29 Jan 2011

Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra is a city in the municipality of Coimbra in Portugal. Although it served as the nation's capital during the High Middle Ages, it is better-known for its university, the University of Coimbra, which, established in 1290, is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world.

According 2001 Census, provided by the Portuguese Instituto Nacional de Estatística (English: National Institute of Statistics), the city proper had a population of 101,069 and the municipality had a population of 148,443 in a 319.4 km² land area. Over 430,000 people live in the Greater Metropolitan Area of Coimbra, comprising 16 municipalities and extending into an area 3,372 km². Coimbra is one of the most important urban centres in Portugal (after the much larger Lisbon Metropolitan Area and Porto Metropolitan Area), playing an central role in the interior of the country. It is the principal centre in the Centro region, and seat of the District of Coimbra and the Baixo Mondego subregion.

There are many archaeological structures which date to the Roman era, when Coimbra was the settlement of Aeminium, such as its well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus. Similarly, buildings from the period when Coimbra served as the capital of Portugal (from 1139 to about 1260) still remain. During the Late Middle-Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre, with the foundation of the University of Coimbra in 1290. The university, one of the oldest in Europe, apart from attracting many European and international students, is visited by tourists for its monuments and history.