coimbra, or the Old Cathedral of Coimbra. The cathedral is the only Romanesque cathedral in Portugal from the Reconquista to have survived relatively intact until today. Construction started shortly after the Battle of Ourique in 1139. In 1185 the second king of Portugal, King Sancho I, was crowned in the cathedral.
When the Romans arrived in what is now Portugal they found a flourishing town. From the first half of the 2nd century BCE, Conimbriga developed into a town with a population of over 10,000 people. Although not the biggest Roman settlement in Portugal, it is by far the best preserved. The site is known for its mosaic floors, and a substantial museum displays a large collection of excavated artefacts.
An extraordinary collection of objects from ancient Egypt to Picasso, as well as an automobile collection of over 100 cars and motorcycles. The Museu do Caramulo has in its diverse and eclectic art collections more than 500 objects: Egyptian and Roman antiquities, Japanese art, paintings, sculpture, furniture, European ceramics and Portuguese tapestries. The collection of cars includes the oldest functioning automobile in Portugal.
One of the most significant art museums in Portugal, it houses collections of religious art from various churches and other religious institutions in the Coimbra region. The building was once the Bishop’s Palace, which during the Middle Ages was built on top of the Roman Forum. Remains from the Roman period can be seen in the ground floor of the museum. These are the remnants of what was the cryptoporticus that supported a platform on which the forum was built.