COIMBRA - GETTING AROUND
Walking around Coimbra is a fairly easy task, although it should be noted that the city is built on a number of hills and cliffs. This may be difficult for people who have knee or leg problems, or for people who may not be in the best physical shape. Luckily distances are very short; most sights are located in an area that is just 1/8 of a square mile wide, and it is possible to walk from one end of town to the other in under an hour.
Bus transportation in Coimbra is operated by SMTUC - Transportes Urbanos de Coimbra. Nearly twenty bus routes run every day of the week to areas in and around Coimbra, not to mention eight extra routes which cover suburbs as far as 10 miles from the city center. Tickets are priced under €5 for an all-day pass, allowing you to ride on the city`s buses, the Linha Azul (`the Blue Line`, a hop-on, hop-off service connecting many of Coimbra`s sights), and the Elevador de Mercado. Tickets (single-ride, all-day and longer passes) can be purchased from self-serve kiosks, hotels and selected convenience stores and newsagents. Single-ride tickets for the local bus routes (Linha Azul excepted) may also be purchased from the bus driver directly (approx. €2).
Buses run every 10-15 minutes between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays; bus wait times expand to 30-45 minutes on weekends, after 9 p.m., and during public holidays. In the city center, many bus stops feature countdown clocks which will tell you the wait time until the next bus arrives. For more information on Coimbra`s bus service and the SMTUC organization, visit www.smtuc.pt. (Portuguese)
By other public transportation
SMTUC operates a hop-off, hop-on service, the Linha Azul (`Blue Line`). Its marketing gimmick to locals and tourists is called `hands in the air`: just wave your hand in the air when you see the all-electric Linha Azul bus, and it will pick you up. The hop-off, hop-on service stops at the Porta de Almedina, Praca 8 de Maio, City Hall, Elevador do Mercado, the University`s Psychology building, Torre de Anto, Se Velha, and Portagem. The route takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, with two routes running in opposite directions (beginning in the morning from Portagem heading north, and from Se Velha, heading south). The service runs from 8:45 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. and from 2:45 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. weekdays and from 9:15 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. Saturdays.
SMTUC also operates an elevator/funicular combo, the Elevador do Mercado, which brings passengers 150 feet up from Baixa to the city market. For the first 60 feet, the ride is vertical like an elevator, but the rest of the ride is on an incline similar to a funicular. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Access to the Elevador can be validated by showing an SMTUC ticket stub (must be issued the same day), or by purchasing a "Centro Historico" card from various places about town (self-serve kiosks, ticket windows, hotels, newsagents, convenience stores). The card is priced under €10 and entitles you to unlimited rides on the Elevador and the Linha Azul for one day. Travelers over 60 can ride the Elevador for free with proof of age.
Coimbra is a fairly small city and for the most part you will find taxis in all the usual places: there are taxi ranks outside Coimbra-Cidade and Coimbra-B train stations, and there are usually taxis queuing outside major hotels and select tourist attractions. If you can`t find the taxi you need out and about, it is best to phone for one to come get you. Waving a taxi down in the street, while acceptable to do, just isn`t recommended enthusiastically by locals as something that is done often in Coimbra.
Politaxis - Central De Radio Taxis De Coimbra (www.politaxis.pt, 239 49 90 90) is the largest and oldest taxi company in Coimbra. Daytime fares will all fall under the €10 mark no matter where you want to travel in Coimbra (add €3-€5 to the total for trips taken between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., on Sundays, and during holidays). A one-way trip between Coimbra and the Roman ruins of Conimbriga can be had for under €20 on weekdays.
NOTE: While Coimbra welcomes many tourists each year, do not assume your taxi driver will know how to speak English. Write out your destinations on paper and give the paper applicable to that specific trip to your driver before departing.
Coimbra is not a particularly easy city to navigate by bicycle because of the extremely hilly terrain. Bicycling in the city center should only be done with great care by intermediate to expert cyclists. The riverside area and the roads out of Coimbra may be easier for novices to tackle. Bicycle rental is available in Coimbra from E-Tour (www.etour.pt); prices start around €15 for a 3-hour rental.
In spite of a hilly and compact city center, car rentals offer great flexibility in when and how you see sights in Coimbra and further afield. Europcar, Hertz and Avis rental companies are represented in Coimbra. An economy car rental starts at €20 per day while mid-size four-doors (e.g. Nissan, Peugeot) will set you back between €50 and €60 per day.
Parking is plentiful and can be acquired by paying between €2 and €3 per hour in the quarter-mile radius around the University of Coimbra. SMTUC offers a free park and ride from Coimbra B train station; there is a 12-hour parking limit from this lot.