Coimbra, Portugal, is a 12th-century town with a 13th-century university that is enlivened by 21st-century students. Coimbra is located 125 mi/200 km northeast of Lisbon.

Besides the lovely university, there are exquisite botanical gardens, Portugal dos Pequeninos (a miniature representation of Portuguese regions, complete with houses and monuments), the old and new cathedrals, the Biblioteca Joanina (a fabulous baroque library), the Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Portugal's best sculpture museum) and the Roman ruins at Conimbriga. Also worth visiting are the former Convento de Santa Clara Velha (an ornate Gothic structure) and the ruins of the Quinta das Lagrimas (the setting of a famous local love story).

In May, the students celebrate the end of the academic year with a weeklong, colorful party called Queima das Fitas. Coimbra is also well-known for its beautiful faience. While in the city, be sure to stop by a tavern and listen to plaintive fado music—the city is known for its distinctive singing style.

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